3D Models and Architecture: Design, Culture and Urban Marketing

This post is also available in: Italiano

Scale models have been used to design the most important architectural and urban works in history. Times have changed, the instruments have evolved but the key role played by the architectural model in effectively conveying a communication strategy remains constant. Today, 3D Printing makes it possible to create models with huge expressive potential in the Real Estate sector and for Urban Marketing initiatives. Let’s take a look.


Traditional sales strategies, which did not require particular investment because demand was always well aligned with supply, have become obsolete as a result of the crisis in the real estate sector.

Selling a flat has become much more difficult. The drastic fall in demand, which has been followed by a substantial drop in prices, has significantly increased the level of competition in the real estate sector. To sell you need to stand out. You need to demonstrate that your product is the best on the market for its heterogeneous qualities, which can range from its architectural features to its finishes and accessory services, and through to urban factors such as its location in an exclusive setting like a historic centre or its proximity to a park.

A 3D model can contribute greatly to an attentive communications campaign focused on getting your property to stand out from the pack on a general level. Potential buyers have the chance to experience it directly, literally touching their dream home with their hands.

With over ten years of experience supporting designers and businesses in their commercial campaigns, Protocube Reply has considerable expertise in architectural model consultancy and development, producing them with a wide range of production technologies that have always revolved around 3D printing.

The most significant applications of 3D printing for architecture include the model for Thovez 11, a Ferrero Spa Group real estate development marketed by Gedim. The model represents a detailed reproduction of a complex with a spacious and structured morphology located in one of the most exclusive areas of the hills of Turin.



Major real estate investments, in both the public and private sectors, involve notable urban transformations which impact on the economic, social and cultural equilibriums of the city, involving the public and, to varying degrees, all stakeholders.

A 3D model provides a tangible “preview” of the urban transformation works that is able to communicate the results of the ongoing transformation process to the city. In the same way, the scale model of the finished work becomes a communication tool that allows the media to spread the news, creating interest and engagement around the initiative.

Protocube Reply has supported many urban marketing initiatives with a series of large models, in both Turin, as in the case of the Officine Grandi Riparazioni and the Luigi Einaudi University Campus, and other contexts, such as the Stadio Friuli in Udine. Each one with its own story to tell.

The model of the Stadio Friuli in Udine played a key role in the marketing operations connected with the development of a complex constructed in various phases, over several seasons, to ensure that Udinese Calcio would not be forced to spend long periods away from their home stadium. The model, the only tangible example of how the stadium would look when completed, was therefore used by the club owned by Giampaolo Pozzo to promote all activities related to the present-day Dacia Arena.

Stadio Friuli di Udine - stampa 3D

Assembly of the 3D model of the Stadio Friuli in Udine, created using 3D printing technologies (credits Protocube Reply)

The Luigi Einaudi University Campus was an urban redevelopment project whose effects went well beyond expanding the spaces of the University of Turin. Its development led to the rebirth of the entire area of the Regio Parco and Vanchiglietta, which was transformed from an abandoned post-industrial district into a lively neighbourhood with businesses, studios and bars able to capitalise on the presence of a network of small businesses, artisans and creatives. Coordinated by starchitect Norman Foster, the project was realised thanks to the contributions of hundreds of partners and collaborators in the local area. The architectural model supported the entire communications campaign, which was fundamental for giving the city an idea of the end result of this enormous worksite and ambitious €135 million investment.

Stampa 3D work in progress campus einaudi

A phase in the assembly process of the Einaudi Campus architectural model, which is still conserved in the main hall of the Turin university.

“The new OGR aspires to become one of the main engines of creative development in the city of Turin. A centre of excellence focused primarily on the local area but which also has the ability to look beyond the confines of the city and attract national and international audiences, professional expertise and institutional partners.” These are the words of artistic director Nicola Ricciardi, to whom project director Fondazione CRT has assigned the task of launching and coordinating the activities of an institution that is unique in many ways. At least in Italy. We are talking about the New OGR.

A Big Bang of major events and ambitious launch activities will mark the return of what is a strategically crucial hub for the City of Turin in all respects. The hope is that it can become a strong cultural and entrepreneurial complex that is able to exploit the synergies with the city’s incredible creative resources. The New OGR model, created using 3D printing and laser incision technology, accompanied the strong communications campaign promoted by OGR-CRT, of which the official presentation event at Teatro Carignano in Turin was a particular highlight.

plastico 3d nuove OGR

The new OGR. 1:200 scale 3D model. Overview (credits Protocube Reply)

Plastico 3D nuove OGR stampa 3d

The new OGR. 1:200 scale 3D model. Details of the interior (credits Protocube Reply)


The 3D architectural model is not just a to-scale reproduction, it is the interpretation of a wide array of historical, design and functional information. These factors, intrinsic to the model since antiquity, make it the ideal tool for supporting communications in a wide variety of contexts that go beyond marketing issues. Some of the most common are:

  • During the design phase, it represents a suitable tool for enabling the architect and contractor to monitor the main advancements.
  • In terms of historic considerations, it makes it possible to isolate the stratifications that have developed over time more intuitively or to address omissions with the reconstruction of the missing elements.
  • With regard to heritage, it provides access to information that is otherwise difficult to acquire, as in the case of archaeological sites or finds in remote or inaccessible locations.
  • In terms of didactic/educational aspects, it supports museum and academic communications, reproducing architectures, or parts thereof, which for obvious reasons cannot be relocated.
Plastico Settimo Stampa 3D

Architectural model for a residential development in Settimo Torinese, in the former Standa area (credits Protocube Reply)

Plastico Settimo Stampa 3d

The model can be equipped with systems and accessories that emphasise certain aspects of the project such as the lighting in the new buildings (credits Protocube Reply)

Bard_storia del Forte_stampa3d

One of the models used to illustrate the history of Fort Bard through its main phases of evolution. The variations in the red on the neutral base, which remains constant, immediately highlight the differences between the various stages described (credits Protocube Reply)

Oman_01 stampa 3D

3D printed reproduction of an archaeological site in Oman. In the survey, the digital model often derives from a 3D scan of the site being represented (credits Protocube Reply)


Although the traditional architectural model is hundreds of years old, 3D printing has made it possible to introduce new features that make it innovative and competitive in all production spheres in which it is used. More specifically:

  • Exploiting the potential and flexibility of the digital 3D model for mass production and the creation of one-off pieces.
  • The possibility of interacting with the designers and the various figures involved in the project through renderings and the exchange of 3D and CAD files.
  • Maximum creative freedom, being able to produce forms that would otherwise be impossible to create.
  • Full colour 3D printing makes it possible to obtain a finished piece that is practically ready for assembly without having to go through long painting and post-production phases.
  • Minute details of the project in any reproduction scale thanks to the ultra-high resolution of the 3D printers and their compatibility with an increasingly wide range of materials.
  • Easy integration with traditional production methods like a milled base or mass produced elements obtained from standard industrial dies.
  • Easy substitution of parts damaged during the transportation and public display of the model.
  • Easy integration of new elements in an existing model.

Compared with traditional techniques, 3D printing has a wider range of possibilities which enables architectural models to be created more quickly, more flexibly and more economically, optimising the relationship between the final quality and the available budget. With the aim of fulfilling all of the project’s communication requirements.

This post is also available in: Italiano

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Francesco La Trofa

Architect and journalist with 20 years’ experience in 3D technologies.
Consultant to public entities and 3D businesses for aspects relating to design and communications.
Head of editorial content at Treddi.com and co-founder of Digital Drawing Days, the only event of its kind in Italy.
Actively involved in research and teaching at Milan Polytechnic.
Edits 3D STORIES for Protocube Reply.