Encounter PS 24 Direct from the Model Maker

January 22, 2016

Dodie Colavecchio took some time after completing her most recent work– a model of the PS 24 Queens addition for the NYC-School Construction Authority, to answer questions that have been buzzing around the office.

Q: How long have you been make models for MGA&D? 

DC: I started here in 1996 in Marketing/Communications and helped out with models as much as I could. I became a full-time model maker a couple of years after I started, so it’s close to 18 years that I’ve been making models for MGA&D. I didn’t have much model making experience before I arrived here, and I certainly didn’t make any models in school to this level of detail.

Q: What was the most challenging part of the model-making process?

DC: One of the first challenges to any model is figuring out how I’m going to draw the model pieces so that they join together correctly. I have only so many machines in the shop to assist me, so I need to know if I can get a 45 degree edge on a thin piece of acrylic and not break the piece in the process. I plan out the building process as I’m drawing the model pieces, so I place score marks in the pieces for alignment ease. By the time I have the model pieces drawn out and ready to send to the laser cutter I know how the whole model will come together. I still have to put it all together correctly ̶ that’s just as challenging.

PS 24 Queens Model

Q: What details were hardest to capture in the PS24 model?

DC: The hardest details were probably eliminated on the model due to its scale! I have to simplify many complex details or even ignore them so that the laser doesn’t melt all the lines together – I “clean up” the AutoCad drawings and print out test pieces to see what detail will show at the particular model scale. The hardest details on this model are left for the laser to do – some of the scored details on the existing building I wouldn’t be able to recreate!

Q: What features took the most time? Does that same feature take the most time on all models?  

DC: I first break the model up into sections, which makes the model building process run more efficiently. It took some time to build all the sections for this model and then piece them together so they fit within the footprint of the building – I avoid gluing up the sections too soon to make sure I have all the alignments correct, and all the “hard-to-reach spaces” painted. It’s never fun trying to paint something out of reach but fully visible to the eye!

Q: How accurate are models in general to the real thing? 

DC: This model in particular? The overall design of the model is accurate to the real school building – the size of new addition compared to the existing building, number of windows and doors etc. are exact to the real building. The real building will have all the details, whereas the model is restricted due to size as to what details make it onto the model.

Q: Is this model in a specific scale? 

DC: Yes, this model has a scale of 1/16” = 1’-0” which means 1/16 of an inch on the model equals 1foot on the real building.

Q: Are models always in scale? 

DC: Yes, all of our models are in a particular scale – if you don’t set a scale you won’t have the correct relationship of the building to the site.

Q: Does painting the model take more time then constructing the model itself? 

DC: This all depends on the complexity and scale of the model – if the scale is large enough you can have layers representing different details or materials that can be painted separately and then sandwiched together for the desired effect. This model’s scale had me hand-painting quite a bit of detail onto the pieces – all of the dark red banding was painted by hand after the brick color was sprayed on. There was a lot of re-touching to clean up all the lines. The window layer on the model has paint on both sides so there’s an order to follow in which side is painted first and what needs to be masked off so it doesn’t get covered in the wrong color.

Q: There is a lot of behind the scenes work when it comes to making a model, so what part of this model are you most proud of?

DC: I’m most pleased that I can continue to make models to the quality and level of detail that MGA&D expects, especially with this model for the NYC-School Construction Authority. It takes quite a bit of time to create all this and I’m proud of seeing the finished product when complete.

My eyes are going though – time for some reading glasses!

To see more of this project, check out PS 24 Queens here.