This week on The Real Estate Diplomat, we are joined by Catherine Tinker of Chicago-based Columbian Model and Exhibit Works. The company builds scale models of buildings, mainly for the real estate development market. They have created many of the scale models of buildings that have been built within the last 30 years in Chicago and many throughout the United States. In this episode, Cathy shares her journey, from starting as a lawyer for the space industry dealing with the Space Shuttle Challenger accident, to creating scaled models of buildings. We discuss why physical representations are an important part of selling the invisible, in addition to digital representations. We also discuss her scale model of the Obama Presidential Library being discussed by former President Barack Obama on 60 Minutes. 

Listen to the full version of the podcast:

The Humanity Behind Scale Models

You may wonder why developers invest in a physical model when virtual reality gear is available. Also, why do they even go through the trouble of showing what the project might look like? After all, cost-effective options such as pictures, whether printed and framed on the wall or projected from a computer screen, are available. In today’s episode, Catherine explains why scale models are necessary for anyone trying to sell a development project. One of those reasons is that models are often used to assure the client that the project is real. In other words, if someone can build a scale model of the project, then the likelihood of the project being made to a real-life scale is high. 

Additionally, when you are selling a project, whether a condo unit or a single-family home, having a model can help you give potential clients concrete answers to their questions. Ultimately, it will naturally click with the client if they see the project’s space. It also entertains the client while making inquiries with the seller or the developer. Scale models help people better understand the project and its space. And like having an in-person conversation, there is just something so human about seeing and feeling a scaled physical representation of something you are looking to purchase. 

About Catherine Tinker:

Catherine Tinker has been a scale model and exhibit maker for over 29 years as owner and president of Columbian Model & Exhibit Works, Ltd. The company also spearheaded the creation of the Chicago Architecture Foundation's model of the City of Chicago. Their international client base includes real estate developers, senior living specialists, large corporations, museums, foundations, and attorneys. Prior to the Columbian model, Cathy served as a litigation attorney for ten years.

Outline of the Episode:

[02:31] How Aaron and Catherine know each other.

[04:46] Getting into the scale model building space. 

[07:21] The power of word of mouth when growing your business.

[10:02] Working with different materials needed to build scale models. 

[13:08] The trajectory of pursuing a career in model making. 

[14:40] Why seeing a scale model is essential in real estate development.

[15:53] Delivering large-scale models across the country.

[18:56] Creating scale models for TV and movie productions.

[22:40] The value of a scale model when selling a development project.

[24:42] What Catherine sees on the horizon for model making.

[26:51] How models provide entertainment and concrete answers for potential clients.

[30:06] Her experience practicing law and a case involving NASA.

[32:10] How to get in touch with Catherine Tinker and her work.

#TheRealEstateDiplomat #CatherineTinker #AaronMasliansky



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