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Depending on the purpose, models can be made from a variety of materials, including blocks, paper, and wood, and at a variety of scales.
Architectural models are used by architects for a range of purposes:
Types of models include:
A model used for urban planning in the Buenos Aires Province
Buildings are increasingly designed in software with CAD (computer-aided design) systems. Early virtual modelling involved the fixing of arbitrary lines and points in virtual space, mainly to produce technical drawings. Modern packages include advanced features such as databases of components, automated engineering calculations, visual fly-throughs, dynamic reflections, and accurate textures and colours.
As an extension to CAD (computer-aided design) and BIM (building information modelling), virtual reality architectural sessions are also being adopted at increasingly faster rates. As this technology enables participants to be immersed in a 1:1 scale model, essentially experiencing the building before it is even being built.
Rough study models can be made quickly using cardboard, wooden blocks, polystyrene, foam, foam boards and other materials. Such models are an efficient design tool for three-dimensional understanding of a structure, space or form, used by architects, interior designers and exhibit designers.
Common materials used for centuries in architectural model building were card stock, balsa wood, basswood and other woods. Modern professional architectural model builders are taking advantage of twenty-first century materials, such as Taskboard (a flexible and lightweight wood/fiber board), plastics, wooden and wooden-plastic composites, foams, foam board and urethane compounds.
A number of companies produce ready-made pieces for structural components (e.g. girders, beams), siding, furniture, figures (people), vehicles, trees, bushes and other features which are found in the models. Features such as vehicles, people figurines, trees, street lights and other are called "scenery elements" and serve not only to beautify the model, but also to help the observer to obtain a correct feel of scale and proportions represented by the model.
A wooden exterior model of the Royal Military College of Canada grounds.
A cork model is an architectural model made predominantly of cork. The art of cork modelling is also called phelloplasty (Greek phellos, cork).
Cork was already used in the 16th century in Naples to make Christmas cribs. Crib making became extremely popular there in the 18th and early 19th centuries.
The invention of architectural models made of cork was (self-)attributed to Augusto Rosa (1738-1784) but Giovanni Altieri (documented 1766/67-1790) and above all Antonio Chichi (1743-1816, https://it.www.popflock.com/learn?s=File:Tempel_des_Portunus_Gotha.JPG) were already active in Rome as manufacturers of cork models.
Chichi's models were copied with great success by Carl May (1747-1822, https://de.www.popflock.com/learn?s=Carl_May) and his son Georg Heinrich May (1790-1853).
Other artists can be mentioned like Luigi Carotti (Rome), Carlo Lucangeli (1747-1812, Rome, Naples), Domenico Padiglione and his sons Agostino and Felice (Naples) and Auguste Pelet (1785-1865, Nîmes). In Marseille, several scale models were made representing archaeological digs by Hippolyte Augier (1830-1889) (Marseille History Museum / Musée d'Histoire de Marseille) or Stanislas Clastrier (1857-1925, https://fr.www.popflock.com/learn?s=Stanislas_Clastrier).
Dieter Cöllen is a contemporary phelloplastic.
Many cork models of classical monuments in Italy were made and sold to tourists during their Grand Tour. Cork, especially when carefully painted, was ideal to reproduce the weathered look of wall surfaces.
As a rule, they were produced on a large scale (the Colosseum in Aschaffenburg is three metres long and one metre high) and with great, almost scientific precision.
Cork models were highly esteemed in the princely courts of the 18th century. They were also acquired for their scientific value by schools of architecture in the late 18th/early 19th century, or institutions like the Society of Antiquaries of London and the British Museum thus introducing the general public to ancient architecture.
Despite their fragility, cork models have often survived better than wooden models threatened by wood-destroying insects.
Apart from kings and princes, cork models were collected by people such as Filippo Farsetti (1703-1774) in Venice, Pierre Gaspard Marie Grimod d'Orsay (1748-1809) or the architect Louis-François Cassas in France, Charles Townley or Sir J. Soane in London, who turned his home into a museum, Sir John Soane's Museum, housing a collection of 14 models in cork of Roman and Greek buildings.
Chichi's cork models can be found at the Imperial Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg (34 models made around 1774); Schloss Wilhelmshöhe, Kassel (33 models made 1777-1782); Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt (26 models acquired 1790/91); and the Herzogliches Museum Gotha (12 models, acquired after 1777/78. See popflock.com resource in German).
The largest collection of cork models by Carl May with 54 pieces (after war losses) is in Aschaffenburg (Schloss Johannisburg), another large collection of his models is in the Staatliches Museum Schwerin.
In France, the Musée des Antiquités Nationales à Saint-Germain-en-Laye, has works by Rosa, Lucandeli or Pelet. The Musée archéologique de Nîmes (https://fr.www.popflock.com/learn?s=Musee_archeologique_de_N%C3%AEmes), and the Marseille History Museum also have cork models.
Modern cork models of antique buildings by Dieter Cöllen are exhibited in the Praetorium in Cologne.
Architectural models are being constructed at much smaller scale than their 1:1 counterpart.
The scales and their architectural use is broadly as follows:
Sometimes model railroad scales such as 1:160 and 1:87 are used due to ready availability of commercial figures, vehicles and trees in those scales, and models of large buildings are most often built in approximately that range of scales due to size considerations.