Topographic Modeling

3D and Topographic Modeling

Three-dimensional (3D) models are often used to portray proposed designs of redevelopment in scenarios where the public is greatly involved. These models demonstrate almost all aspects of a final product and give the public something tangible to explore. 3D models can not only accurately depict the physical features of a design, they can also show relationships, such as the relationship of buildings to roads, and social aspects, such as public transportation to community centers. Usually 3D models show the topography of the area, meaning they show contour lines which represent relative positions and elevations of the region. They can also show what is beneath the surface, for example, water pipe lines. (Metzger)

Figure 1: Creation of a topographic model (Hutzel)

Figure 1: Creation of a topographic model (Hutzel)

3D modeling is especially useful when redeveloping an informal settlement, like Monwabisi Park, because it is a tool that will allow the public to get involved in the planning process and therefore aid them in their decision to accept changes before they occur. Since there are people currently living, working, and interacting in the informal settlement, their opinion is what matters the most. Also, a 3D model is something that can remain in the community so that future planners can use it as a prototype when redeveloping other areas of Monwabisi Park or similar locations.

Topographic modeling is a useful resource when working on projects that require collaboration and creativity. As opposed to 2D GIS mapping, topographic models can provide a foundation for an integrated planning approach that really brings together many different topics into a single physical item.

Topographic models consist of a scaled down version of an area of land and contours that show change in elevation. The thickness of the contours, or the contour interval, varies based on the needs of the project, but in general thicker contours are more fitted for modeling very large changes in elevation whereas thinner contours give a smoother look and are good for models with smaller changes in elevation (Hutzel).

The materials used in creating topographical models vary but the general method is similar. These materials include such things as corrugated cardboard, wood, putty or even plastic food containers. As shown in Figure 1, the model building process consists of analyzing a topographic map, then stacking the preferred building material to give the model depth. Topographic models are most easily created directly from topographic maps that show the contours of the land, although this is not absolutely necessary.