Tag Archives: diorama

Tent Models as Sales Tool

Recently KiwiMill was asked to make a series of tent models to depict a manufacturer’s product line. The models would be used as a sales and marketing tool, with possible trade show use as well.

Masters were formed on the CNC mill out of tooling board to represent three different tent designs. The tents all have metal frames with wire cross pieces and the idea was to show some of this detail on the model surfaces.

The tents were then vacuum formed using the 3 carved masters. Twenty of one design were made, and 10 each of the two other designs.

Tent connectors were made from stamped sheet metal. Five different styles were built. These connectors would attach to the tents by the placement of magnets in each tent. The idea was to offer the ability to reconfigure the tents and connectors into different layouts as needed.

Vinyl graphics were digitally printed and the tents and connectors were painted olive drab.

An oak trimmed  48″ by 60″ base was constructed with sheet metal underneath a grass mat. This way the magnetized tents would stay in place when configured, rather than slipping around.

The finished diorama can be added to, subtracted from and reconfigured using different tents and connectors.

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Museum Model Gives Local History Lesson

It’s not often that KiwiMill has the opportunity to work on a local scale model project. This past summer we jumped at the opportunity to contribute a historical museum model to Rochester, NY’s own Genesee Brewery Company. Owned by North American Breweries, this landmark location started in 1878, making it one of the largest and oldest continually operating breweries in the United States.

As part of its evolution, the brewery recently opened the Genesee Brew House in a former packaging facility on its campus, complete with pub-style restaurant, interactive historical exhibits, gift shop and pilot brewery. Housed in this exciting new venture is a 20 foot square historical museum model of the two original breweries and surrounding neighborhoods circa 1915. Commissioned by our client, North American Breweries, its purpose is to provide a permanent record of the area for the community.

As with any historic model, a great deal of research was done by our shop prior to the construction phase. Sanborn and plat maps were used to discern the overall footprint of the model. Model makers walked the site as it stands today, and took photographs of existing structures and remnants.

Genesee Brew House Model ResearchGenesee Brew House Model Research

Old photographs provided by the brewery and the city library became the primary source of research material. These historic photographs helped determine the layout of the streets and buildings, styles and location of surrounding houses, as well as street lamp design and landscaping in the early 1900’s. Architectural drawings of the buildings and houses were then created in AutoCad. After this time-consuming phase, the actual build could begin.

Museum Model Museum Model

Museum Model

Museum Model

Museum ModelMuseum Model

 

 

 

The buildings and houses were scratch built primarily from laser-cut acrylic. Cars and wagons were drawn on the computer and 3D printed. A trestle and tracks were assembled from laser-cut plywood. Railroad cars were scratch built, along with accessories such as street signs, lamp posts, stairs and lawn decor.

Museum ModelMuseum Model

The landscaping included the river gorge created from sculpted foam and mounted on a plywood box bases. The water was made of plexiglass and a layer of liquid model water poured over it. Model trees were placed throughout the site. Dirt was collected locally and sifted and glued down onto the model, giving it a realistic, textured ground cover. Finally, weathering techniques were applied to various parts of the model to tie together the different elements: buildings, streets, landscaping, and accessories.

Museum ModelMuseum Model

All of this attention to detail produced a museum model that accurately portrays a time and place in history – the aim of  well executed dioramas. If done exceptionally well, a historic model will evoke emotions from the viewer as well. If given the opportunity, check out this project in person, and let us know if we met our goal to produce a lasting, meaningful, entertaining and educational display.

Museum ModelMuseum Model

Museum Model

Museum ModelMuseum Model

Museum ModelMuseum Model

Museum Model

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Weathering a Scale Model

Architectural Model

Recently I watched our model makers take perfectly crafted scale model buildings and purposely mess them up. My curiosity was piqued. Why painstakingly create a line drawing on the computer, laser cut it, precisely assemble and finish the parts into an architectural model, only to “dirty’ up its perfection?

It turns out that a certain segment of architectural models – historical models – are given what is called weathering effects. Why? The intent is to represent the impact of the elements on an object, in order to project the sense of time, and place, that a historical scale model must provide.

The artistic application of weathering techniques attempts to simulate – not duplicate – the natural ageing and wear process on the buildings, vehicles, roads, and other inanimate objects represented on a particular historical model. Things like dirt, grime, sun fading, paint wear, spills, stains and rusting, must all be scaled down to size using well honed modeling techniques.

In addition to developing specific methods for applying weathering effects, a model maker must do the historic research necessary to match the ageing process with the time period the model is attempting to capture. For instance, a train run on burning wood will leave markings that differ quite significantly from a coal powered machine.

Model makers can enhance their expertise at weathering models by studying the world around them – noting the textures, colors and formations of real life wear and tear . Once you pay attention you may notice that everything is subject to weathering – grass isn’t green, asphalt isn’t black, houses are different shades depending on sun exposure and vehicles have signs of use soon after they are purchased.

Our perception of the world is that it is much more brightly colored and distinct than it actually is in reality. Weathering techniques take a fully painted and detailed model and use filters, washes, dusting, and  other techniques to give the desired muted effect that more closely mimics real life. Signs of wear  like scratches, faded paint, rust and stains further enhance the effect.

It’s a fascinating process watching a model maker take a flawlessly constructed architectural model and add blemishes to it. In a historical scale model, it is this artistic application of ageing techniques that ties the display together and gives it life, and the feeling that it’s accurately captured a moment in time.

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Architectural Models Communicate.

architectural model

Architecture is probably the most frequently modeled item other than modes of transportation (trains, planes, boats and vehicles). Most people have encountered a scale model of a building, house, interior space or community at some point in their lives. Virtual 3D walk-throughs of structures are available with new technology, but nothing has replaced the usefulness, the appeal and the impact of a physical representation.

architectural model

Architectural models, like most scale representations, are used as a communication tool.  A quality scale model should deliver a highly effective message. The key to an outstanding architectural model, and satisfied clients, is first understanding the purpose the model is going to serve.  What do you want your model to say? What will it be used for? Architectural models are used for a variety of circumstances including:

  • Fundraising
  • Sales
  • Evaluating a design
  • Permit / Application approval
  • Planning and development
  • Display
  • Education / Training

There are sub-categories within these architectural model uses, as well as overlapping purposes. It’s up to the professional model maker to extract from the client the essence of what needs to be communicated with the project. This helps drive the type of architectural model that will be built, along with what scale to use.

Types of  architectural models vary just as their purposes do:

There are simple massing models where monochrome cubes or blocks might be used to represent buildings, emphasizing placement of structures and their context. Detail level on models of this type is typically minimal to accentuate the physical space in relationship to its surroundings.

architectural model

Site models depict buildings and the areas around them, such as roads, parking lots, landscaping and cars.

site model

site model

site model

site model

site model

Architectural models used for display are often very detailed and  include such things as lush landscaping, lighting, and other highly realistic features. A museum quality architectural model is expected to last generations, be made of the finest available materials and represent a master model maker’s most meticulous work.

architectural model

Interior models show exactly that – what’s inside a space. They may involve lift off roofs or side cut aways for viewing. They might have very detailed furniture, finishes and miniaturized accessories, or be a simple design that emphasizes lay out and flow of rooms.

architectural model

architectural model

   architectural model

Urban models typically depict larger areas, whether it be city blocks, part of a town or a whole community. Detail can vary greatly on these as well and is usually determined by the scale that was chosen for the project.

Landscape architecture models emphasise the trees, plantings, grasses as well as any structures, bodies of water and unique terrain features that might be included in the area depicted.

site model

Architectural dioramas attempt to tell a story visually. They include all the elements necessary to represent a place or moment in time. They may not be completely to scale, but depict objects in the background purposefully smaller in order to give the illusion of depth or distance.

museum model

museum model

Topographic models show the elevations, shapes and features of a particular land surface.

military model

There are other types of architectural models but the importance lies in matching the purpose of the model with its design.

Similarly, scale is chosen by determining what the model needs to convey. Two main questions need to be answered when determining the scale of an architectural model. How much area needs to be covered and how much detail needs to be shown?

When a large area is being depicted, such as a site map, the scale is usually smaller. This way more area can be displayed without the over all dimensions of the model becoming too unwieldy. Detail level may be lower, in part because things are less visible at a smaller scale.

If only one building is being depicted, the scale is usually larger. Detail on a larger scale model is much more noticeable and will have a greater visual impact.

architectural model

architectural model

When a model maker communicates well with a client, and exhibits superior model making skills, the resulting architectural model conveys the message that was intended. This is the outcome both model maker and customer strive for.

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Museum Models – Caretakers of the Past, Present and Future

museum model

Did you know that there are almost 18 thousand museums in the United States? Are you aware that zoos are classified as museums? The American Association of Museums (AAM) lists the  following  types of museums on their website:

  • Arboretum/Botanical Gardens
  • Art Museums
  • Children’s Museums
  • Historical House or Site Museums
  • History Museums
  • Natural History or Anthropology Museums
  • Nature Centers
  • Zoos
  • Science/Technology Museums
  • General Museums
  • Specialized Museums (such as Railroad, Military, African-American)

Did you ever wonder how they are funded? While many charge admissions, there are a fair number that are free-of-charge to visitors. Private charitable donations provide the largest percent of funding followed by admission charges (including gift shops and concessions), government funding (25%) and investment income.

For those interested in museum careers there are degrees offered in museum studies, historic preservation, public history and non-profit management. Of course museums require a host of services to develop, support and run their institutions. Things like  facilities management, public relations, institutional planning, retail services, membership & development, collections stewardship and human resources.

The most obvious feature of a museum is the exhibits themselves.  While some museums are known for their collections of original artifacts, many more use reproductions, display boards, dioramas, props, scale models, interactive kiosks and hands-on exhibits to educate and entertain their visitors. Exhibit companies design these spaces to maximize a particular museum’s goals, and model making companies are often called upon to create the actual objects that go in these spaces.

The  International Council of Museums (ICOM) defines these spaces as “a non-profit, permanent institution in the service of society and its development, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment for the purposes of education, study and enjoyment.

Model makers pride themselves on providing quality museum models that will hold up to the high standards of these institutions.

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