Have you ever wondered about the scale models you see in our sales centres? How they are made to be so detailed and accurate? The intricate design of these models that makes them look true-to-life is amazing. We wanted to learn more about how these models are developed and the team behind them, so we sat down with Mike Burke, co-founder of Myles Burke Architectural Models, to learn more about his career as a scale model builder and the process of building scale models.
How did you get into building scale models?
Mike Burke: I went to school for architecture at Ryerson University. We would routinely build models for our presentations, usually out of card, paper etc. I’d stay up all night working on my renderings and drawings, and then at about 7am, I’d start building the model for a 10am class. I have to admit, most of the time they left a little something to be desired.
I remember one day I was walking through the architecture building and sitting on display by the library was a professionally built model of a condominium building (probably donated to the school or something). I was beyond impressed at the detail and craftsmanship, and I couldn’t figure out exactly how one would go about building such a thing.
A couple years later, through a friend of a friend, somehow I got a job at a professional model shop. (Coincidentally, the shop was located on the same block that will become Minto Westside). I had no idea what I was doing at first, but I was absolutely in love with it and devoted all of my energy to learning the craft. After 5 years, I had gained enough knowledge and confidence to go off and start Myles Burke Architectural Models Inc with partner David Myles. (That was in 2006).
What is the process for taking a concept for a building and creating the scale model?
MB: At the beginning of a project, we’ll get together with the architect and the client to exchange information, and hash out the vision for the scale model. Sometimes the model is to be a literal translation of the architectural drawings; sometimes it’s more interpretative, more of a concept.
Next we build a mock up. This is where we take invisible ideas, descriptions and expectations and give them form. This is a very important step as there are as many opinions as there are stake holders. Everyone needs to agree on exactly what we are going to build. Unlike a rendering for example, once we build something, we can’t change it… you can’t unglue something, and you can’t change the colour of the precast.
After the mock up is approved, we begin production. We will draw each model component, each floor, each window mullion, each balcony slab, etc., in a CAD program. Most of these are then cut out of a plastic or wood by a laser. There are hundreds and even thousands of parts to any given model.
All of these parts are then fit, adjusted and assembled by our team of builders. This part of the process is the most tedious and time consuming taking up about 75% of the budgeted time. Each piece is painted individually, and then stuck on the model permanently.
Last but not least is the landscaping. From the paving patterns to the colours of the flowers, we try to be as accurate as possible. Furniture also adds quite of bit life to the model.
How long does it take to build a model?
MB: An average model will take somewhere around 450 hours, but there are some that have taken more than 2000. Our staff totals 15, and in some cases, all of us will work on one project. Usually though, we’ll have 5 – 10 different projects running at the same time and we’ll have 1 – 3 people on each particular job.
What types of materials do you use?
MB: We typically use plastic to build our models. Plastic is (relatively) inexpensive, widely available and it’s easily cut, sanded, glued and painted. We also use quite a bit of wood, both for structural elements and finish elements. Of course we use a bunch of different types of solvents and adhesives, probably every type you can think of and then even more that you can’t.
What’s a typical size of a model?
MB: It’s not uncommon for us to build models over 8′ tall. The tallest model that we’ve built was about 13′ high. Also, we’re working on a project now that will have a base 12′ x 15′, it takes up quite a bit of floor space!
Do you have a favourite scale model?
MB: It’s tough for me to pick a single model that I like best, but one that comes to mind is the 1:160 model of the Rogers Centre for Our Home and Miniature Land (miniatureland.ca). It was quite a challenge to figure out how to build the operable roof, and to see it in action is pretty exciting. It was probably a once in a career type project.
Interested in viewing our scale models? Visit our Sales Centres or the Minto Condo Store to see them for yourself!