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.

Anca Trimbaciu (10) Anca Trimbaciu (13) Anca Trimbaciu (14) Anca Trimbaciu (18)

6th Year Site Context Model, Granada, Spain

This 6th year group project took time to think about their options with this model of a site in Granada, Spain. Initially they had thought about producing their model using the laser cut ‘Stacking’ method which has become something of an epidemic of late in the workshop. I’ll be writing a piece on why we’d advise you steer clear of stacking components soon.

Thankfully with some deliberation it was decided that a much more effective and exploratory process of could take place saving a lot of material and laser cutting as well as yearning an effective learning curve in model making.

Taking some inspiration from our B.15:45 display the group decided to make their site context using Jelutong Block and offcuts. The only use of laser cutting was in the engraving of the base plan on 6mm Plywood. As with many site context models, this one will serve as a working model that will be used by individuals to display their work throughout the development of their ideas this year. With this in mind the consistent use of jelutong as a block massing material is quite suited and is aesthetically quite nice to look at.

The group divided their site into areas with each of the 5 team members taking responsibility for the production of a given set of buildings. This way the workload was split and progress of the model can be achieved to a good standard the time managed efficiently. Rather than spending days on the laser cutter effectively pressing ‘go’ then sticking pieces of a very easy (and bland) puzzle together this group have used their workshop time to improve their making skills and understanding of the form of their site by thinking about each and every building beyond its footprint shape on a Digimap file.

This process is much more useful to learning than simply laser cutting material for the sake of it I think they would all agree.


Stockport Site Massing Model by Finbar Charleson

This project looks at a site sandwiched between exiting buildings and natural boundaries in Stockport centre. As with most of the projects I have seen Fin work on it’s great to see someone using a variety of media on their desk to inform the decisions in making and in turn use the results to influence their ideas.

As the site includes several large tower blocks it was decided to create the masses as hollow boxes to both save on material and weight of the completed model. The box sections seen here were carefully made up from planes of material – most of it scraps from other projects. 

Once again being concious of material use, Fin designed his contour base to be laser cut into steps with supports as opposed to entire sheets. This again saves material and overall weight. The process requires some minimal extra consideration when producing drawings but the savings are great and well worth the effort. Read more on this method of construction here.

To create the imposing and dominating viaduct feature which spans across the site Fin chose to use a solid mass created from pine. The arches were drawn out and rough cut on the bandsaw before being sanded smooth.  Legs for the viaduct were created as separate pieces with varied heights depending on their position across the contours. The legs were then clamped and glued over night.

Finbar gave us a few words reflecting on the project so far:

‘The model has helped to negotiate a complicated landscaping condition, in that the envelope links three different levels: water, ground and the 1st floor gardens, of a proposed Waste Water Treatment Plant in Stockport city centre. The context is modelled with traditional craft methods as I feel the site has a great sense of history, including the famous  Stockport Viaduct. It has helped to explore sensitive ways of repurposing existing warehouses I used Pepakura software to produce nets of meshes generated in Grasshopper for Rhinoceros, for the initial massing proposals.
The next step is to combine the spatial arrangements of the building with environmental analysis and try new massings on the same model.’

The completed model has a removable site section to allow different proposals to be inserted into context. Fin has already made several suggested forms from card as seen below. Finbar Stockport Model (15) Finbar Stockport Model (16)Finbar Stockport Model (18) Finbar Stockport Model (17)



Urban Design: Principles and Practice by Rachel Kerr of MSc Planning

Our first student in this year was an unexpected one. For some time now planning tutors have been encouraging their students to branch out into modelmaking as a tool to explain their proposals. Rachel Kerr decided to jump in and, having prepared her initial drawings for the model over the break, had no problem doing so.

Rachel Described the project for us:

The brief was to identify a disused corner site with a total area of less than 1 hectare for which we had to produce a redevelopment proposal. The site I worked on is to the west of Salford Central Station and is currently used for car parking (although it has been identified within the Salford Central Regeneration Strategy). The assignment requested that we assess the characteristics of the site and the surrounding area and use this analysis to produce a detailed brief for proposed redevelopment. Due consideration was given to urban design principles such as frontage, scale and public space. It was my intention to ensure that the site sits comfortably in within the surrounding area, whilst utilising the corner location to create a landmark for passing traffic.

The project uses simple material differences to divide the elements of the site. Because the model was made from laser cut ply there was the unavoidable scorching of the material edge. Rather that removing this, Rachel decided to capitalise on the burnt colour and stained the top surface of her site context buildings to match given them a dark colour in contrast to the sanded and clean look of her site in question.

Due to the small scale (1:500) of the model the site and road details we represented as engrave lines as any more definition was deemed of little importance to the overall representation required.

Once again the locally harvested ‘trees’ from our own model tree plant, as used on other projects, came in very useful and provided a natural and great finishing scale accompaniment along with a small number of 1:500 cars. Grassed or ‘Green’ areas are represented with a mottled green paper that gives a subtle contrast to the birch ply base.

The model was completed over approximately 3 days and is a good example of how to simply but effectively show the context of a site.

Urban Spatial Experimentation project, 5th Year Project

5th Year Projects (6) This 5th Year group have spent the last few days putting together a 1:500 site context model of the area they will be focussing on for their individual projects. The project is called Urban Spatial Experimentation or U.S.E. The site in question is the Albert’s Shed on the River Irwell and the model will allow different proposal models to be placed in context as they are developed. 5th Year Projects (7)The model consists of several mixed media that are used to represent different aspects of the site. It was quickly decided that the offsite context buildings would be represented using jelutong block offcuts to reduce the cost and effectively put the massing of each building together. Building footprints were drawn out and placed on the block pieces which were then cut to height before being shaped and sanded to finish.

5th Year Projects (10) 5th Year Projects (9)

The main base of the model is made up using 2mm MDF which was laser cut and engraved to create the minimal contouring on the site and provide the relief from the river section which was added last as a piece of black acrylic.

5th Year Projects (5)

5th Year Projects (11)

The group used small seed pods from a tree to represent the trees across site. This technique was used last year by several students and can be seen in this project by Laura Minca.

Here are a few pictures of the finished model below.

PA280304 PA280309 PB250557 PB250558


Ancoats Community Development ‘Hybrid Scheme’, Sandra Schenavsky

3rd year Student Sandra Schenavsky decided to take a materialistic approach to her final submission model. The proposed site in Ancoats would feature a well rounded use of buildings to create a ‘Work, Life and Leisure’ balance for those who might use the space.

Sandra wanted to convey the different uses of each element of her design by representing them as near to her proposed material finish as possible. To do this the existing site and landscaping was represented in laser cut card contours. The main building itself was constructed using pigmented plaster casts to represent concrete sections, laser cut MDF to represent wooden cladding and laser cut acrylic to represent glass facades.

This was a great experimentation project which found a good balance of techniques. Casting plaster into MDF molds proved challenging but after several trials Sandra was able to come up with an effective way of casting the forms she wanted.


Extension to the Academy of Fine Arts, Venice, Benjamin Hale

This project seemed to go on forever but Ben got there in the end after much thought and perseverance! Ben described the project in his own words for us:

“The project centred around the concepts of subtractive architectural restoration, revealing existing elements on site and adding additional elements to solve architectural anomalies often found in historical cities such as this.  The models represent at differing scales how the site interacts with this new architecture as well as how my own building functioned within the new public spaces created by this subtraction. Many of the models are abstract forms of more sophisticated concepts yet the message remains concise as to what each model is trying to achieve by the way of simplifying the material pallet and not resorting to complicated methods. The models are also interchangeable as long as they are created at the same scale and can be reused to create new models later on or explain an idea in greater detail. Model making is an integral part of any designer’s toolbox and new techniques should be tested, however often you can find that a new take on a tried and tested method will result in unexpected outcomes that will further you design.”

This series of models certainly give a varied view of Bens proposed project which is exactly what you should be trying to achieve in your submissions. Models are there to convey different aspects of your design in the best possible way. Spending time to think about exactly what you want to show and how best to show it is time well spent as frustrating as it can be at times!

Also, as a side note to you all, unless you plan to take your array of models with you to interviews etc. then good photography is essential to document your work. We will be looking to a devoted photography area of the workshop in the coming months in time for the start of your new term in September.

‘Exchange Parade Theatre’ Context Model, Rachel Jenkins

Just completed design development model, this 1:500 context model aims to show how this proposed theatre design will sit within what is currently an urban car parking space. The model includes subterranean levels and roadways that make up the different site levels. At this stage the model can be disassembled to allow for possible design changes to be discussed with Rachel’s tutors.