Shape My City Session Three: model making with Amalgam

The third Shape My City session of the year, held on the 4th of May was focused on model making, and the group was joined by Chris and Anthony from Amalgam. Amalgam Models was established over 30 years ago in the heart of Bristol, and quickly earned a reputation for making models of outstanding quality.

The session began with a quick warm-up activity, this time with an edible twist. In groups, the participants were asked to create a model building out of a delicious range of edible materials, each which represented a real life building material (shredded wheat as straw bales, wafers as sheets of plywood, shortbread as bricks, chocolate fingers as wooden cladding, and icing as plaster). Each group came up with a completely different design, some looked very sturdy with unique artistic points of interest, a favourite was a cathedral with ice-cream cone spires and a flower peace garden made of Smarties!

After the fun warm-up, Chris and Anthony talked to the group all about their practice and their journey into a career in model making. Both had taken different paths to where they are now, and it made for a really engaging and insighful talk. Chris spoke first; he came from an Arts background, studying at College in Belfast before coming to Bristol. He spoke about how he fell into the model making career, whilst looking for a job. He fell in love with model making because of the diversity, clients come in with many different kinds of briefs, and using different materials and problem solving was all part of the exciting challenge.

Anthony then spoke, saying he was 16 and not sure what to do next, he found a model making degree in Bournemouth which he went on to study. He spoke of how model making degree courses do prefer student’s to have an art foundation degree, however experience of using different materials e.g. whilst doing A-Levels, can be an exception and lead you to a place on a model making course. It is important to realise there are different routes for different careers, and model making is no exception.

Chris and Anthony spoke of a ‘typical day’ as a model maker, although they explained that every day can be completely different and this variety was something they really enjoyed. Anthony shared how one day he could be working on a 3D CAD model to print, another making the actual objects from many different materials. He explained how it is rewarding to see a design on paper become an actual object, made from scratch.

Chris explained how model making is important; especially architecturally as it really helps people to understand what a new building/development will look and feel like in a tangible way that drawings and computer simulation can't always do. Chris said that people tend to really love architectural models as you can really get close-up get lots of varied views and sightlines from different persepctives.

We then asked Chris and Anthony what advice they would give their sixteen year-old self. They said it was important to work hard and find your real passion. If you find something you love doing and do it as a career the long days and hard work will be worth it and it's won't feel like a chore. They also encouraged the young people to relax but also try and get varied work experience.

Feeling inspired by the talk, it was time for the participants to get designing. The brief was to create a scale (1:50) model of a building/structure that could be situated in the Gap site between the Architecture Centre and Arnolfini. This space has been derelict for a long time and it would be great to have a new, exciting use for the space. The groups were asked to look outside at the actual space, study the scale model in the gallery and think about:
  • what’s currently missing from the harbourside that would be great to see
  • who will want to use the space? what will they want to do there? 
  • how will people feel when they are in the space? Will it be for living, working or playing?
Some fantastic ideas and models were created. Group one developed a free, green and relaxing public space with a café and a gallery, a water feature and a community greenhouse and garden area. The second group designed a one-storey building (so as to not obstruct the buildings behind) with a very colourful roof, including a café and porthole windows to look out onto the harbour. The third designed a semi-outdoor lecture theatre for programming Ted Talks type lectures, and other events which you could book or walk past and attend. It included glass windows, a canopy, seats and a green space.

Chris and Anthony offered feedback, saying all the designs were great and unique and had a good use of scale, very important in model making.

Overall it was a really interesting, enjoyable and inspiring session, the participants spent time asking lots of questions and studying up close Amalgam’s intriguing models.

Useful Links:
New Blades Modelmaking exhibition