Church Master Plan Models- Physical and Virtual

Master Plan model
Master Plan Model

The use of models to describe church master planning is often seen as a luxury.  Use of models both in design and presentation of master plans can be a better way to communicate with your community and building committee.  Using a physical or virtual model removes the difficulty of reading floor plans and two-dimensional elevation drawings.  The majority of people have difficulty understanding these tools of the architectural design and construction industries.  Architects are trained to design using models and at this early stage truly do not know what their designs will look and feel like without the model.  After they are trained many architects forgo the model as they can see it all in their heads. Well this does not help the untrained to see the ideas presented and for many without a model they will never understand the intent of the design no matter how many plans and perspectives are drawn.  A model works so well at describing space that some advocate using models exclusively to design and communicate with building committees up until the documents are created for permitting and construction of the project.  Models unlike drawings communicate to all age groups and by their nature as miniature versions of reality tend to draw people in and have the ability to create excitement around a proposed project.  The difference between models and two-dimensional drawings can be crystallized as the difference between painting and sculpture.  While a painting can create a mood and view-point a sculpture will more fully describe the physical qualities of a thing, the same is true for buildings. Models also have the capacity to show the surrounding building context as well as site details such as parking, grading and retaining walls.  Site models can also show phasing and have removable parts to demonstrate a variety of solutions.  Many software programs utilize virtual models to create still views, animations, game like free playing walk-through  and even to output physical 3D model printers.

The use of these software programs such as AutoCad REVIT allows the architect to communicate with 3D views from the very first massing studies without going to the expense of building a finished model or working in clay.  The use of virtual models in this way as a continuously evolving 3D conversation achieves many of the benefits of using physical models and can be displayed using projectors or monitors. Although the images and ability to freely wander though an imagined design is enticing the majority of people still relate to a physical model much easier at least for the time being.  As generations of video game playing young adults become mature they will more readily embraces the virtual models and the ability to enter the virtual world and explore the buildings being designed for them.

large scale model of church addition in the offices of ISI Berkely CA
Large scale Model 1/2″=1′-0″

Beyond master planning large-scale models at ½” per foot can provide realistic modeling of interior spaces and exterior form that can give communities a very real sense of the development of the building.  The act of physically building a model at this large-scale allows the designer to sense the scale of the spaces and the proportion of the structural elements much more immediately than using plan and elevation drawings this process is a benefit to the designer and gives the added bonus of a realistic scale for the community to experience that is much more reliable in its depiction of space and proportion.  The design for Saint Andrew Christian Church was completed using this large-scale model process.  The design elements, window openings and roof relationships were tested and refined using large-scale models.

Courtyard facade model Saint Andrew Christian Church Olathe KS
Model Showing Design of Openings
Courtyard with Colored concrete pavers and benches
Finished facade

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