Build It and They Will Come

We recently completed a scale model of our design for the new Greenwich Country Day School upper campus in Connecticut. As the model was photographed and loaded for transport, we reflected on a job well done.

While we’re fans of photorealistic renderings and virtual reality immersions, we still believe in the bond between a viewer and a physical model. The model allows them to interact on their terms and spurs conversations that result in a deeper understanding of both the vision and the details. We hope this translates into broad support for Country Day’s fundraising and recruitment goals.

Our master model maker, Patrick McCauley, at work on the GCDS display.

Our master model maker, Patrick McCauley, at work on the GCDS display.

At Centerbrook we strive to create architecture that will endure. This applies equally to our buildings and to the physical models that embody them. The Country Day model represented the elegant fusing of technology and craft by rendering details and materials with just enough clarity – but not too much – to convey their look and feel.

For instance, a component of our design is an arts village comprised of four buildings splayed from a central courtyard. They’ll be clad in wood, which meant that the model had to be wood also. But the buildings were created from plastic on a 3D printer. We covered the plastic with a wood veneer that suggests the texture, color, and finish of what will be built. Like a watercolor painting, we convey what is – or in this case what will be – without completely resolving it. That’s the art and the science of a well-executed physical model.

The Country Day model was created after programs were verified, iterations were tested, ideas were refined, and budgets were reconciled. Even with design “fully baked,” there was a creative tension between our design team and model maker to consider materials and processes from different angles, to make adjustments, and to willingly abandon those that didn’t work and try something else. The model’s gestation was a microcosm of the architectural design process writ large.

The result, we think, speaks for itself.