Microscape (Accurate 3d Printed Scale City Models) by WILLIAM NGO
2016 - 2017, Golden A' 3D Printed Forms and Products Design Award Winner
New York-based Architects William Ngo and Alan Silverman have been long-time friends since graduate school. Despite the move towards digital design over the past decades, the two shared an appreciation for physical, tactile models. As a side project, they began Microscape and the process of accurately documenting cities and producing beautifully detailed models of cities beginning with Manhattan where they studied and have practiced.
Microscape is a new collection of architecturally-precise models of cities around the world. We’re starting with one of the greatest cities of all: New York. The first phase is a series of 200 “microscapes” (distinct tiles of different parts of the city), which can be assembled into a complete, highly accurate model of Manhattan. Start building New York City with a single microscape that includes your favorite landmark or choose a microscape with more personal significance
Design Challenges
From the beginning, we were confident that we wanted to launch the project through a crowdfunding campaign as a way of gauging interest and getting the project to as many people around the world as possible with limited resources. One of the biggest challenging was to fight the urge to launch the campaign immediately, but instead, take the time to fully refine the product and production to make sure that the recipients were happy with their models. We spent nearly 18-months developing the project before it was officially launched.
Production Technology
We start by taking aerial photos. Lots of them. Thousands, in fact. We feed these photos to software that analyses them all and reconstructs the position of the camera that took each one in 3D space. Using these camera positions and feature comparison across photos, the software then builds a three-dimensional point cloud that’s an accurate representation of the contents of all those thousands of photos. The software then helps us develop polygonal mesh geometry from the point cloud, and that’s the basis for our model. The polygonal mesh can be 3D-printed as-is, but to get really good results, it needs some editing by hand. In some cases, we edit it by moving faces and vertices around. In other cases, we use it as a guide to model over with simplified geometry that will result in cleaner printed results. Once our model is ready, we prepare it for printing with software that translates it into hundreds of layers. Printing a single tile can take as much as 48 hours of continuous machine time.
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