Spotlight – Model Maker, Peter Wake

Making architectural models is anything but child’s play and, despite technological advances, is as important as ever in bringing designs to life for architects, clients and competition juries.

In an interview with The Sydney Morning Herald reporter Julie Power, Woods Bagot model maker Peter Wake says a university tutor told him the rise of computer-generated imagery meant he’d never get work.

“He was wrong, very wrong,” Wake said. “It’s a craft that is never going to die. It adapts.”

Did you always want to be a Model Maker?

Model making was never a job that I had considered while growing up; I was never fond of LEGO, but I did enjoy Meccano. I guess it all started when my dad, a quantity surveyor, arranged a work placement with one of his architectural clients. I really enjoyed producing the drawings, which were all hand drawn at the time. This led to me working towards and attaining my architectural degree. Following this, I worked for two years at a small firm in my hometown, where I was asked to make several models. It turns out that I enjoyed making the models more than doing mark-ups! It was at this point I decided to gain some further training and managed to secure a place at the top university at the time for my model making degree. While I was there, I specialised in architectural model making and was able to complete four work placements which included working on T5 for Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners and Swiss Re for Foster + Partners.

QIC. A striking new 210-room hotel designed by Woods Bagot at Castle Towers, Castle Hill, in Sydney’s northwest.

Can you tell us what inspires you?

I’ve always believed that detail is the key to most things, so I always strive to include as much detail as possible in all my models, regardless of the scale. It’s amazing the level of detail you can achieve in a 1:1000 (or smaller) model if you put in the time and effort; for example hand scribing façade details on a 1:5000 model.

What motivates you?

Being presented with a new challenge and having to come up with a new way to construct something which conveys the look and feel of the building.

Warada on Walker. The model shows how the project aspires to be a major contributor to the evolving vibrant and highly connected city of Sydney, creating a new benchmark commercial offering within the North Sydney CBD.

“I’ve always believed that detail is the key to most things, so I always strive to include as much detail as possible in all my models, regardless of the scale.”

327 Pitt Street competition, 1:500 samples.

“There’s a confidence you get with a resolved model. It says to juries you have really worked through something. There is no smoke and mirrors.”

Woods Bagot’s global design leader and principal, Domenic Alvaro

1:50 model of Central Station Sydney displaying the artefacts gallery at the Sydney Build Expo.

What do you enjoy most about model making?

I enjoy making something physical that people can interact with and understand the given project and having something to show at the end of the day. As an architect you can work on a project for several years before the first brick is laid. In comparison I can produce a model of a design in anything from a day to a couple of months, depending on what is required.

What has been your greatest achievement so far?

Being alive and healthy with a beautiful family. I have also been able to work for some great architectural companies both here in Australia and in the UK. I have learnt so much during my time at Squire + Partners (London), HASSELL (Perth), Bates Smart and now at Woods Bagot. They have produced some amazing and challenging projects. Also, receiving a Special Mention for my 1:1000 competition model for 372 Pitt Street, Sydney in the 2023 Architizer Vision Awards (Physical Models category) was rewarding. Being recognised by a prestigious global organisation after going head-to-head with hundreds of entrants from over 50 countries is truly humbling.

Lighting experiments with 372 Pitt Street.

372 Pitt Street, Sydney

Heritage and the evolution of place.

A celebration of the past, in the present, with an eye on the future creating a new dialogue between the existing heritage terraces, the street and the city.

The design demonstrates the carving of a new lane-way with multiple active fronts, aiming to respectfully reconnect heritage. The design features a confident, scale-less, and sculptural tower that harmonizes with its surroundings.

The concept model was created using a combination of traditional and digital model-making techniques, showcasing intricate carved details. The tower was 3D printed using SLS technology, while the heritage and podium elements were laser cut to ensure a high level of detail. The result is a striking design that pays homage to the heritage context while embracing innovative manufacturing methods.

Portion of 55 Pitt St. A collaborative project between Woods Bagot and SHoP Architects. The project was awarded the Future Glass Prize at the World Architecture Festival 2023.

“I enjoy making something physical that people can interact with and understand the given project and having something to show at the end of the day.”

Peter installing model of Central Station Sydney.

What is your ideal type of work?

Challenging work: something that makes me think about how I am going to construct the project and what materials I will need to use to convey the intent of the design.

Outside of work, what are your passions?

Spending as much time with my wife and children as possible because I don’t get to see them enough. Travelling both near and far to discover new places and things to do, although there is never enough time to fully explore and relax there.

 

What is your favourite project and why?

At Woods Bagot, it would be the 1:1000 competition model for Bligh Street, Sydney because it tested my knowledge of materials. I had to come up with a model that successfully and clearly portrayed the concept of the design. It also meant I needed to extend my knowledge of working with metal and learn how to solder brass, which is extremely tricky due to its inherent capability of conducting heat, for example, when you move on to do the next section of soldiering, the previous would come apart due to the heat transfer.

Outside of Woods Bagot, I would say it was the 1:5000 project in Lipovy, Bratislava while I was at Squire + Partners. This was a pared back light box model, which had translucent white acrylic roads and solid black acrylic pavement pads. The only buildings on the model were the proposed collection of mid-rise and high-rise towers and these were shown in translucent fluorescent red acrylic. The whole model which was A5 in plan was presented in a sealed black box with a single viewing slot which was 100 mm wide and 5 mm high. This added drama and a certain amount of “theatre” to the presentation, unboxing what appeared to be a solid black box, only to reveal a very controlled view of the design which had to be passed around to each member of the jury, allowing them to interact with it and try to see more than physically possible, leaving them wanting more.

Bligh Street competition model, 1:1000.

“As an architect you can work on a project for several years before the first brick is laid. In comparison I can produce a model of a design in anything from a day to a couple of months.”

Milligan. Various acrylic forms to demonstrate designs.

Two Melbourne Quarter (2MQ), 1:500.

Warada on Walker.

Read the feature: Dollhouses for adults: how social media turbocharged tiny models by Julie Power in The Sunday Morning Herald.

 

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Merena Nguyen
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