City of Chicago Massive 3D Model

August 30, 2017

By Rae DeVito

The City of Chicago, a global architecture capital with a skyline among the globe’s tallest and most dense, is publicly showcased in a massive 3D model — the largest architectural model known to be created exclusively with stereolithography.

The 320-square foot physical 3D model found a home in the atrium of the Railway Exchange Building, home to the Chicago Architecture Foundation and a launch pad for many of the organization’s 85 tours. At a scale of one inch equaling 50 feet, the model includes 400 city blocks and more than 1,000 buildings.

City of Chicago 3D model built with CyberCity 3D buildings/Photo Courtesy of CAF and CMEW

Similar physical 3D models in Beijing and Shanghai inspired the Chicago Achitecture Foundation (CAF) to pursue building this huge model featuring the city’s famous Loop and city core.

CAF President and CEO Lynn Osmond explains. “We wanted to do something that really celebrated the city. We’ve always wanted to build a model of the city, and we thought this was part of our legacy program. So here we have a model that really tells the many stories that make Chicago such a wonderful urban environment.”

Before the model became a reality; they had a huge hurdle to overcome: the city did not have a 3D digital map.

CAF got together with Columbian Model & Exhibit Works, Ltd. (CMEW) to begin this mind-boggling project. Google Earth, Google Street View, Sanborn Map Company, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), and the Chicago Planning Department put their heads together for the design.

SOM contacted CyberCity 3D, Inc., a leading geospatial modeling technology, products and services company headquartered in Southern California to solve this game-stopping problem. CyberCity 3D (CC3D) creates high resolution 3D smart building models with its patented technology for 3D mapping, visualization, analysis, communication, and monitoring of projects. CC3D got on board, building the much-needed digital 3D reference model for the project.

“The City of Chicago model would not have been possible without the CyberCity 3D data,” states CAF Catherine Tinker, President of Columbian Model & Exhibit Works.

With the CyberCity 3D model in hand, CMEW held the key to creating the STL files needed to 3D print the buildings. Foundation benefactors Baxter International donated its expertise and resources while DSM contributed the resin necessary to fabricate the jaw-dropping 3D print model of Chicago’s loop with stereolithography, layer by painstaking layer. Each of the 1,000 buildings took an average of 20 hours to complete.

“I had no idea of the complexity and size of the project when SOM brought CyberCity 3D on board. The impressive, team-driven force thought out of the box to create this mind-blowing 3D print model. We’re thrilled that SOM asked us to provide the 3D building model for this project,” stated Kevin DeVito, CyberCity 3D’s CEO.

City of Chicago 3D model built with CyberCity 3D buildings/Photo Courtesy of CAF and CMEW

Terry Kreplin, Senior Engineering Specialist at Baxter Healthcare, talked about his company’s philanthropic involvement. “I think it’s all part of Baxter’s whole philosophy of being a global citizen in providing help to the areas that its plants are in. So, I think it’s just one great example of being allowed to do something for the City of Chicago from a Baxter facility.”

City of Chicago 3D model built with CyberCity 3D buildings/Photo Courtesy of CAF and CMEW

As Chicago is a city on the move, the model needs to be updated annually to add new structures and delete those that have been demolished. And, who knows, CAF could well decide to expand this evolving 3D model chronicling the third largest city in the nation’s role as a model for city building.

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