Visit to Mecanoo Architects and the TU Delft Faculty of Architecture

Mecanoo Office and Workshop (3)

Last month we were invited to attend the 30th anniversary celebrations of Mecanoo Architects in Delft, The Netherlands. As part of our visit we were able to tour the Mecanoo office and workshop and conduct interviews with their long-standing head of modelmaking, Henk Bouwer and Modelmaker Laurens Kistemaker.

Our visit was dominated by modelmaking related talk and the promise of future collaboration for our Modelmaking award scheme. We will continue to refine the scheme and Mecanoo are very enthusiastic about increased involvement with the school and award process. More updates on this soon.

The complete video interview with the Mecanoo modelmakers will be uploaded to our blog in the near future.

During the evening event Creative Director of Mecanoo, Francine Houben presented a chronology of the people the have been part of the company with their projects mentioned in throughout. The diverse staff that have come and gone from the company were clearly well thought of and many present during the presentation. Special mention of Henk Bouwers extensive and continued service highlighted the importance models play in the practice as we are well aware following our collaboration with them earlier in the year.

Some of Mecanoos key projects include the TU Delft Library, La Llotja Theatre and Conference Centre in Spain, Birmingham Library and more recently the HOME project in Manchester.

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In addition to the Mecanoo insights we were able to have two separate tours of the TU Delft Faculty of Architecture. Technician Geert Coumans gave us a full tour of their workshop facility allowing for some obvious comparisons of working practice which left us reassured about our approaches to modelmaking in architectural education. The TU Delft facility has an annual intake of approximately 300 new first year students which is reflected in the size of their combined workshop and studio space. The facility was hastily designed as a result of the unfortunate fire that burnt down the previous school building in 2008. The resulting workspace is vast and lofty with workshop areas divided according to their purpose.

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TU Delft (50)

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In a second tour of the studio and lecture spaces we were shown around by lecturer John Heintz. It was pleasing to see models in every conceivable space around the school during our two visits. One fascinating part of the school is an extensive collection of original classic chairs which are housed in a connecting corridor between the two main wings of the school.

Facilities include: Woodworking Machines, two CNC Routers, Spraying and Casting room, three Laser cutters, Powder Printer and an ABS Printer. Interestingly Hand tools are provided only on exchange of a students Driving Licence or Passport as deposit.

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Masterplan Site Modelling

One of the most common projects students are asked to produce is a master plan model of a chosen site of study. These projects are predominantly but not exclusively set as group projects.

The model will include the extent of the chosen site and a variable amount of content depending on its purpose. Examples of purpose are:
  • Complete massing of each structure within the site
  • Selected features of a specific set of structures perhaps defined by purpose. 
  • Complete or partial topographic representation.
Site Model Edit A
Coventry Master Plan (18)
Why do we make masterplan models?
Masterplans comprise a complete set of data on a site. The depth and scope of the data can vary from complete to selected types dependent on their purpose. In drawing form this data is often used as the ‘benchmark’ for subcontracted planning and eventual building of projects.
As a model the viewer is given a third dimension to the arrangement of a site. Building forms, types and positioning can be viewed from an instantaneous and variable perspective chosen by the viewers. For this reason the master plan is chosen as the centre piece of many projects and when used to full advantage can be modified by design as projects develop. This in turn provides a constant point of context reference in group discussions and individual presentations about the site.
Medical School (4)
city master plans (13)
Tips for Masterplan Modelling
APPROPRIATE SCALE. As with all Modelmaking tasks the first major consideration should be the required scale for your model. This may be defined by your brief but can also be left to your discretion. Ensuring the scale is appropriate for your project is critical for both the time concerned and potential expense of the model so take time to think about what needs to be shown. Consider existing map scales you have access to such as 1:1000 or 1:1250.
CONSTRUCTION METHOD. A common solution for the representation of contouring is with material that is layered up using survey topography lines. Deciding on an appropriate method for such elements is a key consideration. A previous article covers the ‘stepping’ method when using thick or large amounts of material and can save on cost and waste. Please take the time to read the post here.
STANDARD LEVEL OF DETAIL. Group projects need to consider this point especially in order to identify a standard to be attained by all participating members.
One of the main reasons master plan models can come across as messy or rushed is due to an inconsistent level of detail. The rule for detail is circumstantial and really up to the maker but production time for fine details should always be considered alongside what is required to make the model an effective tool. Consistency makes for the best presentation.
 DIVISION OF LABOUR. On projects consisting of tens to hundreds of individual building representations it is crucial to split the site into areas so that sub groups or individuals can work on specified sections.  This helps to work through the project systematically, with time efficiency and avoids any unnecessary duplicates being made by other group members.
Continuity Site Context model (16)We hope these pointers help to get you started with your projects but as always feel free to come and consult with us in person if you are unsure.