Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Model Building Workshop Session

A few weeks ago I was an instructor at the 1FW Workshop. And as a hands-on demonstration, led a group in building an architectural model. My goal wasn't so much to show how useful they are––both for drawing complex geometric perspective from any angle, but also in exploring a space for the right composition...but instead to show that it was possible for them to make these themselves. That the time commitment isn't outrageous, it doesn't take a lot of building knowledge, or special materials, or expensive tools.

In this blogpost I'll go over the basics of what I showed them.

I started with photos of some of my Mouse Guard architectural models. I wanted to give them a smattering of some that were interior and some that were exterior, some that had little applied details (used just for geometry) and some that had lots of paper textures applied. Some were only a few pieces of cardstock, and some were much more complex plywood that had to be cut and drilled with power tools to achieve. The point was that you can make these as complex and detailed or simple and basic as you have the time, experience, and tools for.

Then I announced the project itself: we were going to group build a tower. I loaded my iPad with Google image search results of various towers. I tired to get a variety of towers. Ones that were widest at the base and tapered smaller all the way to the peak. Towers that had a wider top level, towers from various cultures, towers with function, towers that were decorative, and symmetrical & asymmetrical towers.

And our goal wasn't to recreate one of these exactly, but to pick out design choices we liked as a group to include into our model.

Next was the presenting of materials:
Cardboard (single and double corrugated––all scavenged shipping boxes), rulers, x-acto knives, a cutting mat, a pack of basswood scraps (purchased at a local hobby store), sandpaper (using up discs I have for a palm sander that bit the dust years ago) and 3 types of glue: Hot Melt (not pictured) for anything structural, Super Glue for anything that required finesse, and glue stick for applying paper patterns and details to flat surfaces (I'd usually use spray adhesive here, but to cut down on mess, I went with glue stick)...

And lastly, sheets and sheets of patterns and textures and building elements I cobbled together from Google image searches printed out on copy paper.

For my models, I'd print these as-needed and to the exact scale my model required...but for the workshop I just came prepared with a half dozen sheets of shingles, brick, stone, tiles, pavers, arches, wood elements, windows, doors and more.

The group was well attended. My only regret is that to get them started, I spent a lot of time building a lot of the first section myself instead of having them get in there and get into it faster. But, I did put knives and glue and paper and trim in their paws and got them making decisions about our tower.

One of the things I tried to impress on them was how rarely I measure using numbers. I'll cut something to a length that I like...say a wall, and then use that to trace to make the corresponding wall. Our use my thumb on a ruler as a depth gauge to mark out a piece. Sometimes setting the model down on a fresh sheet of cardboard to mark out the size the 2nd floor should be so that it overhangs the walls of the first floor. It's something my Dad taught me when woodworking, and something I still use to this day when building something for myself.

The session was a few hours and we got a good hunk of work done (unfortunately I don't have a photo of where we were when the group had to disband for the next workshop event), but we kept the space set-up so that in the free-work time later that night folks could come back up and continue to push the model forward. And with the help of some of the students (some that were in the first session and some that joined us anew in the evening) we finished this tower model:

If you have more interest in my architectural models, I have a YouTube Playlist here showing several of the models, materials I used to make them and how they helped me illustrate my stories:

2020 Appearances Coming Soon...

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