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The modelmakers

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Modelmaking Consultancy, Three Dimensional Developments (3dd), is the brainchild of three young architectural modelmakers, Lee Atkins, Martin Giddons and Kevin Mullane. Apart from producing beautifully crafted models to order, 3dd has grown its business by listening to, responding to and realising the needs and demands of their clients. It is this approach that continues to differentiate the company. It is the factor that adds real strength and backbone to any architectural presentation.

'In the beginning,' recalls Martin Giddons, 'we were the new kids in town, hungry for work. The 1989-91 crash opened many doors for us. The clients of other modelmakers began to look elsewhere for their models, for value for money and for a better service.'

One early proving ground for the 3dd style was sdg's huge Spitalfields market project, involving half-a-dozen architectural practices.

'During the early design and planning process, the architects would finish at four or five o'clock with their committee client and give us the new brief. We would work through the night and then battle through the vegetable lorries at Spitalfields market to have the model back by 9.00am the following day for the next committee meeting. We did this half-a-dozen times,' says Giddons.

When the scheme got the green light, the client asked 3dd to produce the detailed model in time for the local elections. A reasonable time for this would have been eight weeks. 3dd did it in less than four. 'Developers and architects really benefit from engaging us at an early stage. This allows the modelmaking requirements of a project to be planned in advance and ensures the best use of our skills and available budget. It's a consultancy role, one that 3dd actually enjoys,' says Giddons.

A decade later 3dd is just about the biggest architectural modelmaking operation in the uk, with 25 full-time people in its workshops in a mews at the back of Shoreditch church. Martin Giddons looks after sales and marketing, Kevin Mullane has charge of production and staff, and Lee Atkins runs finance and the expanding cadcam facility. By concentrating on architecture they are able to focus their skills. 'We are architectural model specialists, and architecture continues to motivate and excite us,' says Giddons.

It is no surprise to learn that 3dd is organised along the lines of an architectural practice, with directors and, currently, four associates: Lee Howell, Andy Hutchinson, Lyndon Smith, and Warren Zetter. The organisational hierarchy stops there. 3dd has no secretaries, everybody answers the telephone, everybody is involved in making models, everybody is empowered to talk to clients. This is teamwork in practice.

According to Angela Burke, assessor for the newly won Investors in People accreditation, '3dd epitomises successful teamwork with a co-ordinated approach to planning, time management, review and evaluation. It's as good as I've ever seen in the hundreds of companies I've visited and assessed.'

The proof of the pudding, however, is determined by customers, and long- time client Terry Farrell is happy to give a star approval rating. '3dd is quite exceptional in its service and creativity,' he says. 'It becomes part of the team, integral to the overall architectural process. Its craftsmanship is excellent - great models.'

Teamwork clearly delivers success, because apart from producing a lot of stunning models 3dd has steadily increased turnover every year of its life. The company has made a heavy investment in cadcam equipment and software and yet still has no borrowings. It's a lean operation, and the directors support Arts Council supremo Gerry Robinson's recent contention that creative activities need to have first-rate management.

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