Making the U.o.M. Snowglobe Model – A Guide to ‘Chemi-Wood’ Block Modelling

Exterior of Manchester UniversityThis project was given to me from the University estates department who were wanting a representation of the University of Manchester’s Whitworth hall and tower that make up the Oxford road side of the old quadrangle complex. The model would then be used in a snow globe for a Digital Christmas Card sent out across the University.

As the project required the model to be waterproof I decided it would be a good opportunity to record the process of using Ureol, commonly known as Chemi-Wood or Model Board.

Whilst in this case I am using Chemi-Wood as the main material, the methods used are applicable to any kind of massing representation – this one having perhaps more detail than normally required due to its purpose.

Here is my step by step record of the process undertaken for around 5 hours over a period of a week when ever I found any time! I have included my rough sketches and thought process description to help understand how I chose to tackle the difference aspects of this representation.


 

Planning

The model had to be a maximum of 100mm long to allow it to fit within a snow globe. Firstly I scaled the CAD Drawings based on the required size and printed a plan and elevation to directly reference the model components as building each one. Having an accurate plan to work to is essential. Always check and double check it is printed to the correct scale.

DSC05143With the printed plans as a guide I began dividing the model into components to be massed out, thinking in my head and in turn on paper about any pitches or areas that may need to be removed later.

By identifying commonly sized components, or close to the same size you can then best determine how to cut your material to avoid waste. In this case the height and width of two components happened to be the same so I started by cutting a piece at 22mm wide.

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Primary Massing
Cutting a block at 22mm width gave me a thin sheet off-cut which will come in handy later. Always keep hold of thin strips like this as they prove very useful when making add on details.
DSC05146 By putting a piece of sandpaper on a flat board we can easily sand the sawn face of a piece of material to flatten off any saw marks. With chemi-wood in particular this is very straight forward and gives a smooth clean finish. Taking the time to remove saw marks at each stage of production will save time in the long run and helps to keeps the resulting components looking crisp.

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Creating a pitched roof

Accurately marking on guides when creating a pitch is recommended as without them we can only presume the machines are set accurately which, given the number of people who use our workshop, is often doubtful!
DSC05155 DSC05156 Once the piece has been cut to the required length it can then be sanded down using the disc sander, in this case removing the minimal amount of material on the edge to create the pitch as marked. Blocks with larger areas to be removed should be cut down closer to the marked line before sanding to avoid burning out the sanding discs and creating excessive force on the machine. Note that I have marked the pitch at the end of the piece to ensure there is enough material to hold on to whilst sanding reducing risk of injury. Always check your marked guide lines as you go.

DSC05163Once the pitch is complete the piece can be removed from the block. DSC05168Smaller components that require pitches can sometime be achieved as part of a bigger block using the end of a longer strip of material as shown below. Again this was created using the disk sander and clear marking as a guide. For now this piece will remain attached until the massing detail has been added.  DSC05182The tower section was measured out from the plan and two-stage pitch added. This photograph shows the second pitch marked out ready to be sanded.

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Massing Details

The second phase of the model is to establish what details need to be added to take the blocks to a more familiar form. As with all models a level of detail needs to be established across all components. In this case the archway and repeated buttress’s are of notable presence and so provided the basis for the other relief details as sketched below.

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DSC05191Using the thin sheet off-cut from the first block, I took the elevation details of the archway from the CAD drawings and created the archway port surround and turret details by layering the two. Laser cutting is great for such intricate parts but presents a problem when finishing due to the fragile nature of such thin components. Care had to be taken when sanding off burn marks so spare components can come in handy if there are any breakages. DSC05193I used a medium thickness cyanoacrylate ( AKA superglue) to carefully stick the layered details together. Only small spots of glue were used and can be applied with the end of a cocktail stick or a scalpel blade.

The layered up arch facade can then be applied to the primary massing from earlier taking care to center it as marked. DSC05194Once fixed the material filling the arch is removed in notches using the bandsaw – controlled easily thanks to the extension we have the piece built on with a push-stick. DSC05197After hand filing the curve of the arch using a round file the piece can be parted off from the extension and excess material carefully sanded back to the marked line taken from our printed scaled plan. DSC05201


STOP PRESS! MISTAKE DETECTED!DSC05212Leaving the workshop and walking down past the Whitworth Hall after work I noticed an error with my model so far in that I had wrongly presumed the footprint of the tower made up the entire plan print as shown. This in fact turns out to be wrong and the tower makes up just over half of the block footprint.

No need to panic!

By reviewing the plans and evaluating the oversight It was easily rectified by modifying the piece using the top center as a reference to reduce the overall size and roof pitch line. We all make mistakes so no need to worry if this happens when your making your model – its how we handle them that matters.

What ever you do don’t ignore it – especially if it is connecting to another part of the model as there is always a knock on effect with errors that will come back to haunt you! Try to take the time to do it right even if it means starting again.

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 Massing Details Continued

The next details I made were the spires at the top of the towers on the end of the Whitworth Hall. to create these I took a square section of chemi-wood from the offcuts and fixed it into the chuck of a hand drill.

DSC05216Taking note of the required 6mm radius I used 120 grit sandpaper to reduce the section down to a dowel, regularly checking the size with calipers.

DSC05217Once the dowel was a 6mm I marked on the low point of the spire and used a needle file to reduce it down to a point before adding a shoulder at the base. The completed spire was then removed with a junior hacksaw before being lightly sanded flat at the base.

DSC05219DSC05223DSC05224The buttresses along each side of the Whitworth hall were made using thin strips that were layered up (shown below) on top of each other having been cut to the specified step heights.
DSC05253 Once fixed I put this piece into the laser cutter and cut strips through the joined layers creating the buttress profiles. These were then carefully fixed in place using small amounts of cynoacrylate.DSC05256 Finally I simplified the corner spires that finish the tower using the CAD Files maintaining the same basic level of detail as shown on the other detail elements. These were then fixed in place before fixing the tower to the archway and Whitworth Hall sections. DSC05260The model could now be painted easily due to the smooth surface finish of the components. In this case the raw material finish sufficed and it remains its clean colour.

DSC05261The completed Model was then fixed into a snow globe to be used for University of Manchester marketing.

Hopefully this guide will give some useful pointers for your future models. If there’s anything you are uncertain about doing yourself always ask. – Scott

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UoM Twitter

 

Mecanoo B.15 Modelmaking Awards

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After many months of hard work from everyone at MSA the end of year show was officially opened at a private view event on Friday. We were pleased to include a new award recognising the use of modelmaking in students coursework.

Judging took place during Friday afternoon where we were joined by representatives from Mecanoo, Professor Tom Jefferies, Dr Ray Lucas to mark the short-listed work in person. From the outset it was clear this was going to be a difficult competition to win due to the high quality of the featured work.

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Spending time to look at each piece in detail, the judges marked out of 50 based on our criteria.

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The total scores caused a heated debate about the winners resulting in the decision to restructure our prizes from one to three winners for BA (Hons) as final scoring was so close.

Ernst ter Horst and Patrick Arends from Mecanoo noted that they were “inspired by the exceptional level of quality throughout and it’s important to stress these winners were all on a knife edge with scoring

The winner of the MArch prize was of “outstanding quality and creativity delivering a fascinating model of beguiling interest!” 

Winners were:

Overall BA (Hons) Winner – Paul Thornber


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Highly Commended BA (Hons) 2nd Place – Sara Hammond

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Highly Commended BA (Hons) 3rd Place – Thomas Smith

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Winner of the MArch Prize - Hajir Alttahir

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Individual descriptions of the winning projects written by the students can be found in the complete short list document available to view here.

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We are thrilled with the response this award has had and are confident we can continue to recognise the great modelmaking work of our students with this as an annual award. As stated by Mecanoo we would like to repeat how close the scoring for this was and that every project picked was done so because of great quality and individual attitude to making which was believed to be fantastic so well done to everyone this year!

Good luck in your future careers!

Scott and Jim at B.15

Thank you to all who took part and supported Modelmaking in the Digital Age

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Just a quick message to everyone who came to speak and helped us make yesterday’s symposium event possible. We thoroughly enjoyed the day and everyone was extremely positive about our approach to modelmaking and it’s future in architecture.

In all we had 90+ registered guests from a variety of backgrounds all with a shared interest of the subject. Thank you for all your support, it means a lot.

The event was full of interesting presentations and discussions that we are hopeful will lead to further expansion and future events orientated around the subject of how we use models in architecture.

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Syposium Pics (8)

We will be uploading footage of the event for those who missed it in the coming months so stay tuned for those.

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Many thanks to all again – we can’t thank you enough!

Scott and Jim

B.15:45 Years of Architectural Modelmaking Documentary Video

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As part of our B.15:45 exhibition we have produced this documentary film exploring the constant but changing use of modelmaking within architectural education here at The Manchester School of Architecture within The University of Manchester.

The film interviews past and present academic, teaching and technical staff about their thoughts on modelmaking in architecture and how the tool continues to be used in design teaching today.

We hope this provides a good insight into Architectural modelmaking and helps to define its place in student studies here.

We would like to say many thanks again to all involved in the production of this film.

Scott and Jim

B.15:45 Private View Opening

DSC02980 DSC02972After just over a year in the making B.15:45 finally opened on with a private view event on Friday evening. The event was a fantastic success with many unexpected guests and familiar faces gathering to discuss the subject of Modelmaking in Architecture.

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An opening introduction speech was made by Professor Nick Dunn who gave a concise description of the history of modelmaking and overview of our goals with this exhibition which was well received by all.

Myself and Jim would like to thank everybody involved and all who made it to the opening to make it such a great success.

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The exhibition is now open to all 9.00-17.00 during term time for the next year. We will be hosting several events on alongside the exhibition and engaging with school and college groups which has already begun. Keep checking for updates regarding any public events as we want to keep all interested parties engaged in our continued work.

Many thanks again, Scott and Jim

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Elsewhere Park, an ‘Eco-Labratory’ in Egypt

On a recent trip to Egypt I was thrilled to be invited by friends to visit a unique ‘eco-labratory’ experiment on the banks of the Nile. Elsewhere park is a private plot of land owned, maintained and developed by ex-pat Jules Johnson and her husband Naser. The park was set up as a long time dream of Jules to be able to create a haven away from the manic pace of Cairo city life.

2014-04-21 16.51.16With limited experience of building Jules and Naser set out to build their ideal practical get-away for themselves and other ex-pats needing to escape. Jules had a very clear idea of how her ideas should look with certain aspects pending on material tests and availability. This gave a bespoke touch to the whole site which works fantastically. Even so Jules tried to define her ideas through designs in a professional manner. These designs met with confused local architects whom more often than not stick to a very generic set of bland construction rules that, to say the least, leave much to be desired.

With the usual stumbling blocks of building construction inevitable, things were made increasingly difficult by un-co-operative tradesman and a difficulty in sourcing good quality eco building materials.

Having heard of the difficulties in construction and seen the finished articles on site I was very eager to pass on the story of this fantastic place to yourselves and open up the possibility of a future collaboration on a live-project on the site! I thought it better that Jules tell the story so read my interview with her below to find out more.

With a little planning It may be possible for us to visit the site as a small group of students to take part in the experiments and contribute from our experience in MSA. If you are interested in finding out more please email me at scott.miller@manchester.ac.uk

2014-04-22 16.19.29What is Elsewhere park and why did you decide to embark on such a project?

I am widely travelled and have watched the world go by from many a town square or roadside cafe. But not in Egypt.

After finding myself married to a local man, having a young son, very little income and living in a concrete sweat box in the middle of one the filthiest cities you will ever see, I decided to start exploring the countryside. We started to visit Nasers family more often in a village called Matania (meaning Germany) it’s a couple of miles south of the park. The poor conditions dissuaded us from using their toilets or considering staying overnight.

There are no centres or main shopping roads in any of the towns and villages and it’s inappropriate for women to be in a coffee shop. So. I needed somewhere close to build a proper, sit down Loo, At least we could spend more time there.

2014-04-19 11.52.17Was the park’s purpose always clear or has it evolved over time?

The park was not the first time we built but it was going to be the final time. We had intended to buy a piece of Nile River land, before it became illegal, to build our retirement house.

Naser envisioned a huge Roman style columned block with lawns and conifers!

I was thinking more along the lines of the Victorian Sea Front shelters with rockeries around the inevitable but inappropriate, lawns. The ideas involving Elsewhere are evolving all the time. I love other people to share their ideas and enthusiasm.

I was very conscious of the dreadful conditions the local Bedouin people live in and the delicacy of their customs. A kindly Hungarian lady asked what she could do to help them and decided to open a little school. We allowed her to build a small room (the red brick one) in the Park, rent and electricity, with use of the kitchen and bathroom. This is now the shed and the Nile River School has moved to its permanent location in a purpose built and larger school, just up the road.

2014-04-19 14.43.32 2014-04-19 14.39.18[Put simply] the park supports educational interests of both privately funded (Rich Cairo schools) and the Nile River School that survives on donations and volunteers.The park was created for rest, recovery and inspiration. It can be made available for education and certain types of entertainment. Private hobbies and dreams. I love the freedom to try anything and enjoy other peoples enthusiasm and experience that they have been willing to contribute.

Recently, a group of ladies I teach with needed somewhere at the Park to stay, instead of putting up tents. This is the building we are currently working on and you Scott, are the only bloke that has been allowed to do anything creative on it!

2014-04-19 14.40.01 2014-04-19 18.22.59What inspired you to lead the design the buildings on your site?

I had to design the buildings myself as I spent 15 years in the Logistics field which always comes first in my considerations. I have no faith in the engineering judgments of most architects here and they would only communicate with Naser because 1. He speaks Arabic and 2. He is a Man.

Women have no business interfering in such things in Egyptian society.

What problems did you encounter and how did you overcome them?

Everyone here thinks and says you can’t do that, that’s not possible. So I go ahead and start the job myself.

There are many bribes to be paid at intervals but there were many more when we started. The Authorities take their share. River Authority, River Land Authority, Land Authority, Road Authority, Electricity Authority, Building Authority. Because I am foreign, all of our paperwork to do with the Park, is all perfectly legal to ensure we don’t lose it.

The first thing we did was build the road down to give vehicle access to the land.

The walls collapsed and the road fell down.

Next doors road also fell down and at this point I decided to take all building under my wing.

The first building had to be pulled down four times before we managed to get a license for electricity. This would then prove it was a lived- in building and therefore could not be demolished. This was the normal process. The law has changed since then and the Authorities are starting to pull down the swarm of buildings that have been put up since the other Authorities have been otherwise occupied.

2014-04-18 18.00.19There are always problems with the quality of materials, all of the roof beams are twisted and most wood is full of knots and bark. The electricity is normally connected from the street lights and it runs your single light bulb via the window. Elsewhere Park has more light bulbs than the whole Ezbah (Hamlett) put together and more double sockets too. There have been so many problems!

Does the ‘try it and see’ attitude to building lend itself to the locality given the uncertainty of Material supplies? And do you find testing/prototyping beneficial?

I love to try it and see. I am not familiar with some of the local materials so I research their uses and  use their transferable properties with my own transferable skills, to create an object with meaning and multipurpose. I am proud of some of my triumphs in the control of temperature and I can’t wait to put the roof on the Burrow (Cob) to see how I have performed with daylight.

2014-04-19 14.35.25 2014-04-19 14.35.06We encourage people to collect as much data from the Park as they can. If you need our help, just ask.

Does the eco/ethical consideration behind Eleswhere Park have potential to expand to other areas in the locality or Egypt as a whole?

Oh Yes. There are a few organisations that dabble in the recycling field but not many dabbling in Permaculture. Most countryside folk don’t have hot water. They have very poor ventilation but no insulation. (The Arabs invented air conditioning with a roof modification)

There is a need in the British Education Private Sector for workshops/presentations and other educational tools on eco-friendly subjects as we have no public parks, forests or accessible countryside. Many students attending these schools have architects and interior designers in their families and are ready to learn some common sense. Rich land owners prefer lawns and columns. Where nature is organized and trees cut into cylindrical shapes. Check out the history of the place and you can see Islamic ceramic influence in many things.

2014-04-21 21.16.15 2014-04-19 18.20.27What do you hope to do with the site in the future?

I would love to see the Park full of little ongoing experiments, set up by some and monitored by many. We will continue to build. The next building may be from river reeds with the potential to pass this knowledge on to the local lads so they possibly make sun shades commercially.

2014-04-22 16.31.30 2014-04-21 17.00.33 2014-04-19 15.54.03The next project (after the Burrow) will be to make a hot water system for the Castle showers. I would like to make this out of recycled materials and use solar power.

My dream for the Park is to make approximately 8 more buildings, using more and more local and renewable materials as possible. Here are some of the plans:

There will be a more extravagant Cob guest room,

Straw bale guest room,

Natural Tee Pee,

River reed shelter with the possibility to extend this technique to the surrounding communities for roofing or animal shelter.

Wooden shed on stilts overlooking clay lined pond that may possibly be for aquaponics.

Jetty to moor boats.

Probably, a metal chassis floating caravan.

Workshop for my art stuff, tools and future projects. I would like to make a wood turning lathe.

Open kitchen on the end of the Castle block.

2014-04-22 11.37.00As the power will be unreliable this summer, I would like to start more seriously with renewable energy installations.

The cost of electric will be rising 25% shortly too.

2014-04-19 17.29.00 2014-04-22 13.43.10Have you considered collaborating with architectural institutes in Egypt to help develop and experiment with the site?

At the moment, I have no plans to involve the architectural institutes in Egypt as the Tutors are notoriously jealous of their powerful positions and the dated styles that they personally believe in. (They may even try to close the Park down, in case our ideas become popular with the rich and famous)

Architects and Tutors here are not usually willing to cooperate with any alternative styles or concepts, especially from women or foreigners as they see this as doing themselves out of a job. They also earn huge amounts of commission from the suppliers and manufacturers of the raw materials and from contractors and sub-contractors.

They also encourage the use of materials that are produced in Egypt, (by the military)but that have a high carbon footprint, such as cement, metals and plastics.

There are several historical and social influences to consider when wondering about modern day buildings. One thing that bothers me most is the complete lack of common sense when planning rooms, buildings and community areas. I believe that this complacency has had a long term effect on moral and society and I am finding that this problem is still being ignored , even in the high class areas.(we have 7 different classes of people in Egypt)

2014-04-19 14.35.49 2014-04-22 11.38.13 2014-04-22 11.12.01So. What are you waiting for?

The sun shines every day, its either warm or hot.

We have an almost constant northerly wind.

We have the longest river in the world which runs at about 5 knots.

We must be able to do something with all of that?

All the best, Jules

(Interview Between Scott Miller and Jules Johnson 2014)

RIBA Exhibition: The Brits Who Built the Modern World

Yesterday myself and Jim visited the ‘Brits Who Built the Modern World’ exhibition at the RIBA building in London. The exhibition explores how the key British architects have evolved to become highly sort after worldwide. You may have seen the accompanying BBC series that was on recently. Key to the display and narrative of the exhibition are models of classic projects. To find out more click here.

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Should you get the chance, be sure to have a look through this exhibition and the supporting current projects room. The exhibition runs until 27th May.

 

SEED B.15 Modelmaking Workshop: 2 WEEKS IN 2 MINUTES

 

Not long after I started here in B.15 it became very apparent that the constant hive of activity we have here was often unnoticed. I decided, amongst other things to document a period by setting up a camera to record two weeks in time-lapse format. Taking place over two weeks last May, this footage gives a brief insight into the fantastic and frantic creativity we host day to day.

Please share with your friends and keep making!

Scott

Do Your Bit to Reduce Workshop Waste

One of the inevitable by-products of a creative environment such as ours is a large amount of material waste. Whilst a certain amount of this is unavoidable we endeavour to reduce as much unnecessary disposal as possible.

As individuals we all need to be more considerate to make a difference to this and every little change can help.

Here’s a few things to think about for this cause and your own benefit:

Materials Consideration

This is a huge part of your project and should be thought about in great depth in terms of what you are trying to achieve and the potential waste produced from it. For example, When making a contour model consider the amount of unseen sheet material that could be saved by producing each layer as a step down rather than an entire sheet to form each layer. Could you use grey cardboard which is widely recycled instead of sheets of wood ?

Planning Your Model

Establishing the size and layout of your model can dictate how much material you use. For example if you want to make a laser cut model that measures 900mm x 600mm you will need to use more than a standard laser cut sized sheet (800mm x 450mm) of material to cover the area required. For the sake of using another sheet of material, your money and little visual difference to the end product you should try to work to existing sizes.

 

Using Machines Appropriately 

This is always a sticking point for students using our workshop as experience of machine use is varied. By thinking about each component you are trying to produce beforehand it is possible to produce the desired shape without unnecessary waste.

For example when using the disk sanders to create a roof pitch we can think about the size of the piece we are working with. If the piece requires taking large volumes of material away then it would be more appropriate to cut the majority of the material away using a band saw before moving to the disk sander to accurately finish the cut. By doing this we are reducing the amount of wear to the disk sanders and the levels of dust in the atmosphere around the workshop.

Using Offcuts

With a bit of fore thought it is possible to make virtually anything for next to no cost by utilising offcuts and unwanted material for others projects. Here in the workshop we have off-cut bins for wood and acrylic of varying sizes and thickness. It is always worth looking at what is available for free to reduce using material and in turn your costs.

Thanks for taking the time to read. Scott