Spatial Synthesis
Volume II, Book 2:
Making It Clear:  The Importance of Transparency

Sandra Lach Arlinghaus


Virtual reality files created in 3D Studio Max suggest local changes in flooding that might come from a downstream disruption.  While these files are correctly referenced in relation to each other they are not correctly geo-referenced in relation to latitude and longitude and therefore are not compatible with the original City of Ann Arbor GIS maps that served as base maps.  The red semi-opaque chimneys on the rooftops are not there in the real world.  These serve as links to pages that inventory the building content for emergency management purposes.

The 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 displacement of water due to the building of new structures in the Allen Creek floodplain and also to understand implications that might involve emergency management.

The red rooftop links to building content inventories were designed as a consequence of a building fire in the downtown in which a flammable substance stored in the basement caused a problem.  Matthew Naud, Environmental Coordinator and Emergency Manager (at the time of file creation) worked with the author to suggest various strategies for the models.  Links to the vrml files that create these images are included in the references.

The floodplain model illustrates the problems of building new structures in floodplains and suggests, based on Archimedes Principle of Displacement, the possible unintended consequences that might come about.  When one drives through the vrml model, it is possible to see which basements would be flooded in addition to the more obvious problems for buildings above ground. 

The vrml files have sounds linked to them to accentuate the effect.  A bounding box for various types of sounds, from Beethoven's Sixth associated with the top image, to emergency sirens and rescue helicopters associated with the bottom image, circumscribe sound to make it drop off with distance.  Considerable effort was taken to make the scenes realistic.  They were shown to members of City Council, Planning Commission, University Administrators, and Downtown Development Authority staff.

In eBooks:
In Solstice:  An Electronic Journal of Geography and Mathematics:


Software used in analysis:

Author affiliation:

Arlinghaus, Sandra Lach.  Adjunct Professor of Mathematical Geography and Population-Environment Dynamics, School of Natural Resources and Environment, The University of Michigan.  Executive Committee Member (Secretary) Community Systems Foundation,,

Published by:
Institute of Mathematical Geography
October, 2008.
Copyright by Sandra Arlinghaus, all rights reserved.