Architectural Model Maker

An architectural model maker builds scale models of buildings drafted by architects. Scale models are necessary for obtaining practical information with regard to what the building will look like when finished, how much sunlight will come in the windows and how the building will fit in with its surroundings. 

In the world of architecture, interior design, landscape architecture and town planning, models have been used for ages. Models used to be built in architects’ offices by architects and draughtsmen. More recently, model building has developed into a profession of its own, with developers realising the true value and advantage of scale models.

Model makers interpret and transpose architects’ drawings into three-dimensional reproductions. Models constructed are to specific scales and the materials used imitate the proposed building materials. The miniature constructions enable architects to present developers or owners with concrete examples of proposed buildings or projects.

Architectural model makers construct different types of models to depict particular features of the building. These include: block models, semi-detailed or working models, fully detailed models and interior models.

Block models show only the external form of the building, to visualise architectural forms three-dimensionally, showing the contours only and model buildings are mainly blocks with no detail.

Semi-detailed or working models represent the plans in concrete form to builders and are used where the scale is too small to show detail, as well as in cases where a developer or architect wants a “quick” model to visualise the effect and position of a building.

Detailed completed models show precisely what the project or building will look like after completion and it is important that the finest detail is depicted.

Interior models show the internal set-up, complete with scale-model furniture and the interior decorating of the building. The model maker is expected to make the furniture to scale.

In the case of a proposed high-rise building intended to house apartments, shops, parking and garaging facilities, each floor of the model would be built separately from the next, but inter-joining. This would allow the designer to study the available space, light, ventilation, types of business premises, exits and entrances and so on. The roof would be detachable, as would fire escapes, escalators and elevators, which might have to be moved to more suitable positions. The completed model, after examination by all parties concerned, would then be shown to the client for approval or suggestions.

Models are useful because they can help the architect and client decide whether the proposed building should be constructed or not. Developers also make use of models to illustrate precisely what the proposed building will look like. This enables them to sell the buildings before the project has even started.

Models are one of the greatest marketing tools for developers. Potential clients are often confused by drawings and plans alone. The model will show them more or less what the finished project will look like, thus enabling the developer to sell space or time-share before the actual construction of the building has started.

Personal Requirements

  • adept at working with fine detail
  • artistic ability
  • ability to interpret architectural drawings
  • knowledge of maths, to interpret these specifications and drawings
  • ability to visualise two-dimensional drawings three-dimensionally
  • good sense of form
  • accurate and precise worker
  • able to work in a group
  • handiness, excellent manual and finger dexterity
  • good eyesight
  • a steady hand for finer details

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

National Senior Certificate (matric), or equivalent with a Diploma pass

Compulsory Subjects: Art or a related subjects is highly recommended
Recommended subjects: Art, Design Studies, Engineering and Graphic Design


  • An art portfolio is required to demonstrate your creativity, abilities and commitment.
  • If you intend studying towards a degree in Fine Art at university, you will need to a Bachelor's pass in matric. If you intend studying a diploma in an art-related field, then you will need a Diploma pass in matric.
  • Meet the admission requirements (APS) set by the university or requirements set by the college.

What to Study

Diploma: Architecture and Architectural Technology - UJ, CPUT, DUT, TUT, NMMU

Employers may offer in-service training. It would be an advantage to have a diploma in Architectural Technology or, at least, in Art.

There are a few model-building studios in Pretoria and Johannesburg where students can receive training. It takes two years to learn all the skills and aspects of model building, which include the following: materials, spraying techniques, moulding, cutting techniques and light-duty machinery work.


  • architects
  • architectural model building firms
  • large building construction companies
  • town planning firms
  • large building firms
  • property developers
  • government departments
  • self-employment - with the necessary experience and finance a person can start their own model building business and do work for architectural and building firms

Further Information

South African Council for the Architectural Profession
51 Wessel Road, Right Wing,
Rivonia, Sandton, 2128
Tel: (011) 479-5000

Getting Started

  • arrange to talk to an architectural model maker and ask permission to observe them at work
  • try to get vacation work with a model building firm so as to find out more about this profession

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

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