3D models of the Fair Landscape – From Physical Models, to Game Environments, to Design Tools

Many people have studied the landscape of Flushing Meadows Corona Park over the years. These studies include multiple 3D modeling efforts that range from the creation of physical models built of wood and plastic to animation that places representations of world’s fair pavilions in a game environment. This makes the park a ripe case study for experimentation and comparison between different methods and 3D platforms.

The Physical Model

The image above shows the Panorama of the City of New York, which was constructed prior to the 1964-65 world’s fair and updated in 1992. The panorama illustrates major limitation of physical models, which is the necessity to physically and permanently change the model to represent different points in time. In addition, the physical model has no embedded record of the change and the viewer cannot return to an earlier landscape, as one can using digital tools.

Prior to the fair, another large model was used by Robert Moses and other fair officials for planning purposes. The 3D models were created as a method of visualizing fair pavilions as they were being designed and constructed. The story of that model illustrates both the value of using physical models at the time and also its complications.

3D Game Environments

Lori Walters, a faculty researcher at the University of Central Florida, produced the game. She has been using Maya and Unity to create games for teaching kids Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) skills and engaging the public in the history of the 1964-65 world’s fair. Dr. Walters has also been experimenting with 3D laser-scanning, which produces point-clouds that can capture existing conditions of the New York State Pavilion in high relief.

Recent movies such as Tomorrowland and Iron Man 2 also use sophisticated techniques to generate a 3D world’s fair landscape as a backdrop.

Free Online Web Tools

There are also free web tools that allow users to access, create, and share 3D models. For example, world’s fair and sports enthusiasts have modeled buildings and other elements of the landscape at Flushing Meadows Corona Park (as well as other world’s fair sites) and placed them in the Sketchup 3D Warehouse. These models can be downloaded and viewed in Google Earth. Some of these models are being collected and incorporated into our 3D modeling efforts.

This Research Project

This NCPTT funded research project adds another layer of 3D modeling. In this research project, the 3D modeling techniques we are investigated were aimed at understanding how the landscape has changed through time and to develop, visualize, and analyze alternative preservation and design scenarios. We have explored means of cumulatively adding detail to models that represents a continuously evolving landscape and tools techniques that can be used to facilitate both professional and citizen contributions to design and preservation strategies.

Photo credit for top image: Queens Museum of Art | The Panorama of the City of New York | Flushing Meadows in Queens, including the Unisphere, the Queens Museum (the New York Building), etc. Photo by Chris Devers via Flickr.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *