Architecture Models

Creating an Architecture Model Scale Figure, AKA a Scalie

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Posted By Matthew Von Dohre

What is a scalie?

So what exactly is a scalie that we use in architecture building models? Simply put an architecture scalie is a physical representation of something a person can relate to. This could be a tree or a car, but more often it is something to represent the size of a human being. We often refer to scalies as architecture entourage.

When I was an architectural student, we were asked to always show a person to scale in all of our models which would allow others to understand the size of the design elements. So we would cut out people to create scaled architectural figures for use in our models.

The issues of how to create these architecture figures or architecture silhouettes quickly and easily long before the laser cutters entered most schools became a problem that we needed to solve.

Researching architects models

I researched numerous architects to see what they used in their models and came across ones used in an Antoine Predock model of a casino project Atlantis that I really liked. These scalies were a little more complex but I loved their feel and the number used to create energy in his model.

I took those scalies and created simpler variations that would later become my preferred scalie for all of my architecture models, no matter what the scale of the model was.

Let’s start with the plan

My process for creating an architecture model scalie

Tools you will need:

  • Pen or Pencils
  • Eraser
  • Architecture scale
  • Various chipboard media to cut 
  • Cutting blade

Optional items:

  • Cutting mat
  • Metal straight edge
  • Metal triangle

The size of the scalie we are making today is 1/8″ = 1’-0”.  This means that 1/8″ on a scale (or ruler) is equal to 1’-0” in real life. The height of the scalie we will create today is 6′ tall. You can vary the height of a +/- 6″ to create an average height person.

Step 1: Select your chipboard media. I prefer the black chipboard to add contrast to a model.

Step 2: Using the scale mark a line, in scale, on each side of the chipboard 6’ from the cut edge and connect the lines. This will be the overall height of the scalie you are creating. I started with a lead pencil but quickly switched to the white roller ball pen.

Step 3: At the top of the chipboard start at the edge and mark 2’ increments, this is the approximate width of a person’s shoulders.

Step 4: At the 6’ mark, start 6” from the edge and mark 1’ increments, this is the approximate width of a person’s feet when standing together.

Step 5: Mark a line 1’ from the cut edge and connect the lines. This is the approximate height of a person’s head.

Step 6: Connect the 1’ and 2’ incremental marks to create triangular shapes.

Step 7: Create the same 1’ increments that you did in step 4 but along the cut edge.

Now we are ready to start cutting. **Use Caution** Most knives are very sharp and can easily cut you if you are not careful. Ask for help or get an adult to supervise if needed.

Step 8: Cut along the 6’ mark.

Step 9: Cut the diagonal lines.

Step 10: Cut a vertical line from the 1’ line to the cut edge at the 1’ increment marks.

Step 11: Cut along the 1’ mark from the cut in step 10 to the angled cut edge in step 9.

Step 12: Cleanup or erase any marks from the chipboard,

Step 13: Place the scalies on your model. In the image below I included some smaller scalies to represent kids in the group.

Congratulations, You have now quickly created an architecture scale person or scalie that you can use in your concept and presentation models. I personally love these because they are quick and simple to make.

By being clean and simple these scalies will not detract from your model and you will be able to create a lot of them in a short amount of time.

Party on the model

It is best to have at least one scalie on a model to represent the scale of the project. I, however, would always have a party on my models by having dozens of scalies in a model.

Having multiple scalies in a model creates movement and energy that will further engage a person looking at your model.

Scalie use in projects

Remember these key points for making scalies

  • Keep your scalies simple
  • Limit the details on a scalie
  • Make them easily repeatable
  • Make them contrast with the model

I hope you found this method of creating an architecture scale person, otherwise known as a scalie helpful.

Thank you for stopping by.

Good luck on your modeling and we’ll see you again soon.

Matthew Von Dohre, RA, RID, NCARB

Have a comment or suggestion for a future blog post? Please let me know in the comments below.

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Barb Nordlund

Love it!

Barb Nordlund

Love them!

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