Model (architecture)

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Models serve to convey a design idea
Urban planning model ( Europaviertel (Frankfurt) )
Urban planning mass model ( Duisburg )
Model of the Munich Olympic Stadium to illustrate the structure of the structure
Presentation model (airport)

In architecture , an architectural model, or model for short, is the scale representation of a design . This can mean both a real and a virtual building model.

With these models, it is not necessarily important to have a high level of detail, but above all the representation of the central ideas and the concept , the draft. Architectural models are therefore often quite abstract and differ significantly from models that depict existing buildings . (See also model making ).


The word model originated in Renaissance Italy from Italian modello , which emerged from modulo , a benchmark in architecture, and belonged to the technical language of visual artists until the 18th century.


The architectural model is a working and design tool of the architect and a part of the architectural representation like the presentation drawing . With the help of design models, architects and builders can very quickly grasp and evaluate the cubature of a design and the spatial relationships. A model is often more vivid than two-dimensional representations, especially for laypeople who are inexperienced in reading architectural drawings.

Various simulations can be carried out with the help of three-dimensional architectural models . The lighting and shading of buildings can be simulated using simple mass models. In the wind tunnel can be the aerodynamics of certain cubatures test.

Virtual models are used to optimize technical building equipment ( TRNSYS ).


Types of architecture models can be differentiated mainly according to their function:

  • Working model ; Model as a working tool for the architect to check a design , often made very roughly and quickly in inexpensive and easily processable materials such as cardboard .
  • Design model ; Model for the representation of a draft, often represents an intermediate stage and basis for discussion.
  • Competition model: Model for the presentation of a design in a competition .
  • Presentation model : A very carefully prepared model for the presentation of a design for (potential) builders or buyers of a property or for the public . Mostly elaborate, detailed and made of high quality materials.
  • Urban model : Model that shows a structure in an urban context . Often executed as a mass model
  • Mass model : represents the structural dimensions of structures . Simple, massive cubes represent the structures.

Manufacture of physical models

Frequently used materials are cardboard ( finboard or gray board ), wood , expanded polystyrene , Styrodur , plastics , but occasionally also plaster of paris or cement for mass models, glass and metals . In the past, cork was also popular in model making, especially for landscape models.

The fragile models are protected by supporting structures, which are often made of wood, and covers made of glass or Plexiglas.

Many models receive special frames or tables so that they can be viewed at the appropriate height.

Common standards for architectural models are

  • 1: 2000 to 1: 500 for urban models
  • 1: 200 to 1:20 for individual buildings
  • 1:20 to 1: 1 for details .

Computer models

Virtual mass model (downtown Duisburg )
Virtual building model

Nowadays, architecture models are often first designed in the computer using CAAD and then generated using CAAM . These models can be used in a number of ways.

In the design phase, the virtual building model can be used to represent the building owner or the public. Here, too, similar to the real models, different types of display are possible: from simple mass models to presentation models. (See also: Computer-aided design # 3D ). The virtual models are used to quickly generate two-dimensional representations, but can also be walked through virtually.

When historical or destroyed buildings are reconstructed on the computer , one speaks of a digital reconstruction . Here, too, the virtual architecture model is used for illustration.

With the help of modern processes such as stereolithography , real models can be generated automatically from the data of virtual building models.

Depending on the level of detail, building simulations can be carried out on the virtual model, for example to simulate the lighting situation in buildings before construction begins. The virtual building model can also be used as a basis for mass investigations and later as an information basis for facility management.

The so-called dynamic building simulation is becoming increasingly important. The components of a 3D model are given physical properties (thermal resistance, storage capacity of the building materials, air exchange in the room, energy permeability of transparent components). By means of stored climate data, the model is exposed to the outside climate with temperature and solar radiation in defined time steps and the thermal behavior of the building is simulated with the climatic conditions inside. In this way, the heating and cooling requirements in individual rooms and the useful energy requirement of the entire building can be determined and the energy producers can be dimensioned according to requirements.


in alphabetical order by authors / editors

Architectural model making

Architectural models

See also

Web links

Commons : Architectural models  - collection of images, videos and audio files