Buildings designed today may not open for a decade, so architects make models to help people understand the future. Before presenting ideas to the clients, governments, and communities who must buy into (and pay for) their vision of the future, architects need to envision it themselves, through sketches, computer renderings, animations, and physical models.
The earlier you can look at a physical object, the sooner you can understand a building and also make better design decisions, says W Scott Allen, an associate architect and designer for Perkins+Will, a global architecture firm that has seven MakerBot Replicator 2 Desktop 3D Printers in its offices.
On a recent morning, Allen set out more than 40 six-inch towers on a conference room table at the global architecture firm’s New York office. The towers, process models used to reimagine the space around the Bernardine Monastery in Lviv, Ukraine, ranged from thin spires to fat blocks to something resembling a stack of old Life Savers.
You might have an entire set of models that are exceptionally functional and some that are wildly impractical but just look really awesome, Said Allen, who made these models on a MakerBot Replicator 2.
Rapid prototyping “profoundly changes our own creative process,” says Allen, who will set up the 3D printer before going home for the evening, returning the next morning to analyze the models with his colleagues. Then Allen will go back to the computer and generate new designs for the next night’s print run. “Making all of these on the MakerBot frees us up to test more ideas for clients and come at a nicer solution in the same timeframe,” says Allen. The great thing, he adds, is that “you can almost print at the same speed that you can draw.”