1:100 ‘Performance Centre’ Cross Section Model by Philip Lam

Philip Lam explains to us how he used his model to convey his ideas for increased space and performance capacity:

Phil Lamm (1)

“On a site with limited space, my design tries to increase the audience capacity of a performance centre. The main space is found underground while the introduction of an outdoor space sits on top. The exterior space has been designed to respect and interact with its surrounding buildings.
The idea behind this model was to communicate and understand the spatial and structural qualities of my design.
As part of the brief, our tutors asked us to include a staircase and double volume room. By making a sectional model, it is possible for a viewer to see these components as well as help understand the use of space inside. Also by modelling a section cut, my buildings load bearing structure had to be modified to allow for missing components.

Phil Lamm (2) The material primarily used in my design is concrete. To mimic this in my model, I used laser cut MDF covered with spray painted sandpaper. Rather than making a mould and casting it, this was a quicker and more economical representation of the textural and structural qualities that were required. The half-arch was made using plywood blocks which were stuck together, cut and shaped using the band saw and bobbin sander. The grain in the plywood helped replicate brick and mortar. For the seating, I needed a material which is thin, yet strong enough to sit on the wooden support frames and decided on using mount board. Finally, I used laser cut frosted acrylic pieces to represent the translucent cladding found in my design.

Phil Lamm (3)

By making this model, I have gained further experience working with new materials, tools and techniques. I have realised that using the laser cutter is a fast and precise way to cut materials, but it can also slow you down if there are errors in measurements and tolerance. Careful planning before starting is essential. I really enjoy the process of constructing a good considered model and it is invaluable in further helping evaluate my design.” 


Philips project pays attention to construction detail and his considerations with regard to material constraints and component accuracy come across well. It’s great to see turning points in project and there were several such points in this one. Philips model threw up issues such as floor levels and door placements that, once evident, were resolved through further making. We look forward to some more projects from Phil next year!

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1:100 ‘Parasite’ Context Model by Anca Trimbaciu

This case study by Anca Trimbaciu shows us her proposed building within its enclosed site context of two existing buildings. So as not to take the focus away from her design the massing of the context buildings was kept simple. Anca wrote down her thoughts on the project for us:

“As part of first year’s final project we had to go the extra mile in explaining our design and idea. Therefore, we had to create a presentation quality model. My entire year revolved around butterflies, that being the animal I chose, so my building was also connected to them, being an indoor butterfly garden, a space for recreation and relaxation.

My design is a parasite building in between other two existing ones, which covers a very small space and puts focus around the staircase and the idea of ascension. As you move up you gradually discover spaces that are more open and luminous until the last floor which allows a panoramic view of Oxford Road from the inside of a “green utopia”.

Anca Trimbaciu (5)The model shows context, size and the purpose of my building. A section in the back of the model allows the viewer to see inside and observe how the building makes use of the adjacent existing buildings and how double volume appears during the ascension towards the top floor.


I used painted MDF for the adjacent buildings and the base of my model just to give an idea of their size and appearance, contrasting with my design through colour and texture. Other than that, the rest of my model is mostly made out of clear or grey acrylic as it was the best choice to either represent glass, metal or polished concrete. The triangular staircase is sustained by a wooden column which is covered in vegetation. Because the scale is only 1:100, I opted for showing ramps instead of creating each step out of acrylic.


During the making of this model I had my first attempt at using Autocad and laser cutting, and surprisingly, I succeeded. I learned how to spray paint in order to completely cover the texture of a material and I improved my skills in working with acrylic. I also got the chance to fully understand my building and its structure.

It has been two well spent weeks in the workshop and I am looking forward to my next project, even though starting a model might be scary at first, the results are most of the times really impressive and worth the time.”



Anca Trimbaciu (9)

The construction method for this model was well considered and, much like the building process of a 1:1 project, the order of assembly was orientated around the ‘core’ access, in this case stairs, providing support for the different levels.

Of particular merit here is the consideration to how the massing was created. Rather than being solid blocks, the context massing was made up by creating hollow boxes which were then coated with sanding sealer, sanded and painted. This method saves on material and overall weight of the model and can often be done for free with off-cut material.

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‘Peacock Museum’ 1:50 Cross Section Model by Mahishini Vasudevn


In another First Year case study we asked Mahishini Vasudevn to tell us about her recently completed project for the ‘Resolution’ brief:

“For our first project, habitat, I chose Peacock as my animal client so I made a design that would stand proudly and attract the eyes of the people just like the Peacock would do. To portray this, my design had a cantilevered floor which protrudes over the pavement of my site in Charles Street. The facade was designed to have stained glass which had the same colours as the peacock. In my design I have mainly focused on grasping the attention of people instantaneously.

In order to convey the most information about my design, I made a sectional model to give an insight to the structural aspects and the interior detailing of the design like the cantilevered stairs and the circulation around the building.


In the case of materials, for the glass facade I have used coloured acrylic as it best represents the colour and transparency that is implied in my design.  As for the columns, beams and floor joists I used Styrene H-columns which were sprayed in black to represent steel frames. The floors were made with MDF wood to replicate the wooden floors. The pathway with granite paving slabs was laser engraved on grey card to show the colour and the small amount of texture that I wanted to show. The interior was done with wood and acrylic. In my model I have tried my best to produce them in such a way that they almost represent the same materials that would be used in reality if it were to be built.


Through making this model I have learnt new techniques of model making. It has taught me more about my design like the structural connections and how a design comes together as I was able to have a 3D view of my design. I’ve learnt how to plan my work and handle time with care.

Model making has been the best experience I’ve had as a first year architecture student and I’ve enjoyed working in the workshop.”

IMG_8084 This model is put together with a good selection of materials that help to demonstrate the different component of the design shown in section. Mahishini made good use of pre existing strip materials by choosing styrene H beams to construct what would be the steel frame of her building if made at 1:1. Strip materials such as these are extremely useful in section modelling and we hope to stock a range in the near future. In the mean time they are available from 4D Modelshop where you can also register for a student discount quoting either myself or Jim as your tutor here at Manchester.

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