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A model maker is an artist who creates three-dimensional scale models of architectural renderings of proposed building projects. The projects are normally industrial or commercial and generally require models of office complexes, hospitals and schools. Other commonly requested replicas are housing developments, shopping centers, bridges and public buildings. She may work as an independent contractor or be part of the staff of a large architectural firm or model-making company.
Models are generally favored over drawings, blueprints or sketches because they put the proposed buildings in proportion to the surroundings. Unlike a drawing, the 3-D mock-up created by a model maker simultaneously shows all sides of the structure and puts it in perspective with the area’s existing buildings, landscaping and vistas. These models have proven to be the most effective tool of persuasion when presented to a board or committee for approval.
An architectural model may be simple or complex. A model maker is often asked to create both types by an architect who commonly uses them for different presentations to various people. The simpler version may be an arrangement of painted cubes while the complex version customarily includes details like miniature working streetlamps, trees, landscaping and human and animal figures.
For both simple and complex models, the maker begins the project by studying the blueprints and artist renderings supplied by the architect. The next step is to plan the building stages, much like those used in actual building construction. A model maker customarily follows a work pattern that is highly rational and proceeds from the basic construction of each building to intricate finishing details.
The choice of building materials used by the model maker depends on several factors. Budget guidelines are normally the first consideration. If the model needs to be durable enough to travel or is expected to be physically handled by multiple parties, sturdier materials may be chosen. Conversely, if the model is designated to be presented only briefly to one party, the model maker may choose less expensive and more delicate building materials.
Exemplary attention to detail is a common requirement to be a successful model maker. The ability to accurately replicate real items to scale is generally necessary, as is the talent to realistically create models from drawings and blueprints. Knowledge of how to use crafting tools like miniature screwdrivers, glue guns and precision cutting and molding instruments is necessary.
A high school diploma or equivalent is generally required for this position. No specific courses are offered through colleges for a person who wants to become a model maker. Classes in woodworking, drafting, art and drawing are generally recommended. Some architectural firms offer internships or on-the-job training.