An architectural model is a type of a scale model, tangible (also called sometimes physical) representation of a structure built to study aspects of an architectural design or to communicate design ideas to clients, committees, and the general public. Architectural models are a tool which may be used for show, presentation, fundraising, obtaining permits, and sale purposes.
Rough study models can be made quickly using cardboard, wooden blocks, polystyrene, foam, foam boards and other materials. Such models are an efficient tool for three-dimensional understanding of a design, used by architects, interior designers and exhibit designers. For a highly detailed presentation model, architects would employ a professional model maker or model making company.
Common materials used for centuries in architectural model building were card stock, balsa wood, basswood and other woods. Modern professional architectural model builders are taking advantage of twenty-first century materials, such as Taskboard, a variety of plastics, wooden and wooden-plastic composites, foams, foam board and urethane compounds.
A number of companies produce ready-made pieces for structural components (e.g. girders, beams), siding, furniture, figures (people), vehicles, trees, bushes and other features which are found in the models. Features such as vehicles, people figurines, trees, street lights and other are called "scenery elements" and serve not only to beautify the model, but also to help the observer to obtain a correct feel of scale and proportions represented by the model. Increasingly, rapid prototyping and solid freeform fabrication ('3D printing') are used to automatically construct models straight from CAD plans.