Cross-section models invite us to view a subject internally by exposing construction details that present spatial and physical relationships. The process of making a model in section allows us to be explorative of the fabric elements that are applied to create the overall form in a way that complete site or massing models do not demonstrate.
By cutting through a plan we are able represent the supporting framework and foundations of a building and reveal the anatomy of their relationship to the overall form of a design. The scale of section models tends to be best suited at 1:100 or bigger due to the small size of design features at anything smaller. The smaller the scale the more simplified elements become which, when we are investigating structural or building cladding for example, becomes much less informative.
As with all model tasks we must clearly outline what it is the model is setting out to achieve.
The potential variants, materials and methods for making a model mean there is no quick answer to questions about what is right or wrong way to do something. It is up to you to identify what messages need to be conveyed and these messages will determine the approach to making the model.
Example questions to consider:
- What messages must the model convey?
- Is it about its relationship to an existing site or the surrounding landscape?
- Is it there to demonstrate the technology being applied in the design?
- Are you setting out to explain how a particular material or element of the design relates to another?
Before making any decisions think about this carefully to avoid missing the point or creating unnecessary work for yourself or group.
When looking at these models we need to focus on a specific target area of a plan that best serves our intended purpose or message. If this purpose examines how a wall will support a roof for example then ask yourself to what extent does the viewer need to see the rest of the building around this focus area?
Tips for Cross-Section Modelling
- APPROPRIATE SECTION. Identify the best place to make your section on a building plan. This should be based on your overall purpose and is the most critical consideration when making a cross-section study. Try not to section areas with excessive repetition of features such as windows that will make for more work when producing the model. Double check your scale!
- SUPPORT AND STRENGTH CONSIDERATIONS. Don’t rely on glue or magic to support floors or load bearing elements unless you have designed them to do so. Looking at the section in question and considering materials you intend to use you should think ahead to the point when the model should be self-supporting. How will it hold itself up if the other side of the building isn’t there? Thinking and planning the model thoroughly is crucial.
- UTILISE OFF THE SHELF COMPONENTS. If your section cuts through floor levels you may need to represent supporting beams, trusses or layers of facade cladding. Rather than manufacturing these to suit make yourself aware of materials that are pre-formed such as styrene ‘I’ beams, tubing or textured sheet material. There is no point in making something that is a standardised material for construction much like how you would approach full scale building design to reduce working time and costs.
If you’re unsure of anything you know where we are.
During a recent trip to Vienna I was lucky to catch the last day of an exhibition of the works of Gaudi at the Architekturzentrum Wien. The exhibition consisted of examples of furniture design alongside descriptions, slide shows of the major works and of course models.
Of particular interest to our cause were the plaster models showing details and sections through parts of his buildings. The quality of these pieces was stunning and the photographs I was able to take really don’t do them justice.
We can take from them is inspiration and a demonstration of the sort of insights models of this type can give us into the form and construction of a building. From my best insights a would say that models have been cast in sections and fitted together afterwards due to the fragility and complex shape of certain details. This method of Modelmaking requires the main focus on planning with a conscious thought for the casting process at all times. Martial tolerance and shrinkage is a key factor in designing parts to a particular size for assembly after casting. This facade section model of ‘La Pedrera’ in Barcelona shows the layers of supporting structure and outer form beautifully. In addition to the physical properties of the building demonstrated through the design, the shadows cast through window openings clear and defined giving accurate projections of how the interior space may change throughout the day. Part of the exhibition text explained the importance of models to any project Gaudi embarked on:
‘Gaudi put models before plans. For this reason he set up a workshop next to each of his buildings, where he studied and analysed, from as empirical and a craftsman’s point of view, the forms and structures that he later applied to his projects. This is what he called his “experimental method”, a method that is still in use in the Sagrada Familia Workshop although these days this process has been enhanced with the most advanced technological instruments.’ (Daniel Giralt-Miracle, Curator of the Exhibition)
Due to our restricted casting capability in B.15 we will be focusing on the accurate production of the ‘master models’ in a manner suited for molding and casting at the Chatham casting facility. As with all projects, consult myself or Jim as early as possible to achieve the most effective results in your time frame. If the project is too difficult at a later stage a high quality finish will be harder to achieve so don’t hesitate to start on receiving your brief.Also on display was this model 3D powder printed model of the entire Sagrada Familia (above). Producing a model of such complexity as a plaster cast would be achievable but in this case the powder printed method was chosen. Most likely due to the sophistication of each ‘spire’ component and it’s relationship to the next. Certainly for the conservation of time and as a retrospective piece this is very appropriate.Â The above prototype testing model or stereo-funicular model is a replica of that used by Gaudi to develop his design for the construction of the crypt of the Colonia Guell. Simple materials like lead weights, string and a frame were crucial aids to design in Gaudis workshops and demonstrate the value of simple methods of creation or problem solving through making.
I’m glad I was able to catch this exhibition and would recommend anyone to drop by the Architekturzentrum Wien (Vienna) if they are in the city. Although it has now finished you can view the exhibition page here.