As the name suggests, these models are primarilyconcerned with testing ideas for a project’s structure.These are very useful models from an educational point ofview, as they enable both a student and a tutor to gaugehow well the student understands the complex processof construction. This type of model varies from basicmodels that may simply indicate different loadbearingelements such as walls and frames, to considerablymore detailed examples that investigate the structuralsystems of a design with a higher degree of architecturalanalysis. A particular advantage of these models whencompared to drawings is that they allow the designer tounderstand how various components support each otherand fit together in three dimensions – an issue that canoften be difficult to comprehend in two-dimensionalrepresentations. In this manner they act as bothrepresentation of an idea and as material investigation.Furthermore, they facilitate the testing of novel structuralconcepts and design ideas, often providing a performativedimension through load and force testing. It is importantto engage with this type of model during the designprocess, as initial concepts and spatial explorationsshould always be reinforced by the structural rationalebehind the design rather than compromised by it.

In terms of structural intentions, physical models maybe more immediate in identifying potential problemsthan CAD models, which may appear deceptivelystraightforward as they exist in a ‘weightless’ spaceunbound by gravity. A feature of the majority ofstructural models is their skeletal appearance, since theirfunction is to represent the primary components of a structure and their assembly. This results in many of theother building components being left out, so that a clearunderstanding and communication of the structuralstrategies can be achieved. This further supports thenotion of architecture as a material practice, an aspectthat can be difficult to explore using CAD models alone.