10 November 2010

Building mini-me's

Following on from 2 days ago, my question was: "Anyone curious about why we make (huge) models?"

(read about the last entry HERE)

Well it is kind of obvious....it is much cheaper to build the models to check the design before it is built in real!  But  then according to different stages of the process, why do we use different scales (1:1500, 1:500, 1:200, 1:100, 1:50, 1:20, 1:5, 1:1)?

early 1:500 model of Railway Parade (the pen in front shows the physical size of model)

more recent 1:100 model of the rear portion only (orange in 1:500 model)

latest 1:50 study model of Railway Parade (see the size of the pen now...)

The larger scale models, if required, are used to study the building's massing (size, shape etc) in relation to its surrounding context.  How do we know if our building would be too big/ small, and what shape it should take, to make sure it fits well with the existing context?  Other than guidelines given by the authorities such as Local Councils and State Government..... this is where the project starts and by having a large scale model it is easier to see the large picture (...pun unintended...).  Depends on size of project, it may be from 1:200 up to .......(1:5000?)

1:100 and even 1:50 models are more used to understand the spatial quality and interrelationship of the spaces inside and surrounding the building.  Models become more accurate and detailed (because they are large enough to hold that amount of information), and give out a rather accurate study.  We use these models to study the natural lighting condition, design of building elements etc.

At times we do even up to 1:1 study (or prototype) of components, eg for shop fitouts and display units, to understand the junctions, study the lighting effects, and ensure how we have designed will "work" when we put things together physically.  Someone like Renzo Piano makes facade prototypes quite often.

Renzo Piano's original 1:1 prototype of the IBM Pavilion, London, 1983 (photo taken from Renzo Piano Logbook, published by TOTO)

As an example, the cost of making this one single prototype can be easily justified, as the Pavilion was made up of 34 of the same arches - it is far better to find out if anything is to go wrong when you have only made one arch, rather than 34 arches later....

Design and documentation phase is the most economical to test and check design.  It should not be rushed because if things were not thought through thoroughly beforehand (the common "lets think about it when we get there" approach), when issues need to be resolved on site, available options become much less, and of course cost will be less of priority when time becomes of essence.

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