Hardware city simulations...
Biggest Little Cities: Models for Urban Planning
By Terrence Russell
Metropolitan growth worldwide has sparked a renaissance in models for
Photo: Zachary Zavislak
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Michael Chesko is no architect. He's not a structural engineer or an
urban planner either. But he just spent more than 2,000 hours
constructing this highly detailed, nearly perfect scale model of
midtown Manhattan. Chesko cut, sanded, and glued the mini metropolis�
now on exhibit at the New York Skyscraper Museum�using only an X-Acto
knife, a nail file, and a Dremel (and lots of balsa wood). But the 50-
year-old software engineer was having fun; he's been building little
cities since he was a kid.
Model cities aren't just for show; they can have real utility. In 1957
the US Army Corps of Engineers created the Bay Model, a replica of the
San Francisco Bay and Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta meant to simulate
the impact of public works projects and disasters�natural and man-made�
on currents and tides. Considered one of the most practical
applications of the craft, it's made of 286 one-ton slabs of concrete,
representations of all six bridges, and a computer-controlled
hydraulic system to manipulate the waterworks. Though retired from
active duty in 2000, the model is still on display in Sausalito.
The Bay Model let researchers study environmental impacts in the San
Francisco Bay before computer modeling. People the world over come see
the country's largest working hydraulic model.
For more, visit wired.com/video.
More recently, the growth of municipalities like Dubai, London, and
Sydney is stirring renewed interest in miniature cities as planning
tools. The new crown jewel of shrunken sprawl resides on the third
floor of the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center: At more than
6,500 square feet, the stunning depiction of China's most populous
city circa 2020 is one of the largest models of its type in the world.
Chesko is, of course, a fan of his medium's increasing popularity�
regardless of the purpose. He hasn't seen all the other bitty burgs
out there, but he'd like to. "It certainly figures into my vacation
planning," he says.
Although the skyscrapers are the attention grabbers in Chesko�s
Midtown Manhattan model, the real effort was in the details. Tackling
the block-by-block miniaturization of this district called for the
creation of more than 380 individual blocks.
Photos: Zachary Zavislak
Shanghai's massive miniature is more than a feat of craftsmanship.
Model makers had to pore over numerous prospective building plans to
accurately depict the forward-looking cityscape. Of course, crafting a
physical snapshot of this scale isn't without its setbacks; even a
tiny change in construction can have a sizable impact on the face of
China's most populous city.
Photos: Adrien Hochet
The US Army Corps of Engineers wasn't concerned with just scale while
constructing the Bay Model. After plotting the miniature landmarks,
engineers had to ensure that the hydraulics system accurately depicted
the sped-up effects of the Bay Area's tidal system. This attention to
detail guaranteed that roughly 15 minutes of standard time equated to
a lunar day on the Bay Model.
"Hidden in plain sight" is the best way to describe this scale model
of downtown Sydney. The keen-eyed can find it beneath the glass floor
of Sydney's Customs House. Though constructed in 1998, the Customs
House ensures its continued accuracy by having the model regularly
updated to reflect changes in the skyline.
Photos: Peter Murphy
Chicago�s Museum of Science and Industry is home to this sprawling
model of the Windy City. The model covers 3,500 square feet and
captures the city�s historic rail system with 1,400 feet of track.
Photos: J.B. Spector
Montreal QC Canada
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