This type of model represents urban or naturalenvironments. Following on from the concept model,it is the first step in the actual representation processsince it shows the design’s relationship with the existingenvironment. In terms of urban space, it is important toshow how the context changes with the addition of anew structure.

This type of model is often characterized by oneof the highest levels of abstraction. Buildings arereduced to ‘building blocks’ – abstract structures thatreproduce built form and three-dimensionality in ahighly simplified manner. Even so, depending on itsscale the model may include characteristic featuresof buildings such as recesses, projections and roofdesigns. With urban contexts, it is often useful to makea model at 1:2000 or 1:1250, as these easily correspondto map scales and allow cross-referencing of furtherinformation. In its abstract form, the site – the scaled-down landscape – is simplified and depicted, in thechosen material, as a level plain. Where a landscapeslopes, it can be broken down into horizontal layersthat are stacked on top of each other in the model.

The development of a project might result in severaldesigns, and urban design models are often constructedas ‘inserts’ or group models to reduce the amount ofwork required to present them. In the environment ofarchitecture education, it can be useful to have only onemodel of the surrounding area made and each studentgiven a mounting board on which to model the portionon which he or she is working. This particular portion isomitted from the urban design model, so that the insertscan be interchanged.

In situations in which a model is required to representuneven landscapes and topographical data, the first stepin building it is to conceive of the irregular natural terrainas a stack of horizontal strata. The more finely layered thematerial used for this, the more precise and homogenousthe resulting model will be. The work will be based on amap or plan that shows the contour lines, or that at leastprovides topographical information in elevation. Oncethe real topographic situation is known, contour lines(curved, straight or polygonal) are drawn. Dependingon the material, the modeller can cut out each layerwith a knife or saw before arranging the stragta on topof each other.