Even as a California native it would be impossible for me to not acknowledge that there really is no place on Earth quite like Manhattan. It is the economic and cultural center of our country, and is home to many of the country’s iconic landmarks and symbols. And the city itself is iconic: its skyline is instantly recognizable to just about anyone who sees it, and as one of the most densely populated areas in the world, the twenty-three-square-mile borough is home to more than one and a half million people. That works out to an absolutely staggering 71,000 people living in each square mile.
As a resident of New York City since he was in his teens, artist Troy Huang couldn’t help be be inspired by his adopted home. It was while he was working his way through design school that he came up with his idea for a stunning piece of furniture that would capture the essence of the city, and help him get to know every inch of it at the same time. His “New York City” project is a scale replica of Manhattan that contains every building, street and landmark that the borough features integrated into a 3D printed and LED lit desk. While creating his amazing desk, Huang visited every block of the city, got to know what its purpose was, and tried to learn the history of all of the buildings. His detailed recreation of the city makes for quite the stunning tribute to one of the greatest cities in the world.
Huang started by painstakingly mapping out the geography of the island of Manhattan and then laser cutting sheets of plywood to match the topography. Once all of the plywood sheets were cut, he layered them together and built a 3D version of the island. At that point he started 3D modelling each of the city blocks individually, using reference photos and satellite imagery to make sure that he got the scale correct. All assembled, the frame of the desk measures 30 x 60 x 32 inches.
The city blocks were designed using 3ds Max and Rhino before being printed out using a striking glow-in-the-dark filament that is partially transparent. Each of the individual blocks that Huang designed is an extremely detailed micro-version of the real thing, and it would actually be possible to navigate through Manhattan using the completed city replica as your guide. The fact that this was all done with basic fabrication tools that almost anyone could get access to is simply amazing. But if you think that this is a boring, stuffy model think again, it is full of clever, unique features, like King Kong climbing up the Freedom Tower.
Once the blocks were printed, Huang individually glued each city block in place using an acrylic adhesive called Weld-On 4, which is a water-thin binding agent that bonds thermoplastics together by slightly melting, or welding, both surfaces together. after the entire city was placed he installed strips of LED lighting underneath of it so the buildings would glow up from underneath. To simulate the water from the surrounding Hudson River, Huang used a liquid acrylic that hardens clear and would reflect the light show given off by the LEDs.
To finish the desk off, Huang built four legs that were designed to represent the fallen Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. Each of the legs was made from individually laser cut acrylic parts that were glued together one at a time. In total more than five hundred laser cut parts were used to build the striking legs. Huang then inserted more LED lights into each leg so the would glow along with the city itself. All of the legs are controlled using a simple USB connection and are capable of shifting between multiple colors. The assembled desk is topped off with a thick piece of scratch resistant acrylic so every detail of the replica city can be explored.
And yes, if you really want a New York City desk of your very own, Huang will make you one for the low, low price of $25,000, which given the amount of work that went into it is actually quite a bargain. New York is only the first city that Huang plans to turn into a dramatic desk, he is also planning on reproducing Chicago, Rome, Venice, Hong Kong and Barcelona. You can check out the entire build process of the New York City desk here, you can learn more about Troy Huang on his website and you can purchase one of his desks here. Discuss this surprising innovation in the 3D Printed Manhattan Desk forum over at 3DPB.com.