Model builder puts pieces in place HOK employee handcrafts architectural miniatures that allow future glimpse

July 10, 1998|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,SUN STAFF

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Peter Friederich has a job any kid would love.

He makes models.

The chief model builder for HOK Sports Facilities Group, the world's leading designer of stadiums and arenas, handcrafts each of the intricate miniatures that pops up at every news conference when someone announces a new stadium.

Sometimes the real stadium never gets built, but that doesn't bother Friederich.

At one time, such architectural models were used to test design ideas and proportions. In the age of computer-assisted design, however, they aren't really needed for that anymore. And they are expensive: up to $4,000 each to make.

But they serve a different, and equally important, purpose now. They get taxpayers and team owners excited about a job, and willing to pay for it.

"They boost the public's enthusiasm," said Friederich.

Clients, too, frequently demand models as souvenirs. A model of Oriole Park greets visitors in the entryway to the team's offices in the warehouse. Likewise, the Ravens have a model of their new park prominently displayed in their downtown offices (a sister model was on display in the statehouse during the last session of the General Assembly earlier this year).

As a youth growing up in New Jersey, Friederich, now 35, spent hours making models of ships -- which he would sink with firecrackers in mock naval battles in a nearby river. He went on to architecture school, but enjoyed the model-making parts of it more than the rest.

"I decided I didn't want to be an architect. I wanted to build models," he said.

Eventually he found his way to Kansas City, home of several of the nation's premier stadium designers, where he free-lanced his trade. A year ago, HOK brought him in and gave him his own shop on the upper floor of the firm's offices, a renovated factory with plenty of tall windows and natural lighting in the city's old garment district.

Here he oversees a staff of four, converting computerized blueprints and renderings into three-dimensional miniatures.

Although they resemble cardboard, they are really made mostly out of plexiglass and styreneplastic that is hand-cut or etched with a laser in sophisticated machinery.

Sometimes aluminum or brass is added for special features, such as railings or exposed beams. Each full model requires 800 to 1,000 man-hours to build, and the shop makes six or seven of those a year.

They also make partial, sectional models used by the architects to test an idea or demonstrate it to a client.

"My kids always tell me they want Daddy's job because he gets to go to work and build toys," he said.

Pub Date: 7/10/98

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