Volume II, Book 2:
Making It Clear: The Importance of Transparency
MUNICIPAL APPLICATIONS: PLANNING, ZONING, AND EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT
reality files created in 3D Studio Max were linked together using
semi-opaque kiosks to move from one virtual reality scene to
another. This strategy was created in order to show a larger
expanse of territory than might reasonably have been shown in a single
file (due to demands on computers for much RAM from large files).
The need for such capability was viewed as important in possible
emergency management applications.
links in this section go to files presented to municipal authorities
(at the 3D Laboratory of the Duderstadt Center at The University of
Michigan, at City Hall, and at the Downtown Development Authority) to
visualize possible outcomes from changing heights of buildings in the
downtown and in understanding how changes in zoning might alter the
The author introduced 3D models to her colleagues on the City of Ann
Arbor Planning Commission during her years of service to that group
(1995-2003). Initially, in the late 1990s, there were 3D models
with no textures made in ArcView 3.2 with Spatial Analyst and 3D
Analyst extensions. The Ordinance Revisions Committee of Planning
Commission was able to use these in selected applications.
The image at the top of the page shows a report on a public hearing in
Council Chambers in Ann Arbor City Hall. That hearing was the
outcome of months of work using the urban planning models described
above in association with the Downtown Residential Task Force of the
Downtown Development Authority (DDA). The models were handed over
to the DDA and ultimately to Calthorpe Associates who subsequently used
them in making a variety of recommendations to City Council.
In 2003, after leaving City Planning Commission, the was able to learn
(when serving as a Faculty Advisor) to make more realistic looking
models in 3D Studio Max. In continuing work with Matthew Naud,
Environmental Coordinator for the City of Ann Arbor (and then Emergency
Manager, as well) a variety of other 3D models were developed with
textures on the buildings so that they appeared to be more realistic.
The second image on this page shows a screen capture of a virtual
reality file made using 3D Studio Max. The files were large in
size and were not georeferenced. Thus, their use was not backward
compatible with the city GIS files from which the building footprints
were originally derived. Also, they were not aligned with the
City aerials and contours. Nonetheless, their realism was
attractive. Naud saw them as a possible way for firefighters, in
their downtime, to have fun with them on laptops with the intended
consequence of having them learn more about the road network and street
names of the city they were serving.
Because, the file size is large, separate files with building textures
were built a block at a time. In all, 12 blocks of the downtown
were done. Photographic assistance came from students in Prof.
Klaus-Peter Beier's Virtual Reality course in the College of
Engineering of The University of Michigan. Being able to link
between files was of course critical if one were to drive around town
and learn about it. The semi-transparent red "kiosk" in the
street intersection in the bottom figure is not really there; it was
introduced as a place to click to go to the next file. Because it
is somewhat transparent, building façades are not obscured.
The list of references below is selected from a much larger set.
Additional citations may be found in the linked article co-authored by
Arlinghaus, Beal, and Kelbaugh.
Solstice: An Electronic Journal
of Geography and Mathematics:
used in analysis:
PhotoShop and ImageReady
Professor of Mathematical Geography and Population-Environment
Dynamics, School of Natural Resources and Environment, The University
of Michigan. Executive Committee Member (Secretary) Community
by Sandra Arlinghaus, all rights reserved.