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Thread: The Model City - Literally

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    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    The Model City - Literally

    Here is an interesting article on a scale model of San Francisco recently rediscovered, from the nice resource The Atlantic Cities.

    ...No one is exactly sure how it ended up in that UC Berkeley warehouse. But for Gray Brechin, a New Deal researcher and historian at the university, the rediscovery of the model was an incredibly lucky find. He says it’s likely this model was just one of many built by the Works Progress Administration in the years following the Great Depression, but it’s uncertain how many of them remain. The models were built for planning purposes, but also as a form of what is now called economic stimulus. “It employed an awful lot of people,” says Brechin, who estimates that construction of this one model probably took thousands of people-hours.

    The model – with its hand painted houses and little street trees – was given by the WPA to the San Francisco Planning Department in 1940. Brechin says it was probably used to help plan transit in the city, as well as new development. After its professional use, it was likely put on display for the public. Brechin says large-scale models like these were created by the WPA and the Civilian Conservation Corps for many national parks as well, but he’s not sure how many other cities had them, or if any have survived the years. As tools for planning a city, these models were incredibly elaborate assets for their time, but assets that have slowly disappeared from city planning and even from the broader goal of educating the public about the function and development cities.

    San Francisco’s model is potentially very rare and, Brechin says, an invaluable educational tool and historic resource. He’s hoping to find a home where it can be put on display, but room for the 1,500-square-foot object has been hard to find in San Francisco, a city much more dense and developed than the one depicted in the model itself. In the meantime, it's still sleeping in its crates...
    In my view such models are much better for some things than electronic or paper renderings, as people can apprehend the scale and detail much better and faster in a physical model. Much better for informing and decision-making.

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    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ColoGI View post
    In my view such models are much better for some things than electronic or paper renderings, as people can apprehend the scale and detail much better and faster in a physical model. Much better for informing and decision-making.
    I agree. Especially for evaluating infill and redevelopment alternatives, nothing is better than a model in which you can drop in alternative scenarios. People get a much better sense of scale, mass, texture, etc. Unfortunately, some potential clients seem to see them as dinosaur technology.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

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    Cyburbian Masswich's avatar
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    I always thought the physical models were more usable, and we're ordered a couple. But to be honest, no one ever seems to use them. The computer models, while not as easy to comprehend, are so much more versatile and are better planning tools, I think.

    On the other hand, who doesn't love a physical model. I keep a couple around the office and bring one of them to elementary school classrooms once in a while, and the kids are in awe.

    There is a great model-maker located in Somerville, MA, called GPI if anyone ever needs one.

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    I think a good model is always worth getting out on public display. It gets people talking. A couple of years ago I dragged some friends along to the Shanghai Urban Design Museum (I go on the best holidays!). Best model I've ever seen. Was a great way to communicate future planning to people.

    http://www.neatorama.com/2008/08/05/...nghai-in-2020/

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    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    I recall that the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago had a neat scale model of central Chicago, projected forward several decades, on display when I was there with a school group a few decades ago. I wonder whatever became of it.

    Also, isn't there a constantly maintained current scale model of NYC on display at a city museum?

    Mike

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    Cyburbian dw914er's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Masswich View post
    I always thought the physical models were more usable, and we're ordered a couple. But to be honest, no one ever seems to use them. The computer models, while not as easy to comprehend, are so much more versatile and are better planning tools, I think.
    A zip drive collecting dust takes far less space than a model collecting dust. I love seeing the hand crafted models, but people prefer the computer for it's flexibility.

    That SF Model is an awesome discovery. I hope it can be used utilized somewhere (like a museum or school) rather than sitting inside a warehouse.

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