The craft of architectural model making has been radically transformed in the past five years with the development of new technological tools like CNC milling machines, large format laser cutters, thermo-vac forming, and stereolithography/3D printing. But model makers still work, as they have for many years, primarily from detailed drawings provided by the architect. With these they attempt to provide as realistic an object or detail as possible for the designer or client.
The two founders of the model-making studio Radii, Leszek Stefanski and Ed Wood, however, claim they often work not simply from drawn plans but from “adjectives.” Architects ask them to mock up a facade model that is more “crystalline,” “undulating,” or “robust,” and as architects themselves they speak the language of architecture. They explore these “ideas and effects” by mocking up materials like glass or tile with other small-scale materials that replicate the actual materials.
By capturing the spirit of the project they say they can save a great deal of time for the design architects. They have, for example, worked with Jamie Carpenter on some of his glass designs, taking his real scale extruded glass plans and developing them in miniature, scaling down the optics and exactly replicating the effect Carpenter was looking for in his facade design.
Though Stefanski and Wood are proud of their ability to get projects done on time, they are also committed, like architects, to change any design up to the very last minute of presentation. Their 6,000-square-foot workshop is home to twelve architecture trained craftspeople with all the most advanced technology. They have the ability to grasp the subtitles of design intent to create models of the most convincing visual quality and precision.
U.S. Embassy (pictured at top)
Radii collaborated with the architects on this winning competition entry. To achieve a finely detailed “jewel-like” object at very small scale for the exterior facade, ETFE “pillows” were machined in-house in clear acrylic, polished, and then laser etched with subtle frit patterning. The building was highlighted using muted color tones for landscaping and site. The model was lit using battery powered LED lamps. It was finely detailed but fabricated to endure the rigors of airfreight with no damage.
V&A at Dundee
Radii worked with six of the 120 original entrants in this competition. Using custom reflective/transparent acrylic, the building shifted from solid-reflective to clear-transparent depending on lighting conditions (ambient and interior model lighting). The model was constructed within very tight time constraints.
Fulton Street Transit Center
New York City
A sectional view through the proposed transit center for downtown Manhattan, this model helped test and illustrate the effect of natural light on the metal cone structure surfaces. Materials include white acrylic, gradient sandblasted acrylic, and perforated nickel-silver.
5 Franklin Place
New York City
This model was created to use as a sales and marketing model for a residential tower on lower Broadway. The building’s characteristic “twisted ribbons” were achieved with custom 3D CNC components with hand-finished, polished black lacquering. The building project was ultimately cancelled.