From this point on, the scale model was re-established as a vital design tool for architecture. The design-development model was to have an important role in the conception and refinement of countless built and unbuilt projects of the Modernist era. For example, there was Gerrit Rietveld’s attempt to give architectural form to the ideas about space that he had previously explored in his furniture designs. From the sequences of models for his design of the Schröder House, it is clear that Rietveld’s starting point was a block form, whose coloured surfaces combined with receding and projecting parts to break up the massiveness of its volume. A similar intent is discernible in Vladimir Tatlin’s search for a monument to represent a new social order in Soviet Russia, described in the great model of his leaning, twin helicoidal tower, the Monument to the Third International. The actual building of the model took just less than eight months and was undertaken without preliminary sketches, enabling Tatlin to
explore design possibilities as the model was constructed.

The progression of architecture throughout the twentieth century bore witness to the increasingly common use of models as explorative tools in an architect’s design process It was this direct handling of materials and space through the use of models that heralded the key early twentieth-century architects as creative designers who visualized and articulated their concepts in a provocative and unconventional manner. A study of their formative experience and design processes reveals an explorative nature, which, being founded upon an understanding of spatial possibilities, transcends a singular reliance upon drawing. In fact, as the twentieth century progressed, physical models sometimes became the fundamental means and resonating echo of radical ideas and projects.

As Holtrop et al.have observed, ‘the revolutionary 1960s will always be associated with the models and images of Constant’s utopian New Babylon or Frederick Kiesler’s Endless House.’Whilst the architectural model continued to offer a dynamic tool for design conception, development and communication, during the 1970s it also began to be perceived as having value as an art object in its own right. Beyond this point in history, the physical model was established as a powerful method of communication in the description, exploration and evaluation of architecture. The model has been an important method of communication in the understanding of architecture for over five hundred years. Whilst the increase and developments of new technology have enabled Computer-Aided Design (CAD) to become a powerful design tool in architecture, the use of physical models remains a key aspect of education within the discipline and for many practices around the world.

This position is further supported and explained by Juhani Pallasmaa in his book The Thinking Hand, ‘Even in the age of computer-aided design and virtual modelling, physical models are incomparable aids in the process of the architect and the designer. The three-dimensional material model speaks to the hand and the body as powerfully as to the eye, and the very process of constructing a model simulates the process of construction.’Therefore, let us turn our attention to modelmaking in the twenty-first century.