Ernest working on Ford Refresh Model

Young Model Maker: Ernest Ang

submitted by Samanthi Martinez


APMM Member Ernest Ang became interested in model making while visiting new properties and commercial building developments in his native Malaysia. Ernest’s parents loved to visit the sales centers, and take Ernest along, where he saw the presentation models that were always there. This steady exposure piqued his interest in architectural models, but when he built a model of a house for school, he really became hooked.


“My proudest moment before I actually learned model making in school was making a two-story interior model,” he says. “The model was made using paper and shoe boxes for an art class, and it had every detail, including a toilet seat!” His school liked the model so much that they decided to keep it to show to other students.


When Ernest first came to the US to further his education, he was studying Psychology at Bemidji State University in Bemidji, Minnesota. This happy coincidence resulted in Ernest learning that the school also offered an undergraduate degree in model making. He tried it out for one semester and decided to stay in school for an additional three years to get the Model Making degree after completing his Psychology degree.


After getting his Bachelor’s degree in Prototype Engineering (which, he says, is pretty much a model making degree) at Bemidji, Ernest worked as an architectural model maker for 2.5 years at KMCA Inc. in New Haven, CT where he had the opportunity to learn more about model making from two senior model makers. However, even though he was learning a lot about model making while he was working there, he realized that he wanted to learn more about the management side of model making as well as the design thinking process involved in architectural model making. It was then that he found that the University of Bridgeport, which was about 30 minutes from where he lived, offers a graduate program in Design Management.


“I sat in one of the classes and really liked the program and decided to apply for it,” he says. The two-year graduate program gave Ernest the opportunity to not only learn about design management but also to collaborate with people from various cultural backgrounds and different design disciplines such as architecture, communication, graphics, industrial, interior and media design.


                                                                                                                                                       Ford Refresh Model


Ernest says the thing he enjoys most about architectural model making is to see the unfolding process leading to the completion of a model.


“From just receiving the CAD file at the beginning, to starting to visualize how the model will be done, then the planning and execution, and finally witnessing the excitement of the client when they see the model,” says Ernest, are what he finds most rewarding. “Of course, the teamwork involved in getting the model done is another part that I really enjoy.” 


                                                                                                                                                           Ford Refresh Model


Ernest completed an internship last summer at Zoyes Creative Group in Michigan and credits this connection to the APMM. He was introduced to founder Dean Zoyes by the APMM’s executive director Sam Martinez at the APMM’s 2016 conference in Greenville, SC.


“Because the architectural model industry is such a niche, being involved with the APMM provided me with the opportunity to easily connect with the pool of architectural model making firms in the country,” says Ernest. “The internship with Zoyes Creative Group led me to a full-time position there upon completing graduate school.”


Like other model makers, Ernest says his job is making architectural models, but his hobby is also making architectural models.


“So, I’m pretty much making money (as my job) from my hobby,” Ernest laughs.


                                                                                                                                              Lincoln Model Progress Shot


As for his future, he hopes to be gradually involved in a management role within the company and eventually would like to manage a model making team in the next 5 to 10 years. At the same time, he would like to apply the things he learned from his Design Management degree to help the company to grow.


When it comes to the future of the model making industry, Ernest says he is very excited at the prospect of what’s ahead.


“The emergence of new 3D printing technologies, more affordable laser and milling machines, the inclusion of smart technologies in shop tools and equipment,” says Ernest, “can actually lead to new ways of making models!” He feels that even though some people might think that with the advancement of technology, model makers will eventually be replaced by machines, he disagrees because all these technologies still need model makers to get it to happen as intended.


“Nonetheless, I think it is still important as a model maker, especially as a younger model maker, to know and learn traditional model making skills from senior model makers,” he says, “while incorporating the new technologies into the projects.”


                                                                                                                                                               Lincoln Model


Ernest has advice for up-and-coming model makers: “Learn as much as you can while you are in school. Don’t be afraid to try new things and ask questions. Seek out internship opportunities early as internship experience is extremely valuable when you return to school, because what you learned out there you won’t necessarily be able to learn in school!”


Though Ernest acknowledges that the industry may be shrinking, he says if you love architectural model making, just go for it!


“It is definitely worth all the risk and efforts being an architectural model maker if you enjoy the making process and love seeing the end result,” he says.



                                                                                                                                                                    Retail Model

  Photos used by permission of Zoyes Creative Group


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