Section Model Competition / Evaluation

This semester, we will refer to structured criteria to evaluate the quality of Section Models.

Section Model Evaluation

  1. Composition: Does the spatial organization and experiential quality fulfill the project agenda? Is it strategic?  Is it artful?
  2. Building Language: Does the composition of material assemblies and building systems reflect an understanding of the elements within and between each system?  Is the composition sensitive?  Does it fulfill the project agenda?
  3. Scale: Is there a calibrated relationship between the human body and the architectural ‘body’?  Does it relate to the project agenda?
  4. Operative Craft: Is the workmanship of the model sensitive to materiality, the performance of materials, and different kinds of connections? Is it elegant?
  5. Process Context: Do parallel process documents (link to the deliverables) complement the model in a meaningful way?  Do they reflect a parallel exploration of building language? Are they artful?

NOTE: These models are not isolated investigations, they are one of many objects, across a range of complementary scales, each examining an aspect.  The size of the building is relatively small, so you can find a scale that satisfies the intent of this investigation.  Students should interpret suggestions about the mode’s scale (½”=1’-0”) as an indication of the content that the model is intended to investigate.  If the model is too small, students will sabotage their ability to investigate the nuances of assembly.  If the scale of the model is too big, spatial composition and quality will disappear.

Replica v Model

From Terada Mokei:

“Replicas” and “models” are different.

Replicas and models are often confused for one another.

Replicas are substitutes that you accept when your desire to have the real thing cannot be fulfilled. That is to say they are imitations or reproductions. For example, a replica of the mask of Tutankhamen or Michael Jackson’s jacket. At Terada-Mokei though, we don’t think of “models” as replacements, but rather a product that represents, in a positive manner, values or points-of-view different from the actual object. For example, models of test airplanes for wind tunnel experiments or molecular models of the amino acid sequence, the model itself exists in that representation and reason for the model. These are what are defined as “models”.


Models come in a variety of scales. For example, globes are 1/300,000,000 in scale.
Luxury cruise ships come in 1/350 or 1/700th scale. Architectural models and drawings are typically 1/50 or 1/100 in scale. On the other hand, some models are much larger than their originals. Cellular sequence models and models of small insects can be 10 times or 100 times larger than the actual object. There are full-scale models as well. School science room skeletal models are usually actual size.

In another example, the railroad model “N scale” is 1/148 to 1/160 scale in size. The ratios might seem odd but, this is the scale inversely configured to fit the width of the tracks set at 9mm. And then there’s plastic model tanks, which are mainstreamed at 1/35th scale. The scale in this case was decided upon so that two “C” sized batteries would fit into the body of the tank. In addition, models in the 1/12th or 1/48th range adhere to the Imperial Units rule of feet and inches. 1/12 represents 1-foot reduced to 1-inch, while 1/48 represents 1-foot reduced to 1/4th an inch (or a quarter inch). As the Imperial Units rules are originally based on a duodecimal system, the denominator is a multiple of 12.

However, there are models which have no set scale–like toy cars. For ease of product handling, box sizes need to be standardized. Therefore since both small sports cars and large fire engines have to fit in the same sized product box, their sizes are standardized as well. And since all the toy cars vary in scale, they aren’t really scale models.

That said, model paper airplanes and similar objects are, to an extent, converged into one size, so that they are able to fly. Understanding the Earth’s gravity, the properties of the paper, and the relationship of air density, we can deduce what that size should be. Though it is a non-scaled item nor is the airplane based on the real thing, because the scale is based on rationale, we called it a scale model.

There is a reason behind setting scale, therefore upon perceiving said scale, we can understand the goal and intended purpose of the model’s creation. So conversely when you need to decide which scale to use, you need to be careful. Furthermore, depending on what is it you are trying to represent or what message you are trying to express to others, you have to make a decision on what kind of materials and technique you will employ.
Scale conversions are a little confusing perhaps.

For example, when one converts a 1/100 scale model to full size, it translates into a volume of [1/100^3, or] one millionth (1/1000000). A 1/ 100 scale model apparently feels a million times smaller than the real thing. The difference in the numerical notation is perceived threefold. I believe the difficulty/problem arises in having to use one-dimensional notation to deal with a three-dimensional object.


I used to think that the ideal scale model would be one that represents the real deal in shape and element in every way, whether you looked at it with the naked eye, a magnifying glass or a microscope. Well if shrinking lasers existed, they would be the solution of all the problems of scaling things. But they don’t exist, so all we can do is try to follow in the footsteps of the peerless skills of those like Swiss precision watchmakers. That said, creating the perfect model that grabs people’s attention is not about creating perfection. Constructing the details and controlling density of a model is crucial. Any way you work it, appreciation comes from a visual context, so detailing things the human eye cannot or will not pick up is pointless. Rather those models which are low on elements and leave room for the imagination give birth to ‘reality’. The 1/1 scale human eye can appreciate models. This is where scaling mediates, by using your imagination to compensate between you and the difference in model scaling. I think that’s the joy in appreciating a model. In my opinion, deciding on how to construct that compensation — that is to say, figuring out the details — is the fun in creating a model.


As a method for resolving the problem of detailing, we can use a form of distortion. I believe there are two methods of going about this.

The Distortion of Color

About the time I had gotten started in architecture, a senior colleague of mine taught me: “Color tends to look lighter when applied to a larger area.” That sounded reasonable; compared to smaller area color samples, large walls appeared lighter and brighter. My thought on the subject is that generally when viewing samples, we pick them up and hold them at range of 10cm or so, while large walls are viewed at a distance of several meters. It won’t fit into our field of view otherwise. So we step back. Thus color looks lighter from a distance.

I think that’s because between the human eye and the object being viewed, there are layers of atmosphere and the minute particles in the air that block our vision, rendering the color lighter. Similarly in my opinion, in Japanese- style paintings, backgrounds are painted with a lighter color ink to create a blur which emphasizes a sense of distance, a technique called “atmospheric perspective.”

Viewing a small model is like viewing the real thing from a distance, therefore thinning the color of the model by a degree of viewing the real object through air density, increases the realism of the object. For example, if you view a 1/24 scale model from a distance of 1 meter, that is the same as viewing the real object from 24 meters back. With 24 times the atmospheric particles obstructing view, if you increase the luminosity and decrease in the saturation, the feeling of the work will be just right. It’s quite a pleasing effect. Moreover, as it is your vision that is blurred by particles in the air, color is not the only thing that appears blurs. Shapes and contours also blur. So by not defining the model so rigidly, it is possible to create a more realistic model.

04 / Design Development > Model Competition

Design Development

At midterm you presented a project with a clear design agenda.  If it wasn’t coherent, you will need to address any deficiencies because we will now delve more deeply into an investigation of architectural systems.

Conventionally, a system relates various elements to a complex whole.  Often, the underlying logic of an architectural system involves the way elements are connected, joined or related.  As Marco Frascari observes:

Details can be “material joints,” as in the case of a capital, which is the connection between a column shaft and an architrave, or they can be “formal joints,” as in the case of a porch, which is the connection between an interior and an exterior space. Details are then a direct result of the multifold reality of functions in architecture. They are the mediate or immediate expressions of the structure and the use of buildings.

Last semester, we investigated architectural systems (structure, circulation, envelope, landscape, etc.) to explore what a system is (its constituent parts), and how it might present itself as something that has agency (supports use) and an aesthetic intent (supports interpretation).

This semester, we will expand these investigations to directly fulfill the Schematics Design you presented.  The size of this project is intentionally small so you can develop depth. Therefore, you are to speculate how two (possibly, three) systems might work in conjunction to fulfill the project’s agenda.

  • What is the character and range of materiality?
  • What are the details of connection and interface?
  • How might the design of a dialogue between two systems expand the possibilities of use or interpretation?
  • What is your explicit approach to combining systems (superimposition, juxtaposition, hybridization, merging, grafting, collaging, montaging, etc…)
  • What is your criteria for selecting a particular iteration and evaluating decisions regarding its development?


27-Mar 2017, 2:00pm – Systems Interaction 1

Identify two architectural sub-systems (structure, envelope, circulation, landscape, plumbing, etc.)  to develop them in relation.  Students are to develop the following, with finesse:

  1. one model, not smaller than 1/4”=1’-0”
  2. one comprehensive drawing
  3. one tell-the-tale detail drawing or model

03-Apr 2017, 2:00pm – Systems Interaction 2

Students may re-think the prior exercise or investigate a different combination.  Identify two architectural sub-systems (structure, envelope, circulation, landscape, plumbing, etc.)  to develop them in relation.   Students are to develop the following, with finesse:

  1. one model, not smaller than 1/4”=1’-0”
  2. one comprehensive section, or perspective section
  3. one tell-the-tale detail drawing or model

10-Apr 2017, 2:00pm – Model Competition

Students are to collect and translate prior investigations into a scale model and drawings that communicate the experiential and material quality of the “architectural body.”  Models will be evaluated according to the finesse exhibited in the way they are constructed, and their ability to expose relationships between material systems and aesthetics; spatial sequences, environmental ambience, and hybridity of use:

  1. one model, not smaller than 1/2”=1’-0”
  2. one comprehensive plan, or perspective plan
  3. one comprehensive section, or perspective section
  4. one tell-the-tale detail drawing or model



  1. All suggestions regarding deliverables are intended to describe the engagement required to address the question.  Students are expected to adapt their strategy appropriately to their project.  For the lawyerly in the audience, the deliverables are a minimum expectation.
  2. Prizes from Fall will be issued now that the Third Year studio budget has been funded.  There will be one giant prize for Spring.  While the Fall involved teams of two students, the Spring is an individual exercise.