We, as Architects, have made everything from ‘scribbles and sketches’ to three-dimensional digital models to visualize and represent our proposed design concept. Still, the art of model making has been the step that has taken us closest to showing off our projects so far. Since then, we have been able to easily explore and study spatial relationships, form, and texture in projects. Miniature models have proven their efficiency as opposed to drawings. These scaled-down manual building models evolved through the years to gain perfection and popularity with the advent of technology. Building model making, now known as miniature architecture, has become a profession of passion, leisure, and expression.

Here are some examples that help us comprehend the art and significance of miniature architecture.  

IQHQ Model

Sam Towler, a model maker at ZGF, LA, creates physical and digital presentation models for design competitions, internal design charrettes, and display installations. His conceptual site model built for the IQHQ pursuit was made of wood veneer, a material with the natural grains of walnut. The use of wood veneer allowed viewers to focus on the building’s form and massing while the other design aspects were being finalised. The model represents everything, including softscape, hardscape, and the building, abstractly. 

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23, Temple Street, Hong Kong

23, Temple Street by miniature artist Joshua Smith is a scratch-built model in a miniature scale of 1:20 made using a combination of MDF, wood, cardboard, plastic cards, chalk pastels, spray paint, wires, plastruct. Based on the overlooked aspects of the existing urban environment ” 23 Temple Street, Kowloon, Hong Kong” and hence named the same, this model was made for the VOLTA Art Fair conducted in March 2017 in New York City.

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23, Temple Street_©JoshuaSmith

“Reinventing the Building” exhibition at Chatham House. 

The kaleidoscopic model-saturated exhibition had more than 70 models of different kinds, from sketch models to highly finished wooden and digital ones. The models were poetic, reflecting the project’s intentions on an urban scale, the nature of the interiors of the prospective story museum, and more. This was achieved using simple materials such as fabric, buttons, zips, and cards.

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The Story Museum Oxford_©Hawkins\Brown Architects.
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Music Auditorium at King’s High School_©Nicholas Hare Architects.


Hyperloop, an ultra-high-speed underground transportation system for passengers and cargo, is a concept that Elon Musk proposes. Studio KU+ created a presentation model for Delft Hyperloop on a 1:300 scale. The model was 3D printed on acrylic sheets, veneer, plastic profiles, acrylic tubes, MDF, and other mixed media. 

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Hyperloop_©Studio KU+
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Hyperloop Section_©Studio KU+

Helix Building, Arlington

Sam Towler built a smaller version of the future Helix building for Amazon’s HQ2 in Arlington, Virginia. The model was made translucent to allow the open floor building to illuminate from within. Most of the structure was a glass curtain wall with triangle-patterned mullions. The entire shape of the structure was a spiralling helix with compound curves. There was a lot of meticulous hand work evolved to replicate the structure.

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Helix Building_©ZGF

Salt Lake Temple, Canada

The 800-pound model was built by Peter McCann Architectural models, In Toronto, Canada. The scaled-down model was 88 inches tall from the temple base to the top of the spire. A team of 16 members, including experts in model construction, electrical engineers, and craftsmen, constructed the model in 5 months after several months of preparation. Materials including acrylic plastic, heavy card stock, brass, wood, gold leaf, and glass, were used to build the structure, its parts, interior paintings, and the chandelier. 

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Salt Lake Temple model_©PeterMCCans
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Salt Lake Temple model section_©PeterMCCans
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Salt Lake Temple model Interiors_©PeterMCCans

Stazione di Bologna, Italy

A railway station model was produced for the architectural company Arata Isozaki & Andrea Maffei Association in January 2011. The model was replicated on a 1:300 scale using CNC milling technology on white polystyrene sheets. A high-speed 3-axis milling machine with a vertical spindle for moulds was used to make the model. 

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Stazione di Bologna_©OneOff

Shigeru Ban’s Cast Iron House, New York

 Model maker Richard Tenguerian created a detailed, lit-up 3D model for Knightsbridge properties. The model still sits in the middle of a minimalist gallery allowing viewers to visualise the project “Tribeca development”, which was then under construction. 

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Cast Iron House_©Tenguerian

Culver City project, Los Angeles

One of Laney LA’s projects was the Culver city project. A 3D printed model was created by Formlabs at the end of the schematic design process for use as a communication tool during client presentations. The model was printed in two sections and painted black and white to highlight the interior details. 

Culver City project_©Formlabs

The District Detroit, Michigan

District Detroit is a premier urban live, work, and play destination featuring professional sports, entertainment, residential, retail, educational, and office space in the heart of Detroit city developed by Olympia. A 3D printed model of the stadium in this mixed-use complex was created by Zoyes Architectural Model using mixed media and laser cut techniques.

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District Detroit_©Zoyes
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District Detroit_©Zoyes

Innovations in technology such as 3D printing, CNC milling, and laser cutting have made it possible for model makers to reproduce complex structures, reducing the time frame and increasing work efficiency. The architectural modelling industry is looking forward to more advancements in the future. 


ZGF. ImagineeringNewPossibilitiesinArchitecturalModelBuilding. [online]                                  Available at: 4178-imagineering-new-possibilities-in-architectural-model-building

IknowJosuaSmith. Works[Online] Available at: 23-temple-street

Simona Valeriani(2019). Working in miniature: the use of models in contemporary architectural practice, some examples. [Online] Available at:     working-in-miniature-the-use-of-models-in-contemporary-architectural-practice-some-examples

Studio KU+.The making of Hyperloop[Online] Available at: 5462

PeterMcCans.Salt Lake temple.Available at: fakc1qe8ztoebk78vjfuyc1cwgl4y9

OneOff. Stazione di Bologna [Online]                                                                                 

 Available at: gallery-1

Tenguerian, Cast Iron House [Online]                                                                                

 Available at: Portfolio.html

Formlabs. Culver City project [Online]                                                                               

Available at: 3d-printing-scale-architecture-models-laney-la-insights

Zoyes. District Detroit.[Online]

Available at: the-district-detroit-architectural-model

ZGF.IQHQ Model. [Photograph]

JoshuaSmith. 23, Temple Street. [Photograph]

Hawkins\Brown Architects. The Story Museum Oxford. [Photograph]

Nicholas Hare Architects. Music Auditorium at King’s High School. [Photograph]

Studio KU+. Hyperloop. [Photograph]

ZGF. Helix Building. [Photograph]

PeterMCCans. Salt Lake Temple model. [Photograph]

OneOff. Stazione di Bologna. [Photograph]

Tenguerian. Cast Iron House. [Photograph]

Formlabs. Culver City project. [Photograph]

 Zoyes. District Detroit. [Photograph]


An architectural graduate with a vision to create artful and functional environments. She has a strong inclination towards exploring and interpreting the aesthetics of people, places, and buildings. With a writing niche, she believes in the power of words to emote.