Have you ever wandered around a major city and felt completely dwarfed by your surroundings? I felt that way on a recent visit to New York City. It’s one thing to see photographs of a city, and another to be within it, trying to navigate your way through the masses of people and giant buildings. When I was in NYC, I felt isolated from the rest of the world in a way that I’ve never felt in any other city – as though it was completely enclosed, walled off by its skyscrapers and structures built nearly on top of each other.
Conversely, I’ve also been on a plane lifting off over New York, and I’ve seen the massive buildings suddenly become small, the entire city visible at once. That’s the feeling I get when I look at the Microscape project, which is currently blowing up on Kickstarter. The tiny, detailed 3D printed replicas of cityscapes were introduced to Kickstarter with a funding goal of $8,000; with three weeks left in the campaign, that goal has already been exceeded nearly five times over.
Microscape was created by architects William Ngo and Alan Silverman of TO+WN DESIGN and AJSNY, respectively. 3D printed architectural models aren’t exactly new; the advantages that 3D printing provides are numerous. They’re inexpensive, fast, and capable of producing levels of scale and detail that exceed those of traditionally crafted models. They can easily be altered and redone, and, in short, architects love them. But what’s so special about Microscape? First of all, Ngo and Silverman have 3D printed the entire island of Manhattan in full detail at a scale of 1:5000. “Tiny” would be an understatement. Looking down on the model is like getting a birds-eye view of the city, as you would from an airplane, but lean in close and you can see intricate details that you otherwise might never get the chance to see in your lifetime.
The model was created using a combination of aerial scan data, photogrammetry and manual 3D modeling. It’s printed in tiles of 6 x 6 inches, each representing about a half mile square of New York City; about 200 tiles make up the entire city. Because the scans are being continuously taken and processed using 3D software, the microscapes are continuously changing. Each time a new model is printed, it is an updated representation of the city as it is right now. If you purchase a tile of one half-mile block now, and then buy that same model six months later, it may look quite different. Buildings are torn down, new construction begins, and it’s all captured in the microscape, evolving along with the city it represents.
Launching a Kickstarter campaign is a gamble that doesn’t always pay off, but every once in a while a project comes along that is so wildly popular that it breaks records, makes the news and sets up a new company as a success before it’s even fully gotten off the ground. Microscape appears that it’s going to be one of them. Early bird rewards have already been nearly bought out, but the pledges are still rolling in. The first early bird reward, which gets you one tile of your choice for $65 (retail price is expected to be about $125) has been sold out, but there are still opportunities to get a reduced-price tile for $75, $85 or $95. Two tiles are available for pledges starting at $145, three for $210, or four for $275. Once the campaign has concluded, you’ll have the option to buy the entire 200-tile island of Manhattan for $25,000.
Ngo and Silverman don’t intend to stop with New York. It was a great starting point (“if we can make models of here, we can make models of anywhere”) but they plan to begin modeling the other boroughs of New York soon, followed by other US and international cities. Eventually, they hope to be able to offer special-ordered models of any location you choose, including college campuses or small towns. Are you going to back this campaign? Discuss in the 3D Printed Manhattan Models forum over at 3DPB.com.