Continuity in Architecture 1:500 Bollington Site model by Will Priest

Will recently completed this working site model of an area of Bollington made from a CNC routed block of Mahogany. Once the CNC job was completed will spend several hours hand finishing details such as the building footprints and road details.

It’s worth considering this aspect when using the CNC route for a wooden model. Even though the bulk of material is removed with the machine there is usually a considerable amount of finishing to be factored in.

Will Priest CNC (5)

“I required a site model to make massing and programme arrangement decisions in relation to the topography and trees on the site. I chose to use the CNC machine because unlike the laser cutter, it allowed me to get smooth contours at the 1:500 scale and as a result decisions could be made at the smaller scale.

Will Priest CNC (9)

It required considerable sanding to remove the CNC excavation lines. For this is started with a low grit sand paper slow working my way up to a fine grit. I used mahogany because it is a hardwood with an attractive grain which gave the model a material connection to the actual wooded site.

Will Priest CNC (16) Will Priest CNC (17)

The trees were an experiment in process. I wanted to recreate the densely wooded appearance on the site with varied tree types. For this I used a variety of modelling trees, brass wire and pieces of bush.”  Will Priest 2016

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Colwyn Bay Conservatorium 1:250 Massing Model by Kristian James

Continuity 5th year student Kristian James produced this 1:250 massing model to outline the existing jumbled mass of buildings enclosing his site. The final model form was refined after careful consideration for the role of the model in his project. As the massing was an indication of form rather than a detailed representation, hand crafted block forms were chosen over detailed engraved or printed inserted models.
Kristian summarised the project:
“Using a range of recycled hardwood timbers, I built a 1:250 site massing model which conveyed the different elements of the project. The natural aesthetic  properties of the timber were used to subtly suggest a difference in the design but also retained the desired rustic effect.
With this in mind, the model was left in its raw state and the time spent on the model was used towards create a high quality finish.
The CNC machine was also used to remove the road path from the site base.
During the build of this model, I spent a lot of time building elements using hand tools, which although may have taken longer, provided a far more accurate finish.
Unlike most models I have made in the past, I did not laser cut any components and therefore each element was bespoke and done by hand.
Although far more stressful, it was very rewarding and resulted in a product that was far more beautiful than anything I had created before of this size.
I would summarise by saying that a good model in my opinion should integrate both modern and traditional techniques!”
Kristian James (16) Kristian James (19) Kristian James (24) Kristian James (31)

Coexistence in Theory 3rd Year Mancunian Way Site Plan

3rd year Coexistence in Theory has been focussing on a stalled site located next to the Mancunian way in Manchester. The group will use this abandoned infrastructure to propose new interventions that will bridge the site bringing in to back into functional use.
3rd Year Site Model (1) 3rd Year Site Model (4) The group decided to represent a large portion of the Mancunian way which runs through the city along with building massing and defined roadways across the site. This was done by overlaying grey card board pieces to act as raised pavements creating contrast with the light coloured plywood base below which provides the road areas.

3rd Year Site Model (11) 3rd Year Site Model (7)The stalled site in question is represented in more detail due to its importance and comparative skeletal appearance to the rest of the buildings in the area. This was made using laser cut ply whilst the main massing of the rest of the model is made us of blocks of pine cut and sanded to shape.

3rd Year Site Model (13) 3rd Year Site Model (16) Group member Georgina Erotokritou described why the group are producing the model for their projects:

“It’s the easiest and most understandable way to explain ideas, space and arrangements in 3D space. Because this model covers a wider context it is easier for the viewer to see the entire picture and see how our buildings connect to the site.” 

The model is now being used as a stage to present the groups ideas as they develop throughout the year.

3rd Year Site Model (17)

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.


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.

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‘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.

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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)

Deansgate Locks, Manchester Site Presentation Model By Aayu Malhotra

This site looks at a stalled site on Deansgate Locks. 6th Year MAarch student Aayu was asked to regenerate the development and look at potential future uses of the space. He decided to introduce small business’s to the site which would over time, expand and bring further investment to the area. The building form allows for expansion of the development by leaving the top of the building open for additional floors, formed around the core, to be added at a later time.

Aayu (5) As with Aayus other projects, he preferred to convey his design by making a highly detailed model, predominantly by hand, to emphasise the craftsmanship of the individual spaces in the development. Aayu much preferred this method over digital renders which he believed to be more corporate.

Aayu (9) The design is made of lightweight materials to allow for quick construction of additional areas. This idea was carried over into the design of his model with the main materials being paper, card, timber and fabrics.Aayu (11) The majority of the 1:100 scale model was designed and built by Aayu at home. Another benefit of using simple lightweight materials is the ability to make parts without the need for machines and specialist facilities. Aayu (13)

Scale figures were added along with items of furniture that indicate the potential use of a space. These items help to avoid repetition across the model and really bring out the intended mixed use concept. Aayu (12) Aayu (19) Once scale detail had been added the model was photographed in our studio and is now ready for the end of year show.Aayu (24)

Aayu (2) Aayu (15) Aayu (19) Aayu (20) Aayu (21) Aayu (22) Aayu (23)It’s very refreshing to see a model so lovingly hand crafted using minimal input from CAD driven machines. More like this please everyone!

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.

First Year Louis Kahn Architects study (3) First Year Louis Kahn Architects study (10) First Year Louis Kahn Architects study (12) First Year Louis Kahn Architects study (13)

1:200 Castlefield Site Model, Richard Coskie

Year Six student Richard Coskie has a history of making things from clear cut hand finished materials in our workshop. This project is no exception and as Richard explains, is continuing to influence his design decisions as the project develops.

“My project is an Urban Cultivation Cooperative Centre, located on a site that is nestled between train tracks and the canal, on the old Castlefield junction at the south end of Deansgate. The 1:200 scale site model I have crafted in the workshop from pine, is proving very useful in the development of the project for investigating relationships between different programmes. I hope to display the final scheme on the site model, as well as creating other models at other scales.

The decision to create the site model void of any digital fabrication was an easy choice for me. Firstly, because the site has a low-tech and industrial aesthetic, which is better achieved by sculpting arches from a single, chunky, piece of wood. But most importantly, as a designer, I feel it is important to learn the dimensions of a site, by actually planing the topography to scale, or sawing, carving and sanding the arches to size. For the moments that one is engaged with the manipulation of their model, I believe that it is as vital a time as any for visions to come to fruition.”

We will add some studio photographs of this model in the near future. Find out more about MSAp here: