How to Make an Architectural Contour Site Model – Easily Model a Sloped Contoured Site for Students

How to Make an Architectural Contour Site Model

Architecture Site Model Tutorial – Learn how to make a contoured site model quickly and easily for your architecture project.

Play Video

Easily Model a Sloped Contoured Site (for Students)

I recently completed my studio 6 project for my Bachelor of Architectural Studies, which required us to make 2 models. One of the models was a site model at a 1 : 1000 scale. My site had an artificially made slope to it, formed using Rhino. I used Rhino to turn the sloped site into a contoured model. This allowed me to create a physical contoured site model from the Rhino model. The 1 : 100 model was a much larger site model requiring a layering of 14 cardboard sheets at 4mm thick each.

This site model required the same process as the smaller model, just at a larger scale.

So here’s a recap to begin. You want to create your site in rhino. If you have a real life site, you can model it in less than 30 seconds using SketchUp and can import that into rhino. I show you how to do that in this video here:



After you have your site modelled, you use the contour command to turn your site into a contour model, rather than a surface to begin creating a physical model of this. You want to start with the lowest layer of your rhino contour, a model turned on and nothing else create a base that is the same dimensions as the area you want to have modelled. I would use a thick material as the base. Remember, your site model will be scaled down usually to 1 : 100, 200 or 500.


If you want to learn about scale in architecture, watch this video:


Now, with your base ready layer. Add another piece of card on top of it that is the same dimensions as the base and use the lowest layer of your rhino model as a guideline to where to draw your pencil lines. Once pencilled in, you can use a blade to cut where those lines are. You now have your first contour. Be sure to keep the scraps from it though. Next turn on the next layer in rhino, right? Click the layer and click select objects. This will highlight the layer you want to pencil in on another piece of card, the same dimensions as the base lay over the scraps from the previous contour. You just cut out this acts as a guide to show you where your next contours are. They don’t have to be perfect from here just for your rhino model to make it look similar. Continue this process for the remaining contours until you reach the top layer. Lastly, all you need to do now is begin. Gluing it down. Then you’re all finished.

Resources Mentioned

Further Watching

Other Resources: