The first terrain/city models date back from the 16th century and were created for military purposes. Left image: a plan-relief of Bayonne, created by Sébastian Vauban (1633–1707), a famous fortification engineer of King Louis XIV. Right image: a plan-relief of Grenoble from 1848. These scale models were highly prized for the tactical advantage they brought, and they were also shown around for dissuasive purposes. “Il y a un relief de Namur dans les Tuileries, je vous demanderai d'avoir la […]
1900 – Modern Solid Terrain Modeling
The Institute of Cartography ETH Zurich published a great review of past and present techniques for doing solid terrain modeling. Although terrain models are not physical visualizations in the strict sense, the techniques could be in principle used to convey data. Physical terrain models were already being built in 16th the century, and the review covers modern techniques from the early 20th century to today's digital fabrication. Source: Institute of Cartography ETH Zurich (2006) Terrain […]
1949 – Mississippi River Basin Model
As a response to devastating floods of the Mississippi river in the early 1900s, the US Army Corps of Engineers built a large-scale hydraulic model of the entire river system. The model, 2.5 times the size of Disneyland, allowed them to design better flood control infrastructures and to eventually save millions of dollars. In 1973, the physical model ceased to be used and was replaced by computer models. Nevertheless, mathematical equations still cannot capture all the complexity of river […]
1957 – US Army Corps of Engineers San Francisco Bay Model
A working hydrodynamic model of San Francisco Bay and the surrounding waterways, with tides. It is still open to the public as a demonstration, although it is no longer used for research. Also see our related entry 1949 – Mississippi River Basin Model. Source: Wikipedia U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Bay Model.
1979 – Great Polish Map of Scotland
The "Great Polish Map of Scotland" is a 50 x 40 m concrete terrain model of Scotland. It was built by a Polish sergeant who stationed in Scotland during WWII and ended up living there. It is claimed to be the world's largest terrain model, although the Chinese built a 900 x 700 m model in 1999. Source: Atlas Obscura. Great Polish Map of Scotland.
1999 – World's Largest Solid Terrain Model
In 2006, a mysterious 900x700m solid terrain model with military facilities was discovered by a German Google Earth user next to the Chinese town of Huangyangtan. It was quickly identified as a 1:500 replica of a disputed area in Tibet between China and India 2400km away, with perfectly matching orientation. Chinese authorities claimed the model was built 7-8 years earlier as a tank training facility. It is unclear whether the right image represents the same model. Sources: Newswatch […]
2018 – Landscaper: 3D Printing and Assembling of Terrain Models
Landscape models of geospatial regions provide an intuitive mechanism for exploring complex geospatial information. However, the methods currently used to create these scale models require a large amount of resources, which restricts the availability of these models to a limited number of popular public places, such as museums and airports. Landscaper is a system for creating these physical models using an affordable 3D printer in order to make the creation of these models more widely […]