The value of making physical models.

With so many 3D platforms readily available to us, the ability to produce renders and walk-throughs is routine in most architectural practices. Even in the early stages of a project this approach often takes precedence over producing physical models to convey a design. 

Technology has greatly enhanced the capacity for production and the ability to understand complex geometry from a buildability perspective, but also has a fundamental impact on the way we design. Technology has even affected the way we produce physical models, frequently supplemented by laser cutters and 3D printers. 

“The computer creates a distance between the maker and the object, whereas drawing by hand as 

well as model making puts the designer into haptic contact with the object or space.” 

Juhani Pallasmaa – The Eyes of the Skin 


As designers we explore how people engage with the physical world – how people experience a space, how people feel or engage with a space. Model making can often be the first step towards understanding this process. Nowadays, we typically see physical models produced later in projects to showcase to the public, rather than in the early stages where they would provide real benefit to a project. 

Much like hand sketching, physical models can allow us to quickly communicate ideas with others and we must not forget the importance of this process during the early stages. Physical model making can often provide some answers to the fuzzy areas of an early design proposal and, unlike technology, poses no restrictions or boundaries which can often limit our creativity as designers. 

Here at GT3 the production of physical models assists us in many ways; internally, we use them to test concepts and inform design development; externally, we use them to present and explain our ideas and to evidence our rigour in testing our concepts. There is no underestimating the value of making physical models.