Design development or ‘process’ models are effectivelythree-dimensional sketches through which novel ideasare explored and tested but not necessarily concluded.The relationship between design development modelsand final presentation models is not always clear. Notall presentation models are the result of a sequence ofdesign development models; in some cases a presentationmodel is a design development model that has reacheda critical point in the design process. A key characteristicof design development models is that they are alwaysmade by the designer, unlike other types of model thatmay be subcontracted to professional modelmakers.Perhaps most significantly, design development modelscommunicate a ‘journey’ rather than a ‘destination’, asthey explicitly illustrate the thought, effort and timecommitted to investigating design ideas. They oftenrepresent the evolution of a design and showcase thesometimes trial-and-error nature of the creative process.This is an important point, as it is tempting to assumethat architects arrive at design solutions with a ‘lightningbolt’ of inspiration and can immediately visualize this ina coherent and convincing manner.

The majority of models produced in architectureschools are design development models, made toexplore possibilities and reach a suitable responseto a studio project brief. Whilst these types ofmodel may appear unfinished and unrelated to one another, they can be grouped together to indicate thesequential development of design ideas as part of areview critique. When presented alongside drawingsand other forms of visualization, these models servea dual function. On the one hand, they reveal thedesign evolution of a project, while on the othercommunicating a student’s methodology and learning.Typically in schools of architecture the final set ofdrawings and model are rarely assessed in isolation,and this means that some documentation of thedesign process is key to the evaluation procedure.

As stated above, this type of model is part of thedesign process and functions as a tool enabling thedesigner to express emerging ideas. Therefore theyare quickly produced, often from a range of materialsthat may be to hand. The preciousness of the idea isthe overriding factor in such models, not the perfectpresentation of it. Indeed, the temporality of designideas is visible in these models as a variety of possibilitiesare explored. For example, Frank Gehry times theproduction of his design development models at around3.4 minutes each!


Design-development models do not necessarily representa complete building, nor do they need to be accurate or ata consistent scale. They may reveal latent characteristicsof a design, such as circulation flows or other geometricalrelationships. A shift in scale can enable this type ofmodel to be a flexible tool, as some ideas become moredefined and others dissolve away. The immediacy andexplorative nature of design-development models meansthat they can be reinterpreted, recycled and even collagedtogether for future projects as they embody the very spiritof creativity.The building model is a common illustrative toolfor simulating an architectural design, and typical scalesfor models are 1:200, 1:100 and 1:50. Larger schemes,however, are usually represented on a scale of 1:200,and 1:500 is common in architectural competitions.In addition to three-dimensional forms and volumes,the design’s many and diverse features play a moresignificant role here than in urban design models, as more consideration may be concentrated on variousaspects. Façade design is extremely important, andmay even lead to specific models that are solelyconcerned with investigating the interface betweeninterior space and exterior ‘place’. The building modelcan also convey such information on interior spaceand structure. For example, a sectional model canprovide views of important rooms. In combinationwith removable floors and other interior components,a modeller may also use a removable roof elementthat affords a glimpse into the model from above.