Since the invention of computer aided drafting and 3-D computer modeling in the late 80’s, the art of physical model building has been on a steady decline. Nowadays most architecture firms place a higher emphasis on the use of renderings and 3-D imaging over  physical massing models and scale buildings. Incredibly complex and extravagant illustrations are created to wow each and every client, and push the boundaries of ones imagination. Why is this happening, and how do contemporary architects approach the design process?

The architectural education still heavily relies on the creation of a physical 3-D models  as a means of exploring ideas and concepts. Countless hours are spent by each and every student sweating and laboring on intricate models by cutting and modifying them, and in the process developing it into something suiting, fitting and sublime. Through the architectural education  it becomes evident that physical model building provides a means to exploring something intangible and turning it into something rational, coherent and real in the process.

As the age old saying goes: “time is money”. Most architecture firms today rely heavily on computer aided modeling in their design process. The physical model building has to give way to clicks on a computer screen, and the digital interface through which the architects studies and scrutinize their creation, and in turn communicate with their clients. Interestingly enough computer aided drafting at its concept was never envisioned as a substitute for studying and creating architectural design.On the contrary…. it was merely developed as an aid to reduce time and errors in the construction documentation phase. The cad program at best would draw lines faster and allowed drawings to be quickly re-produced, eliminating time consuming re-drawing of each plan. So where is architecture and the architectural practice of architecture going?

Off course every architectural practice has its own aspiration and concept of how to produce quality design. At MEL/ARCH studio, we believe that in order to spatially understand a building or space, the use of physical 3-D models is paramount. Does this add a tremendous amount of money to the design phase you may ask? Quite the opposite is true. Through the study of the physical model complex relations can be more easily explored and shared. This translates into a more cohesive design, with less re-dos and expensive alterations during construction. Does this mean that MEL/ARCH adheres to the principle of man over machine? Not at all. We use the latest cutting edge technology in 3-D modeling that helps us understand the thermal performance of buildings as well as the complex joinery of materials, producing highly detailed construction plans. One thing however we understand very well is that the computer is merely a tool that we use in the process of creating great architecture, not the answer.