1:100 ‘Performance Centre’ Cross Section Model by Philip Lam

Philip Lam explains to us how he used his model to convey his ideas for increased space and performance capacity:

Phil Lamm (1)

“On a site with limited space, my design tries to increase the audience capacity of a performance centre. The main space is found underground while the introduction of an outdoor space sits on top. The exterior space has been designed to respect and interact with its surrounding buildings.
The idea behind this model was to communicate and understand the spatial and structural qualities of my design.
As part of the brief, our tutors asked us to include a staircase and double volume room. By making a sectional model, it is possible for a viewer to see these components as well as help understand the use of space inside. Also by modelling a section cut, my buildings load bearing structure had to be modified to allow for missing components.

Phil Lamm (2) The material primarily used in my design is concrete. To mimic this in my model, I used laser cut MDF covered with spray painted sandpaper. Rather than making a mould and casting it, this was a quicker and more economical representation of the textural and structural qualities that were required. The half-arch was made using plywood blocks which were stuck together, cut and shaped using the band saw and bobbin sander. The grain in the plywood helped replicate brick and mortar. For the seating, I needed a material which is thin, yet strong enough to sit on the wooden support frames and decided on using mount board. Finally, I used laser cut frosted acrylic pieces to represent the translucent cladding found in my design.

Phil Lamm (3)

By making this model, I have gained further experience working with new materials, tools and techniques. I have realised that using the laser cutter is a fast and precise way to cut materials, but it can also slow you down if there are errors in measurements and tolerance. Careful planning before starting is essential. I really enjoy the process of constructing a good considered model and it is invaluable in further helping evaluate my design.” 


Philips project pays attention to construction detail and his considerations with regard to material constraints and component accuracy come across well. It’s great to see turning points in project and there were several such points in this one. Philips model threw up issues such as floor levels and door placements that, once evident, were resolved through further making. We look forward to some more projects from Phil next year!

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1:100 ‘Parasite’ Context Model by Anca Trimbaciu

This case study by Anca Trimbaciu shows us her proposed building within its enclosed site context of two existing buildings. So as not to take the focus away from her design the massing of the context buildings was kept simple. Anca wrote down her thoughts on the project for us:

“As part of first year’s final project we had to go the extra mile in explaining our design and idea. Therefore, we had to create a presentation quality model. My entire year revolved around butterflies, that being the animal I chose, so my building was also connected to them, being an indoor butterfly garden, a space for recreation and relaxation.

My design is a parasite building in between other two existing ones, which covers a very small space and puts focus around the staircase and the idea of ascension. As you move up you gradually discover spaces that are more open and luminous until the last floor which allows a panoramic view of Oxford Road from the inside of a “green utopia”.

Anca Trimbaciu (5)The model shows context, size and the purpose of my building. A section in the back of the model allows the viewer to see inside and observe how the building makes use of the adjacent existing buildings and how double volume appears during the ascension towards the top floor.


I used painted MDF for the adjacent buildings and the base of my model just to give an idea of their size and appearance, contrasting with my design through colour and texture. Other than that, the rest of my model is mostly made out of clear or grey acrylic as it was the best choice to either represent glass, metal or polished concrete. The triangular staircase is sustained by a wooden column which is covered in vegetation. Because the scale is only 1:100, I opted for showing ramps instead of creating each step out of acrylic.


During the making of this model I had my first attempt at using Autocad and laser cutting, and surprisingly, I succeeded. I learned how to spray paint in order to completely cover the texture of a material and I improved my skills in working with acrylic. I also got the chance to fully understand my building and its structure.

It has been two well spent weeks in the workshop and I am looking forward to my next project, even though starting a model might be scary at first, the results are most of the times really impressive and worth the time.”



Anca Trimbaciu (9)

The construction method for this model was well considered and, much like the building process of a 1:1 project, the order of assembly was orientated around the ‘core’ access, in this case stairs, providing support for the different levels.

Of particular merit here is the consideration to how the massing was created. Rather than being solid blocks, the context massing was made up by creating hollow boxes which were then coated with sanding sealer, sanded and painted. This method saves on material and overall weight of the model and can often be done for free with off-cut material.

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‘Peacock Museum’ 1:50 Cross Section Model by Mahishini Vasudevn


In another First Year case study we asked Mahishini Vasudevn to tell us about her recently completed project for the ‘Resolution’ brief:

“For our first project, habitat, I chose Peacock as my animal client so I made a design that would stand proudly and attract the eyes of the people just like the Peacock would do. To portray this, my design had a cantilevered floor which protrudes over the pavement of my site in Charles Street. The facade was designed to have stained glass which had the same colours as the peacock. In my design I have mainly focused on grasping the attention of people instantaneously.

In order to convey the most information about my design, I made a sectional model to give an insight to the structural aspects and the interior detailing of the design like the cantilevered stairs and the circulation around the building.


In the case of materials, for the glass facade I have used coloured acrylic as it best represents the colour and transparency that is implied in my design.  As for the columns, beams and floor joists I used Styrene H-columns which were sprayed in black to represent steel frames. The floors were made with MDF wood to replicate the wooden floors. The pathway with granite paving slabs was laser engraved on grey card to show the colour and the small amount of texture that I wanted to show. The interior was done with wood and acrylic. In my model I have tried my best to produce them in such a way that they almost represent the same materials that would be used in reality if it were to be built.


Through making this model I have learnt new techniques of model making. It has taught me more about my design like the structural connections and how a design comes together as I was able to have a 3D view of my design. I’ve learnt how to plan my work and handle time with care.

Model making has been the best experience I’ve had as a first year architecture student and I’ve enjoyed working in the workshop.”

IMG_8084 This model is put together with a good selection of materials that help to demonstrate the different component of the design shown in section. Mahishini made good use of pre existing strip materials by choosing styrene H beams to construct what would be the steel frame of her building if made at 1:1. Strip materials such as these are extremely useful in section modelling and we hope to stock a range in the near future. In the mean time they are available from 4D Modelshop where you can also register for a student discount quoting either myself or Jim as your tutor here at Manchester.

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‘Arch Game Lab’ 1:50 Cross Section Model by Estelle Xin Yun Ang


First Year Student Estelle Xin Yun Ang has just completed a 1:50 section model of her proposal for the re-purpose of vacant space under a railway arch way. Estelle kindly described her project for us:

“I chose to build a model in which part of the facade was removed to communicate the details of interior spaces and the assembly of structural components. The railway arch was modelled as a section to show how it acts as the ceiling of my design. I modelled the underground and made a window to give a good view into the basement. The facade detail was quite important in order for me to express the sense of gaming, which was why I took the time to paint the tiny offcuts.


The exterior spaces surrounding my design is extensively graffitied which inspired me to design a gaming studio where the potential of play is explored. I incorporated game buttons into the design of the facade to convey my idea of gaming.


To model the context, I decided to use plywood as the texture provides a good representation of the brickwork for the archway. For the ground/base, I used mdf wood and applied wood stain to give a good contrast to the light coloured arch. I spray painted the laser cut mdf in grey to show the concrete floor plates. For the walls I chose to use vac-formed styrene to achieve a permanent curved shape. I added strips of acrylic between the two pieces of styrene to make up the thickness of the wall and that helped save some material.

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I overcame the difficulties of modelling the curved shape of my design and I have learned to use different techniques on different materials to achieve the best result. After a few trials and errors I was able to understand the construction of my design. This is what I find interesting because there are so many ways in making a model and through experimentation I get to know which method works best for my design.”

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What is clearly shown in this model is the attention to making each element correct for assembly. This patience and consideration is something we should all aspire to when designing and making. Often one of the hardest things to do during a project is accept that something you have made is incorrect and should therefore be re-made. Whilst this may seem like wasted time it is exactly the opposite and by taking a step back from the project to look at what you have learned you will see that such mistakes are necessary for your own understanding of the design as well as gaining a better understanding of material and machine constraints when making.

We hope to see more projects with this level of thought and consideration in the coming weeks leading up to the final submissions and in future first years.

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1st Year History of Architecture Paradigms Project

We’ve had a busy few weeks in B.15 with the last week and half dominated by this first year project.

In conjunction with a series of paradigms lectures first year students have been asked to choose a piece of historically significant architecture to replicate and study through multiple means. One of the requirements of this brief has been to produce a section model allowing the observer to view the construction framework and internal layout of the building they are looking at.

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The results from this have been very good with groups taking time to consider different aspects of the real constructions and how they might best be represented at scale and within the time frame allowed to produce the model. Materiality was a prime consideration with the most successful examples providing a balance of different materials across the model construction.

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Things to Consider: Always Printing Plans

One crucial part of getting these projects started was to get correctly scaled plans printed for reference. A number of groups hadn’t considered this necessary as they had smaller plans and scale rules for conversion. We highly recommend getting at least one printed correctly scaled site plan for reference when producing your models. Without one to hand you will spend a great deal of time referring to cad or wrongly scaled drawings for reference when you could easily be comparing your model components to an accurate plan on your desk .

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Photographing Models

As part of submissions students also had to produce a pamphlet detailing the key facts about their chosen piece of architecture. This meant taking photographs for their models had a duel use providing images for their pamphlet and their portfolios. Anyone wishing to use the studio space to take photos of their current or past work should drop in and we can advise on availability and help you set up to shoot.


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Stahl House 22 (9)Frank House (20)Frank House (27)The completed models were then placed together with the other submission requirements in a small exhibition of paradigm studies back at the studio space.

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Some great work and valuable lessons learned for all – first years are really pushing the expectations for the next waves of students! Well done everyone – see you for the next project!

Scott and Jim

Fabricate – 1st year Project

1st Year Farbicate (14)

Last week we were very busy dealing with the first real workshop-based project for our new first year students. Their fabricate brief took their initial ideas for an animal habitat a step further to refine the details of design and assembly.

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Both myself and Jim agree that a major learning curve of this week-long project has to be in time management. Many students found themselves rushing elements of their projects as it had been left too late in the week. As was said during inductions and many times since – please come to see us to discuss how realistic your ideas are for the time frame. If you do this at the earliest possible stage in the process we can help to get the best results with your project and importantly – to get it completed by the deadline! 1st Year Farbicate (7)

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All in all it was a fun week with many interesting projects making their way in and out of the workshop. Enjoy your trip to Berlin and we’ll see you for your next project when you return!

Scott and Jim

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First Year Fabricate Projects

1st Year Habitat (8)

Following their recent inductions 1st year students have this week been flooding into the workshop to advance their initial ideas for the animal habitat project. We have been really happy even at this early stage with the response from this year in terms of organisation and good practices when approaching making. Hopefully we can continue this for the rest of the year and beyond to produce some great projects.

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Due to the high numbers expected this afternoon and Friday we would recommend that you get in early and consult us on what you need to do before starting. We may advise that you work from home due to the nature of your project as we cannot accommodate more than 20 students at any one time. Please understand this and try to organise your ideas efficiently so we can help as quickly as possible and you can meet your deadlines on time.

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1st Year BA Architecture Inductions

This week we have given a general introduction to modelmaking to the new wave of BA Architecture First Year students. We hope everyone who attended enjoyed their sessions and are ready to get making things this year.

If you have any questions get in touch.

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More info about products and your discounts at 4D Modelshop can be found on their site at http://modelshop.co.uk/

As there were several people who didn’t attend the inductions we may be holding catch up sessions one day next week but this is yet to be confirmed. We will keep you posted.

Enjoy your weekend!

Scott and Jim

City Tower Project, 1st Year ‘Group 8’ Paradigms Project

This first year group, also looking at the work of Louis Khan, have been looking at the un-built City Tower Project. The design was  intended to be built in Philadelphia in the 1950’s but stopped after several stages of development. despite this it is still regarded as an important study and influenced future designs with its use of space frame technology. (Albani, 2013)


The group used laser cut floor and base plates to build the structure around central wooden dowels as the building core. The outer ‘web’ skin the binds the floors was represented with string threaded through pre cut holes in each plate.


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The group used our new studio space to photograph the model against a white backdrop.

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As several people pointed out, the addition of scale people and cars really help to convey the size of this design to the viewer.


Albani, City Tower, Architects,Architecture,Architectuul, [Online Article] Available from: http://architectuul.com/architecture/city-tower , 2013

Trenton Jewish Community Bath House, Antoinette Y. Oni and Paul Wright, First Year Paradigms Project

This first year project looks at the work of architect Louis Kahn and his Jewish community Bath House design for Trenton, New Jersey constructed in 1955.

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An important part of the overall design was the inclusion of the surrounding landscaped and wooded area. For this reason particular attention has been paid to the representation of each tree on the site using the abstract use of wooden dowels.

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