When Sunnyvale, Calif., began a major revitalization effort downtown, the typical architectural renderings just would not do. Instead, planners turned to three-dimensional simulation to showcase their ideas.
"The city of Sunnyvale prides itself on the high-tech industry," says urban planner Katrina Rice. "3-D modeling is very easy to understand, especially for people who aren't familiar with architecture."
Using software from San Jose, Calif.-based MultiGen-Paradigm, engineers created an eight-block model that includes a shopping center, a regional mall, office buildings, a pedestrian plaza and walkway, a new parking garage, the city's historic Murphy Street, and even an animated fountain and virtual people. The model also shows a refurbished Cal Train Station with train, bus and bicycle.
The cost of the simulation varies based on its sophistication and available data. Since Sunnyvale did not possess a lot of digitized data, the company had to shoot some aerial photographs of the city to insert in the simulation. The model was completed in less than two months.
The model has been shown to city officials as well as to residents, who are enthused about the downtown redevelopment, Rice says. The model has allowed stakeholders, such as city planners, residents, and potential downtown tenants, to evaluate the plans before construction begins. "It's really become a consensus-building tool," she says. During presentations, Rice was able to make design changes to the model to show different options for downtown elements.She also can change the view of the model from overhead to ground.
"We have a strong economic base and a huge residential component," Rice says. "Downtown needs to get going. With this tool, people can easily visualize the ideas we have to put life back into downtown."
Construction is scheduled to begin next spring. The train station is expected to be completed in late 2000.