February 08, 2012 AdminHBA Design, Technology

The Value of Physical Modeling

I recently had the unique opportunity to create a number of physical study models for a project proposal. After a week and a half of locking myself away with mat board, basswood, tacky glue, and an exacto blade, I produced eight study models which showcased the creative ideas of a dozen HBA employees who had participated in two collaborative design charettes for this project. Ranging from a traditional colonial to a boat-inspired structure to an ultra-modern “i-Building” concept, these models demonstrated the creative potential of HBA in a tangible way.

In the world of Sketchup and Revit, where clients can quickly get a view of a space, and consultants can coordinate and manage a plethora of complex building systems, it is easy for physical modeling to fall by the wayside. But I firmly believe that the value of thinking by making, and designing by modeling, is something that should not be forgotten. Physical modeling offers a beautiful ambiguity that computer programs do not allow, and demands that each design decision be carefully weighed against architectural ideas.

Although I benefitted from being fresh out of architecture school, the speed and ease with which these models could be constructed was surprising, as was the excitement they generated around the office. Just seeing a study model makes people want to pick it up and start asking questions about design, which is exactly why they are so useful. Even though I made my fair share of study models while in school, as I start my career I look forward to more opportunities to add a little bit of physical modeling back into the mix.

-Becky Cook