Where Have All the Models Gone? A Lament for the Past.

Models have gone the way of the buggy whip, the Dodo bird, and my plaid bell-bottoms. No, I’m not talking about fashion models. They’re still around, just skinnier. I’m talking about physical, architectural models, crafted from cardboard, wood or even metal. They have all but vanished from the architectural world, supplanted by computer models like the one below.

Computer model of a modern kitchen

Why? You might guess it’s because of the time and expense involved in building a physical model. And you would be correct – I have never built a physical model of one of my kitchen designs due to their limited budgets, but I always construct a computer model.

Yet, there are a myriad of other reasons. For example, with a computer model, the architect is not limited by the modeling materials. Further, it is quick and easy to digitally experiment with various ideas and to use the model as part of the design process rather than merely as a finished representation of the building. Limitations of shape and form are nonexistent. And, let’s not forget the ability to “walk” inside the model. Now, that’s cool!

Another limitation of physical models is their inability to accurately convey color and texture. Typically, additional renderings are also required incurring even more expense. The wood model below is excellent for describing form and massing, but is incomplete without the associated color renderings.

I’m not the least bit nostalgic over the loss of my drafting table, parallel bar, T-square and triangles… and if I had to choose between computer models and physical models, the computer wins hands down. But a piece of me still yearns for lovely physical models. Today, the only time we build them is for projects with large budgets or for clients to display.

Move Over Choo, Chooooooooo!

Seems like only yesterday my son, Beck, and I spent an afternoon in the workshop making trains. He was five and still fascinated by Thomas the Tank Engine. The lesson we learned: you can take almost any old leftover scraps of wood, glue them together, and voila, you have a train.

Today he’s ten and needs to make room on his shelves for things less babyish (I’m a little nervous about what that means). Oh well, I’ll save the trains for his kids (or, maybe I’ll just play with them myself).

A trip to a local train yard confirmed how uncannily accurate our wooden trains were to the real thing (except, maybe, in size, shape, color, material, proportion, mass, and function – but we nailed viscosity).

Turns Out You Can Teach An Old Dog…

Meet the next Martha Stewart: my dad.

Leaping Lizards Pottery Studio

A year ago I dragged my father (not by the hair, of course, because that would be wrong, or so I’m told – and also because he is a bit sparse on top) to a little art studio near The Villages in Florida where he lives, called Leaping Lizards Pottery.

Little did he know he was about to blossom into an artisté (had I thought ahead, I would have brought a pencil thin mustache to stick on his lip). He erroneously assumed we were on our way to yet another doctor’s appointment. Yeah, he would have preferred to be poked with needles. But it was time to include him in the tradition of making a snowman ornament to gift at Christmas. You know what they say, “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.”

Our expertise working with clay almost exactly matched our expertise playing professional baseball. To say that neither of us had experience working with clay is an understatement, like saying Hollywood dabbles in sleaze. It didn’t take long, however, to get into the swing of things (the clay, not the sleaze – that took a tiny bit longer).

Jennifer Beville, the artist/proprietor of the studio, adopted the patience of a master ninja and the enthusiasm of Richard Simmons (without the leotard) and guided us through the treacherous waters that is clay making (for those of you on the edge of your seats, rest assured, no one was hurt).

Over the course of two sessions my dad’s work improved dramatically. You can see the progress below (from left to right).

Six months later, we went back for another session. Although the results weren’t quite as impressive, we shared time together and made a few memories. And that, my friends, is what life is all about (that, and sleaze, obviously).

Our experience with clay, by the way, was the catalyst for the Twelve Days of Christmas.

On the Day After Christmas…

On the day after Christmas, my true love gave to me:

Thirteen puzzle balls,
Twelve tectonic solids,
Eleven ropes a swinging,
Ten birthdays and counting,
Nine, oh so cutesy,
Eight canes, not candy,
Seven snowman monsters,
Six scrap metal remnants,
Five… snow… man… rings,
Four carved from a nut,
Three disc men,
Two simple blocks,
and a snowman family straight from the sea.


The twelve days of Christmas now comes in an economical baker’s dozen! Thirteen for the price of twelve. What a bargain!

Alright, I have to come clean. I cheated with most of the ornaments you see below, thanks to cheap child labor in China. You see, my initial thinking was to create interactive snowman ornaments that one could pull off the tree and play with, rather than simply look at (give us something to do while waiting to rip open the presents!). What could be better than puzzles? They’re fun for all ages!

It turns out that making puzzles is hard and requires better tools than I own, not to mention patience. So I bagged that idea for a while, until one day I came across this thing called Google. They had cheap puzzles galore, and I thought, “Hey! I can repurpose these into snowmen!” So I did.

I had a bit of trouble finding my local Google store, but once I did, the rest was easy (If you’re looking, it’s next to Sears).

Puzzles prior to turning them into ornaments

I crafted the first two snowmen below from scratch (both made entirely from little wood balls). The remainder mostly involved adding heads and hats to stock wood puzzles.

 

 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


Click here to see the twelfth day of Christmas.

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas…

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

Twelve tectonic solids,
Eleven ropes a swinging,
Ten birthdays and counting,
Nine, oh so cutesy,
Eight canes, not candy,
Seven snowman monsters,
Six scrap metal remnants,
Five… snow… man… rings,
Four carved from a nut,
Three disc men,
Two simple blocks,
and a snowman family straight from the sea.

Now, this is more like it, the architect in me coming out! Snowmen with a tectonic bent. Perhaps I’ll design a snowman that looks like a house, too. Nevermind, I did that years ago. Check out the bottom of the page.












 

Click here to see the eleventh day of Christmas.

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas…

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

Eleven ropes a swinging,
Ten birthdays and counting,
Nine, oh so cutesy,
Eight canes, not candy,
Seven snowman monsters,
Six scrap metal remnants,
Five… snow… man… rings,
Four carved from a nut,
Three disc men,
Two simple blocks,
and a snowman family straight from the sea.

I think I went a bit off the rails with these snowmen. Maybe a bit too much Martha Stewart, not enough Corbusier.

 

Click here to see the tenth day of Christmas.