The Impact of 3D Model-making in Architectural Design

In today’s increasingly digital age, it is not all that common for architects to build physical 3D models of their buildings anymore. For Martin Simmons Sweers, however, it is a visualization method as timeless as the architectural designs we deliver.

Patrick Simmons
October 3, 2023

In today’s increasingly digital age, it is not common for architects to build physical 3D models. For Martin Simmons Sweers, however, it is a visualization method as timeless as the architectural designs we deliver.

In fact, we find that producing these physical models in tandem with digital renderings makes an unmistakable difference in the way we approach projects, communicate with clients, and test out new ideas.

Types of Physical Models

To better understand their value, it is helpful to consider the different types of models. Each one serves a slightly different purpose depending on the phase and scope of the project.

Topographical or landscape models

These types of models illustrate a more bird’s-eye-view, macro look at a building or project site conditions. They are typically used in the early stages of the design process and can usually be made using inexpensive materials like foam or chipboard. Think of these models as rough drafts.

Massing models

Often made using wood or plastic, these models help to visualize the overall shape of the building. These models are especially useful in evaluating building context or rather how the proposed building would fit within its surroundings.

Detail models

Typically encountered toward the end of the design process, these models include the highest possible level of detail to help the architect, client, and other stakeholders visualize the building in its entirety and get a sense of its finished look and feel.

Benefits of Physical Models

The main reason we go the extra mile with physical model making is the difference it makes for our clients. It never fails to contribute to a more seamless experience and a better end result, and here’s why.

  1. Serves as a tangible representation
    Physical models can be the most effective method of communicating an idea, regardless of the phase of the design process or the type of model being created. The externalization of the design allows for tactile engagement with the idea, and a deeper level of understanding. This tangibility can also improve an architect’s ability to anticipate and correct design flaws thereby saving time and money.

  2. Allows experimentation with creative ideas
    A physical 3D model, being an inexpensive and efficient representation technique, expands our team's ability to experiment with what a building could become. This enables us to freely re-imagine a space, test out new concepts, push boundaries, and take risks that could lead to something extraordinary. Using physical models in the design process strengthens the element of innovation and play resulting in some of the best work possible.
  3. Ensures alignment between architect and client
    Being able to physically show our clients the proposed design for their project is an invaluable way to ensure everyone is on the same page. Nothing gets ‘lost in translation’ when we can view the design from the top down and from all four sides. We find that the physical model is a form of communication that helps us establish trust with our clients and build a sense of delight and excitement for the realization of the project.

Why We Utilize Physical Models

Among the many benefits we have found in incorporating physical models into the design process, the biggest impact they have is on the level of critical thinking, nuance, and problem-solving they enable us to achieve. We find it useful to go back and forth between digital renderings and physical models, enjoying the interplay between the two methods and exploring what they reveal. Plus, these models become artifacts that represent exciting projects to come and eventually become mementos, adding an extra special touch to the entire process.

Contact us today to start visualizing your next build or to learn more about our process, services, and expertise.

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Patrick Simmons