Digital exploration of the School of Architecture’s model collection

by | Apr 25, 2024 | Data access, export and preservation, Digital Collections | 1 comment

Innovation & collaboration

Using innovative 3D scanning equipment & techniques and with the collaboration of several parts of the organisation, the University of Manchester is embarking upon a project to make students physical architectural models accessible as a collection of high-quality digital assets. Each model will be shown in 3D with high resolution pictures and will include documentation and rich information (metadata) that can be explored online.

About the Manchester School of Architecture

The Manchester School of Architecture is internationally respected and placed 5th globally in the QS 2023 architecture rankings.

About the models

For over 40 years, the B.15 modelmaking workshop in the basement of Humanities Bridgeford Street has provided tools, materials, and expertise to help architecture students take their designs from vision to detailed physical models. Over 300 models are currently held in storage, this project will bring them to a wider audience via cataloguing, photography and 3D scanning. The digital representations of the models will be openly published and preserved to showcase this remarkable collection now and as it grows.

About the technology

With advice from the John Rylands Institute Imaging team we have sourced high-quality cameras and lenses to photograph the model collection. We will use existing equipment and collegiate networks for 3D scanning; John Piprani, the Archaeology Technician at the School of Arts, Languages, and Cultures, has provided an industrial quality 3D scanner, the Artec Space Spider, which can even render fingerprint ridges!

We’ll use Sketchfab to manage 3D files, to create the step-by-step processes that students will use to scan their own models long after the project is finished, and the collection will be available through our Figshare for Institutions research data repository.

What are the benefits of this?

Currently, if someone wants to view the models, they must travel to the Humanities building on-campus and request access to the storeroom where the models are housed.  By making the collection available online we will make the models more accessible and reduce travel time.

The Figshare showcase will serve as a resource for students to exhibit their work online, every model is given a unique Digital Object Identifier (DOI) which students can link to in their portfolio’s / CV’s and reference in future work. Future students of Architecture will be able to scan their own models thus learning about this innovative technology.

By documenting the work of students past, present and future, we aim to provide a valuable resource for interested parties to explore and study architectural models. The digital models will demonstrate B.15’s skills to a much wider audience, with a potential to spur collaboration and engagement.

About the collaboration

Strong links between the Research Lifecycle Programme, The Library and colleagues in Humanities enabled this project to be initiated in late 2023.

Get involved

If you want to glimpse some of the fantastic models created by students and the B.15 workshop over the years there is a permanent exhibition of impressive models on display on the mezzanine floor of the Humanities Bridgeford Street Building. We’ll be cataloguing and scanning these as part of the project, it’s worth coming along and having a look in-person.


The School of Architecture Figshare showcase represents a concerted effort to preserve and share architectural heritage. Through collaboration and technological innovation, we endeavour to make architectural models accessible for generations to come. Stay informed and engaged as we embark on this exciting journey of preservation and exploration.


1 Comment

  1. Dr. Gail Millin-Chalabi

    This is such a great initiative between the Research Lifecycle Programme and SEED in Faculty of Humanities. The team at the B.15 modelmaking workshop are such a talented and dedicated team whom I have had the pleasure to work with in my previous role. They really take the time to show students the equipment and take them through the architectural design process from beginning to end. It is great the models produced by students will now be accessible to a much wider audience using the power of Figshare. It will also evidence the sheer quantity and quality of the excellent support provided by the technicians and the B.15 Workshop Technical Manager Scott Miller in Humanities Bridgeford Street. The B.15 workshop is a real beacon of technical innovation at the university and a unique facility. The team have contributed over the past 10 years to the excellent teaching and research outputs of the Manchester School of Architecture.


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