City of Zurich, Hochbaudepartement
Not only terrain can be miniaturized, but also single constructions like buildings. Very early, such models were already used in the Ancient Greek and in the Roman Empire. They were used to study as well planned works as to illustrate existing buildings. For example, a model of a cathedral could be used as controlling instance for the stonemasons when repairing the building or altering it .
For strategic purposes, several apart building models were not suitable, so the whole city and its surroundings has to be modelled. Thus, the first terrain models were born.
In contrast to many other terrain models, the buildings and the man-made environment are constitutive for these models. They are often used today for planning purposes. On a model, it is easy to depict the influence of a planned project to the existing environment. When presenting projects to the public, a model is the most convenient instrument.
The underlying terrain often is formed using the layer method. The buildings are made from wood or plaster, but a lot of other materials may be suitable.
Old city models have an eminent value for historic research. Unlike more or less unaffected landscape they underlie much faster changes during time. Sometimes, models depicting a historic period are made later on using old city maps as construction base.
 The first paragraph bases on Heydenreich, Ludwig Heinrich. Architekturmodell. In: Schmitt, Otto (ed.). Reallexikon zur deutschen Kunstgeschichte. Band 1. Stuttgart 1937. col.918-940.