Perkins+Will Rapid Prototyping Architectural Models on MakerBot 3D Printers


The history of architectural models is full of wood, foam, miniatures, and the painstaking craftsmanship needed to assemble them. The models are absolutely critical to presenting ideas to clients and communities, but are also deeply ingrained in the design process of the architects themselves.

Before becoming a physical model, an idea will evolve through rounds of sketches, 3D renderings, and animations. “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 uses MakerBot 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 firm’s New York office. The towers are process models, used to reimagine the space around the Bernardine Monastery in Lviv, Ukraine, and ranged from thin spires to fat blocks to even something resembling a stack of 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 printed the models on a MakerBot.

Rapid prototyping “profoundly changes our own creative process,” continues Allen, who will set up the 3D printer before going home for the night, 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 overnight print.

“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.”