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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Experimenting with Modelling in Plasterboard

When casting with plaster you always have to contend with mould design, consistency of mixing the plaster and the eventual extraction from the mould. These factors can cause a fairly high fail rate if one or more are carried out incorrectly. One way we can get around the need to mould and cast slabs of plaster is to utilise a ready made substitute in the form of plasterboard. Pre-cast plaster board can be purchased readily and cheaply from most DIY stores. It provides a consistent slab of plaster that can be easily worked using hand tools or machine cutting.

5th Year Lost Spaces (5)

In its bought state plasterboard has a layer of paper adhered to the outside which can be removed using a wet cloth. This is the most laborious aspect of using this material but is a small price to pay for the time and expense of trying to cast slabs from scratch.


5th Year Lost Spaces (2)Once clean of paper the board should be left to thoroughly dry before being worked.

With this particular project slabs of plaster board were cut to size before being engraved with detailing on the laser cutter. This level of detail created a cast concrete imitation that would be very difficult to replicate from a cast piece.
5th Year Lost Spaces (15)The main disadvantage of this engraved method is in its fragility. Once completed the engraved pieces have to be held with great care to avoid damaging the surface. One method of strengthening the pieces is to spray over a layer of clear lacquer. Even with this coverage the surface can easily be damaged so this process is really for aesthetic purposes and doesn’t lend itself to models that need to be handled.

To create the impression of a solid cast block the edges of each piece were mitred prior to being engraved. Mitering the edges made for an even more fragile edge that required filling with a quick drying Poly-filla which was then lightly blended with sand paper.

Lost Spaces – Nine Elms Cold Store

Initial experiments with this method were done by George Thomson, Jilly Clifford and Ayo Karim as part of the 5th year Lost Spaces workshop brief. Their project was focussed on the Nine Elms Cold Store.

“The choice of using a plasterboard method of construction was derived from our aim to have a scaled model which reflected the materiality of the Nine Elm’s cold store. The cold store was a prominent concrete landmark alongside the River Thames in the 1970’s with no apparent human scale; its only characteristic to the outside world was a repetitive façade detail wrapping the entirety of the building – something we successfully represented on the plasterboard model and by using the laser cutter.”

Nine Elms Cold Store (13) Nine Elms Cold Store (15) Nine Elms Cold Store (25)

Bollington Mill Project – Continuity in Architecture

Following on from this project Continuity in Architecture students Robbie Stanton, Sam Stone and Jahan Ojaghi chose to experiment using the same method to represent a derelict Mill in Bollington.5th year Bollington Mill (3)

Robbie Stanton explains the project:

Our initial research into Bollington exposed the town’s rich industrial heritage and emphasised the hugely influential role cotton manufacture has played in defining physical environment and local history and culture. However, many mill structures – the powerful emblems of a rich, multi-faceted past – have been lost. As a consequence, the physical townscape seems disconnected from its socio-historical context. The installation proposes a recognition of the lost forms of Ingersley Vale Mill, one such site at risk of being demolished and forming a further void in Bollington’s continual identity. By artificially lighting the ‘ghost’ structure we aim to draw attention back to a lost icon, re-stitching the building into the wider industrial fabric of Bollington. Continuity in Architecture 5th years were running a competition for a live installation on our site. This project is one of the short-listed 6 and basically proposed artificially lighting the ghost forms of a derelict mill using electroluminescent wire. We chose to try laser etched plasterboard because we wanted a model which could appear highly textured and lends itself to the decaying qualities of a ruin. A combination of CAD and hand scratching / editing were used to get a varied result.”

In addition to the laser engraved plasterboards the group used polly-filla to marry the land mass of the site with the walls of the building.

5th year Bollington Mill (7) 5th year Bollington Mill (8)5th year Bollington Mill (9)

The finished effect, as with the Nine Elmes Cold Cold Store Project is fantastic at capturing the rustic look of the building. It worth noting that this technique can be time consuming and the resulting pieces are very fragile so certainly don’t suit anything intended to be handled. North close up presentation photo south agled perspective

In the style of Piranesi – Experimenting with Metal Powders in Resin

“Designed in the 18th century by the artist Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778), Caffè degli Inglesi in Rome, just moments away from the Spanish Steps, is a prime example of a lost ‘cultural cafè’. Renowned for its eccentric Egyptian style, it was a main hub for British artists visiting the Eternal City. Although it was a key centre for culture and artistry, the café’s design divided opinion. Caffè Degli Inglesi only survived for circa 20 years. 

Only two plates etched by Piranesi himself have survived that depict one long and one short internal wall. Because of this, our main challenge was re-imagining the space. As the cafè is long gone and we have no information in regards to the materials, colours, techniques employed, it therefore seems clear that the physical architecture of this space shouldn’t be our main focus, but capturing the lost atmosphere by trying to create a ‘shadow’ of the lost physical space.


When creating a three-dimensional model, it was obvious we needed to depict the two undocumented walls in a way that does not mimic nor assume, but can capture the spirit needed for the café’s re-interpretation. We are therefore suggesting the use of mirrored walls, providing an immersive experience, without compromising the integrity of Piranesi’s unknown original design.

The material choice for the rest of the model was intended to hint towards Piranesi himself’s original metallic plates. The time and expense required in producing real metal plates was soon deemed too unrealistic, therefore an innovative solution was found in aluminium powder mixed with resin to create a metallic, durable cast acrylic sheet. From these they were able to be handled by machines such as the laser cutter in creating the etchings on both sides. 
A challenge came in the creation of the vaulted roof, where the material was heated following the etching process and formed around a pre-made mould. The 4 sheets were then filed so that the edges could align as best as possible. Assembly of the model involved super-glue, epoxy resin (made metallic in the same way as the cast sheets to match) and finishing using 3mm self-adhesive lead strips.
We were asked to display the model on a 400x400mm plinth. This was created with a number of feature to help enhance the model, for instance the plinth was created to be 1500mm high in order for the model to be viewed from eye level and allowed the viewer to experience the mirroring of the materials within. The rectangular shape of the model was then rationalised by creating a series of steps at the top of the square plinth, the final step incorporating a step down to fit the model so that the floor plate runs smoothly from outside to inside. The plinth was then painted in a matt white, with a shadow gap creating a neat finish between plinth and floor.” – Vanessa Torri & Daniel Kirkby 2015

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 Making the Model

For this project it was decided to make the wall thickness 3mm for ease of construction as well as keeping the material use to a minimum. Simple tray moulds were made up using strips of 3mm MDF that were double sided taped down to a base. This aids an easier removal from the mould once the cast has cured.

Note – if it is clear that a lot of the same component are require (in this case resin slabs) that it may be worth making the mould using a silicone to allow repeat casts and easy cast removal. As this project was very much ‘try it and see’ the required moulds were made as needed. 

Once the basic mould was complete the surfaces were coated with a barrier coat of Vaseline to prevent the resin penetrating the surface of the MDF when poured.

Metal powders

The use of metal powders in casting allows us to create a lightweight and, when compared to full metal casting, low cost but effective substitute material. The process uses very fine metal powder to coat the surface of a desired cast that can then be polished as if it were cast in the metal in use. In this case Aluminium powder was chosen to emulate lead. 

DSC05234In order to guarantee a good coat of metal powder on the surface of casts the mould should be dusted with the desired powder. The excess powder can be poured from the mould and reused. 

Mixing/Pouring Resin

For ease and speed of casting fast-cast- polyurethane resin was used as the stock material for the cast slabs. The resin is usually mixed at a 50/50 ratio but always check the instructions as some brands do vary their instructions on ratio mixing. As we were going for a metallic finish overall metal powder was also mixed into the resin to back up the surface coat already ducted into the mould. As the resin is poured the metal powder particles naturally want to sink to the lowest point so having them in the resin only increases or chances of a successful finish on the face of the cast.









Surface Finishing and Laser Engraving

Once the slabs have poured they can be carefully removed from the mould and all being well will have a dull but flat finish on the down face. Using wire wool the surface can be polished up to the desired shine.


5th Year Lost Spaces (8)

Next up for this project was the engraving of the Piranesi drawings onto the plates. Using the laser cutters Daniel and Vanessa were able to engrave into the polished surface of the plates as well as the back face which would end up being inside the model.

5th Year Lost Spaces (13)


The roof components required heat forming to create its vaulted shape. This shaping occurred after being engraved and cut to shape which required significant time to figure out correctly.

DSC05278 The final detail to be added to the model was lead finishing strip as used on leaded windows. As well as finishing the panel gaps this strip. lent itself to the model design and matched the metallic finish perfectly.


Pitanesi model (2) Pitanesi model (4) Pitanesi model (5)The model will be on display as part of the 5th year ‘Lost Spaces’ workshop display at the end of year show in June.

‘Urban Mining: The St. Johns Quarter’ 1:100 & 1:50 Models by Daniel Kempski

5th Year MA student Daniel Kempski came to the workshop fairly late on in his project with a need to convey multiple aspects of his design proposals through model making. Having successfully completed his two projects and some valuble lessons learnt. Of particular note was the time consuming engraving and cutting of the cork elements. The results of this were fantastic but it should be noted that this can be very time consuming and therefore potentially costly in terms of laser cutting time. We asked if Daniel would write us a piece to accompany some images of his models – he responded in great detail!

We look forward to seeing some more of Daniels projects next year.

The full description of the project and the application of the models made with us is explained here:

“The culture of use:reuse within the construction industry is an emerging area of importance within the field – with firms being placed under increasing scrutiny to change their methods building demolition and deconstruction in order to evolve to meet the growing demands of waste management. It is key to address this issue parallel to the growing dereliction within our cities – with many buildings being demolished once being deemed unusable.

How this can be linked to programme arrives through the notion of an Urban Auction House: a place where individuals can bring their waste materials (arriving as deconstructed elements) and then be further sold to buyers who can make use of these products.

The scheme acts as a hub for all types of individuals within the construction industry. It tries to establish an even playing field for its users, with products being available at a reduced price due to their imperfect nature – enabling the customer to be able to purchase construction materials at a cheaper rate, seeking to reduce the current gap between small and large scale developers within the market.

The aim of the design is to maximise retention of the existing building (Albert Warehouse), while not constraining myself to remain within the existing structures parameters and potentially harming the programmatic outputs. I aimed to change and manipulate these aspects of the existing form that I felt did not fulfil its true architectural potential.

An entire new central bay is established between two existing segments of the build – enabling a more focused entrance point to be generated – recessed back from the roadside, with an element of grandeur created through the staggered, vaulted stonework.

1.100 model (10)

I feel it was key to investigate the building in two different scale models: a 1:100 Section through the scheme in order to understand the internal workings programmatically; and a 1:50 Bay Study to investigate the materiality and light qualities.

1:100 Model

One of the more demanding changes to the existing structure arrives in the form of the central bay being deconstructed and replaced by a primary structure primarily formed by reclaimed stonework sourced from Quay House (one of the four Urban Mines). It was vital to interject a new, more accessible entrance to the building for the main visitors entrance in order to establish a focal point for the east facade (for sake of both functionality and aesthetics).

Recessing the entrance away from the pavement provides a much needed forecourt, reinforcing this new change of threshold through vaulted stonework encapsulating the individual as they proceed to enter the Auction House.

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The Auction Hall is embodied within a double-height space, overlooking the River Irwell – creating the sense of theatre to be instilled upon the individual, with grand, exposed structure and a resonating acoustic acting as key protagonists. A raised platform further enables individuals to spectate during the auctions.

In contrast, the Lower Ground Floor functions as a back-of-house storage and preparation area. The workers gather and move the materials during their journey within the Auction House.

1.100 model (15)

1:50 Model

In order to gain a practical understanding of the atmosphere generated by the materials reprogrammed into southern elevation’s perforated brickwork facade,a scaled 1:50 model was constructed. The aim of the model was to investigate the internal light qualities predominantly, to ensure that the transitional space could not be deemed unwelcoming.

The model was also generated to create a built example of a key bay detail that repeats several times along that facade. The proportion between punctured brickwork and the actual structural masonry is key to enable the maximum introduction of natural light, while retaining structural integrity. The light qualities within the transitional spaces are key towards ensuring the success of the internal programme of the building – circulation spaces are there to offer relief in order to create a sense of separation between the Auction House and Galleries.

The large, double height spaces allow natural light to arrive from both the VSCs and punctured brick facade, allowing the central exhibition pieces to have their qualities maximised, as well as the space itself.

1.50 model (5)

Making the Models

It was key to establish distinguishing characteristics between each of the materials used, as the scheme revolves purely around material reclamation (both architecturally and programmatically) It was vital to represent materials under same semantic in the building specification, as the same material choice in the model – enabling an easy understanding of the intended material discourse: e.g. obvious differentiation between stonework, timber, masonry, etc.

I felt it was key not to oversaturate the models with materials, instead working with three or four strong materials that work complementary to each other provided end products that felt cohesive.

1.100 model (9)

Within the 1:100 sectional model it was key to establish a strong juxtaposition of materials in order to depict what elements of the build are retained and newly interjected. This is attempted by utilising 3D printed elements to narrate the qualities of the proposed stonework bay, with the etched 3mm plywood representing part of the retained masonry bay.

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For the 1:50 bay study, 3mm cork board was used as the primary component to replicate the texture and ultimate aesthetic of the masonry – this was to ensure that minimal finishes had to be applied to the already delicate nature of the perforation post-cutting, providing the facade with a more natural demeanour.

1.50 model dan kempski (9)


Plaster-casts were made in order to distinguish a level of material separation within the space – focusing primarily between what is stonework and what is masonry. Both materials are reused, as recognised within the programme of the build, and thus is was key to attempt to create a more textured, used finish – achieved by placing a larger build-up of petroleum jelly within the moulds, creating a more textured finish.

Through the process of making both of these models, I feel that a greater understanding has been generated towards the atmosphere created within a building through the interrelationship of materials used within. It is far too easy to remain focused upon the external qualities of a site – and have that overshadow the internal conditions.

Combining both digital fabrication and hand crafted elements provides the ability to work efficiently and precisely, without generating a too-clean portrayal of the scheme. Regardless of the desired atmosphere within the build, I feel it is key to always develop your model-making understanding and techniques; with many components that could be made incredibly easily by hand, are now subject to digital methods due to sake of ease.”

1.50 model dan kempski (12)

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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)

Pangaea Stage Set for Manchester Academy by Peter Lee

Towards the end of the first semester 5th Year Student Peter Lee was approached by The University of Manchester to design and make a large scale set piece for the student run festival, Pangaea. The event was held at the Manchester Academy and runs across many venues in Manchester. Pete described the project for us:

 ‘The event’s theme was ‘Space Odyssey’ so designed a ‘wormhole’ with an elevated DJ booth as a focal point in the centre. Throughout the project I was working closely with Academy staff as the design had to both be both the right size for the room and mountable on the existing lighting rigs on the stage. 
For ease of fabrication decided to use 12 identical interlocking triangle frames to create a portal, which sits in front of an aluminium circle truss with fabric panels to give the appearance of depth. The design was also created in coordination with a projectionist, who required a scale model for testing visuals on. By mocking up the design physically at 1:10 it gave me a really good idea of the structural issues faced by hanging a 4m wooden portal and helped me to design a bracing system’

Pete Lee (2)The model was made using components that would eventually come to life as large scale versions looking virtually identical. A wooden frame was used to support a focal hub and fabric was then stretched to the back of the segmented aperture-like ring at the front of the piece.Pete Lee (5)Once the design has received approval for full size production Peter went about turning the concept model into a full scale design. The triangular sections were each cut out using the larger CNC cutter at MMU before being transported across to B.15 for additional pieces to be added.

Peter describes his reasoning for using CNC cut components for the full scale prop:

‘For the 1:1 build I found the CNC machine a really useful tool as it would have been nearly impossible to replicate twelve identical panels by hand – absolute precision was really important throughout the process as the projection maps only had a few cm tolerance for error. Although the digital methods I used were really basic (Sketchup) it was incredibly useful for working out the angles for the panel structure. 
Another really important part of the project was getting logistics spot on – was quite limited for time due to university commitments so efficient use of workshop time was crucial and greatly aided by digital design tools. The panels were prefabricated over a month before the event, which meant the assembly was pretty straightforward.

Due to the obvious weight difference in the full size version of the prop each component had to be well built to avoid any accidents. Each triangular section was reinforced with pine timber baton which was glued and screwed into place.

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‘Good communication with other parties was also key as the success of the project was highly dependent on fittings in the Academy and the synchronisation with projections. Resolving issues far in advance meant the on-site build and event itself ran smoothly.’.

IMG_0143In place at the venue, the stage prop served as the focal point for the nights performers and was lit by constantly changing projections and light displays. The image below shows the piece on stage before the event began. The image below show the finished piece during the live event.10887278_461189607366949_5284888234544424655_o 10955797_461189257366984_3543354359810081653_o 1606453_461189224033654_1058877598167468098_oComparing Peter’s prototype to the completed piece shows very little structural difference and is yet another example of how a test model can serve to prove a design idea. Both the development and final versions of the project will make great additions to Peter’s portfolio with the two conveying his design thought and testing processes to a potential client or employer. You can see more of his work here.

Colwyn Bay Contour Site Model, Ketil Rage & Kristian James

Rather than using heavy and considerably more expensive wood to make their contour model, Continuity in Architecture students Ketil and Kristian opted to use grey board which saved them considerable time in cutting and money on materials.

Rather than simply engraving the outline of the building footprints it was decided to make each a more defined presence by cutting down into the contours and layering in a maroon backing.

Ketil described the project for us:

The model is part of our master plan for Colwyn Bay, which is our 5th year project. We decided to focus on the topography of the area as well as viewing the model as a figure ground map (with the buildings sunk into the ground), to aid our initial master plan strategy. The model will be ‘replaced’ by a 1:500 model now for our massing studies, so it was primarily used for our initial strategies for the town.’

1:1 Facade Detail Model, Henry Faulkner

[Re_Map] student Henry Faulkner has created this 1:1 detail model demonstrating the variable solar shading facade concept he has designed.

facade section1These two renders show how the facade would appear with shades open (above)and then closed (below)
facade section2Henry describes the project for us:

The overall project has resulted in a mixed use development which aims to provide housing and an educational facility for academic refugees from around the world. The vast majority of refugees entering the UK in recent years have been from the middle east and northern Africa, from countries such as Iran, Afghanistan and Syria. Taking influence from their history and culture, I developed a facade component that adopts an Islamic geometrical pattern, using its rotational symmetry to create a dynamic solar shading device. (Henry Faulkner 2014)

Henry FaulknerHenry cut the gearing for the model using acrylic to create the components which he had developed through test models previously. The refined design was then drawn up in cad and the component profiles laser cut – fabric included. When cutting fabric or any material you are unsure of it’s always a good idea to run some tests on a scrap piece to ensure the finish you wish to achieve.
Henry Faulkner Re_Map (3) Wire was used as a former and support for the fabric ‘fans’ which when stretched out want to fold under their own weight.

Henry Faulkner Re_Map (2)Henry Faulkner Re_Map (5) Henry Faulkner Re_Map (7)

Henry Faulkner (8) Henry Faulkner (9) Henry Faulkner (11)

Contested Peripheries Sessions

Every Tuesday morning is now focussed on the 5th and 6th Year Contested Peripheries Group. The sessions so far have allowed students to voice any questions on their projects and refine their ideas through converse with their tutors and workshop staff.

Having tutors on hand in the workshop has been very beneficial to the group and we hope to encourage other Ateliers to be involved in the workshop in a similar way. As projects are completed we will give a more in depth look at their models and how they are being used to inform their designs. 5th year cp (1)

Change to Opening Times from Tuesday 28th Jan 2014

Beginning Tuesday 28th January the workshop will be closed between 9.30 and 13.00 to all students apart from Contested Peripheries Atelier students. This will remain in effect every Tuesday for the rest of this Academic Year.

This is due to a change in teaching structure which,in the not too long term, will benefit all students. Our efforts will be focussed on delivering specific advice based on the whole groups needs whilst being exclusively available to answer questions as a group and to individuals.

These sessions will aim to focus on the theory of modelmaking and question your approaches based on what you are trying to achieve.

Necessary inductions or refreshers concerning machine operation will also be given.

The workshop will re-open as normal from 14.00 to all students.

Here are our amended general weekly opening times:

Monday: 09.30-13.00 (One hour Lunch Break) 14.00-16.30


Wednesday: 09.30-13.00 (One hour Lunch Break) 14.00-16.30

Thursday: 09.30-13.00 (One hour Lunch Break) 14.00-16.30

Friday: 09.30-13.00 (One hour Lunch Break) 14.00-16.30

Saturday/Sunday: Closed

We look forward to getting started!

Jim & Scott