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 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


‘Lithification’ 1:200 site model, James Taylor-Foster

As part of the final major project for his 3rd year submission James decided to produce his completed concept for the former Odeon cinema site on Oxford Street in Manchester at 1:200 scale.

James described the project for us below:
This project is, fundamentally, a house for stone fragments in the heart of Manchesters civic centre. Combining gallery spaces with workshops for stonemasonry, the buildings programme hinges around a tripartite relationship between stone as symbol, material and object. The spaces which consolidate these three spatial threads create a communicative dialogue between street and threshold, node and surface, alongside person and occupation. Designed to activate encounters between the material fabric of the built environment, movement of people, and the intimate craft of stone carving, the scheme seeks to integrate with (rather than reconfigure) the symbolic fabric of the city. The scheme, heavily influenced by ritualised occupancy both human and non-human (such as the daily, repeated zenith of falling light), distills the principle elements of a building into a collection of interdependent, intangible relationships. Volume, void and light align to create moments of lateral swelling in which the interaction of people supersedes, yet elevates and accentuates, particular formal moves. Capturing these ideas in a model was a challenge. Using a lightly grained wood, jelutong, to mass the large volumes of space, 3D printed elements bring focus to two elements: the entrance loggia in the centre of the building and the facade that faces Oxford Street, a busy Mancunian thoroughfare. In using a modest palette of materials, focus is drawn to the relationship between these two key elements that activate the street and public space they face. All sat on a heavy mahogany base – elevated by a thin sheet of plywood which denotes the street kerb – this simple, diagrammatic, 1:200 model works alongside a collection of drawings to visualise a complex orchestration of space. (James Taylor-Foster 2014)

Due to the fragile nature of the powder printing material when used in thin volumes there were several breakages to smaller elements of the model. These were repaired using a mix of styrene strips and filler. Once repaired the whole model was reinforced by soaking it in superglue and finished with a coat of white paint. It is always worth remembering that the smaller details of designs are a potential break risk for 3D powder printing. If possible try not to produce components smaller that 2mm in size and thickness. You should always consider the removal process and how this will be successfully carried out given your design. See more of James’ work by clicking here.

‘In Limbo’ Presentation Site Model, Laura Minca

Laura SiteIntimate Cities student Laura Minca has designed an ever changing settlement within the city centre. The site, on the corner of Whitworth Street and Princess Street in Manchester has been a site of a stalled project for some years now. Laura’s concept would allow the site to continue to expand and develop as required with a construction crane remaining on site to build as the site needs evolve.



Laura gives us a description of her project below:

The project aims to initially investigate the city of Manchester under a temporal lens, focusing on the spaces ‘in-between‘ worlds, ‘in-between’ stages of development that resulted following the economic downturn. At the heart of the city’s commercial and conservation area lies Origin – unfinished, incomplete, abandoned, hiding behind faded slogans of glamour and projected fantasies of luxury living and work opportunities.

The research and output developed as part of the [Intimate Cities] Atelier will be focused on the current condition of the Roma groups that have targeted the United Kingdom ever since Romania’s entrance in the European Union in 2007. Although their ‘nomadic’ condition is debatable and its deriving taxonomy should be reassessed, the Roma groups provide a fascinating case study in terms of a traveling community’s continuous struggle to adapt within fluctuating social, political and economic climates. 

The temporal context of the project is set starting with January 2014 when the transitional controls on free movement adopted by the UK will end. Following the lift of the travel restrictions and free access to the UK labor market, a high influx of Romani groups are expected to arrive and settle within British and implicitly, Mancunian territory.

Drawing on dichotomies of spatial purity and impurity, on notions of boundary, transience and spatial justice, the scheme proposes a temporary, modular structure that plugs into the existing site infrastructure – a contemporary Roma camp, aimed to provide the incoming community with a set of architectural and spatial principles that develops incrementally.

The focus on temporary, adaptable, shared spaces challenges the sedentary predisposition specific to Western architecture and its affinity towards grand, enduring structures. The approach is driven by the idea that architecture functions as an ideology in built form, that homes are more than just fixed dwellings, more than just sheltering devices: they are tools that enable the communities that use architecture to carve their identities and redefine visions of themselves and their collective subconscious.

This is not a scheme about pristine, perfectly aligned spaces and sleek technologies, but an exploration of imperfection, of the random and the improvised. A breathing, ever-changing structure that echoes the unconventional ways of the Romani people and their ability to adapt in any given environment. (Laura Minca 2014)

Concept renders of how the site would look.

E1 R3_Context2

The scaffold construction that makes up the bulk of the design was represented by engraving the framework on acrylic sheeting and rubbing in acrylic paint to the define the details. This effect is much more efficient that attempting to construct each scaffold piece or laser cutting the frame at this scale.
Laura Minca  (6) Laura Minca  (8) Laura Minca  (9)Laura used wood stain to define the site from the surrounding area. this was achieved by masking the edges and applying more coats of stain to darken her site footprint.

Laura Minca  (11) Laura Minca  (12) Laura Minca  (15) To create the tent like canopy above each area of the site Laura used a vac-formed sheet to create the draped fabric aesthetic desired. This was achieved by creating a former using Ureol Modelboard which was sanded to the correct shape then placed on a base to sit on the bed of the vac former.Laura Minca  (18) Laura Minca  (19) The vac forming process involved heating up styrene vac-forming plastic which is then suction formed around any given shape.Laura Minca  (20)

The completed form is then taken from the bed and trimmed to size for use on the model. Laura Minca  (21)

Laura Minca  (25)Further detail was added to the internal floor spaces using laser cut cardboard fixed to plywood floor plates. This plates were then assembled and slotted into place into the main framework before having the roof canopies fitted above.

Laura Minca (3) Laura used brass etched scaled figures to convey the use of the spaces with figures dotted around the site and near the context. Small pine cones were used to represent trees which always works well with wooden based models. These can be found on various trees and bushes around campus! Laura Minca (4)

Once all scale elements were added and surround massing models were made using Jelutong block, the model was moved into the studio for photographing.

Laura Minca (3) Laura Minca (19) Laura Minca (24) Laura Minca (45) Laura Minca (84)

Manchester City Master Plan Model, Architecture of the Processional City, Atelier VI

Back at the start of December we covered one groups start on their master plan block model of part of Manchester City Centre during the still ongoing spate of block models being made in the workshop. The project was part of ‘Architecture of the Professional City’, Atelier VI at Manchester School of Architecture. You can find out more about their studies on their Blog by clicking here.

City Master Plan Models

Making continues this week in the workshop with most students focussed on creating city master plan models.It can be helpful when making master plans to lay out scaled plans to place components in place and ensure everything has been cut. If you want accuracy it is essential to have well scaled plans printed to understand the size of your project on a bench in front of you.
When dealing with master plan models more often than not you will find an abundance of components littering your desk space. The best was to keep track of these to is to order them and separate them into districts. This may suit a group project as individuals can be given responsibility over separate areas of the model. This group used plastic bags to distribute components as they were cut to avoid mixing them up.

Here Jim is using the band saw table on an angle to create roof pitches on a block model. It is likely that when producing block models there will come a point when a machines limits will not be sufficient to get the angle you require.

Overcoming these aspects of modelmaking can be time consuming but is of course necessary to ensure consistent accuracy of your models. Should you feel you’re unsure about how to achieve a particular angle don’t hesitate to ask our advice.


Campo San Martino, Venice Site 1:200 Master Plan Model

This year 6 Group project uses Jelutong block to create the busy built up area of Venice, Italy where the focus site of their brief is located. Once complete individual site study models will be placed in context to demonstrate their relationship to the existing constructions and canals in the area.

Dividing up time consuming tasks like mass producing bespoke block model shapes can be sped up by involving all team members as long as everyone has a clear understanding of what is trying to be achieved overall.

Jelutong Blocks Back in Stock for Masterplan Modelling

After the recent onslaught of master plan models our stockroom was left somewhat depleted! Master plan models more often than not will require large pieces of wood to create multi-storey buildings in block form.

Whilst using laminated MDF sheets may seem like a cheaper option it is worth considering the huge amount of waste and resulting impact to the environment as a whole and the immediate surroundings. Cutting masses of MDF sheeting produces a lot of dust that when inhaled excessively can be very bad for your health (Wear Dust Masks!).

Laminating sheets together can also be time consuming and the finished aesthetics are less desirable. Jelutong block may seem expensive (Prices ranging between £15 to £40 per block) but the time saved in laminating and finishing may be comparable as the majority of master plans produced here can be achieved using a single £15 block when used economically.

Be sure to check with us about costings and the best approach for your model before rushing into anything. We use these materials almost everyday and can offer sound advice that will help you make the best of your projects in the most cost effective way.

Jim and Scott

1:500 Master Plan Model, Year 3 BA Architecture

This group project for 3rd year BA students will be used to display multiple concepts that will continue to develop throughout the year. For this reason considerable thought was put into getting the contouring and overall model size correct for purpose.

By figuring out high and low points on their site the group could then make a series of supporting ‘ribs’ at the relevant size for the 1:500 scale. Clearly marking each piece by number is crucial when there are many components. Once fixed in place the engraved ‘skin’ was fixed over the top creating the flow of contours across the site.

The next main phase of construction was to produce the existing site buildings. by taking plans printed at scale the group divided the site into different zones and gave each building a number to assure easy identification when assembling.

By referring to visual reference such as photographs it is possible to find an approximate building height by looking at courses of brickwork and door/window heights. At this scale approximations are fine for the models purpose but extra care should be taken when focussing on areas in the immediate vicinity of the areas being used for proposed development.

The group decided to add extra laser engraved facade details to the exiting buildings closes to their proposed site. This helps to highlight the concentration and detail in the surrounding buildings without over emphasising their physical construction.

As the group found out, adding too many detail lines can prove costly in terms of time on the laser cutter.

We encourage you to consult us about any of these fine details as more often than not they can be simplified and still easily convey the message.