About GenslerOnCities

What makes cities tick? GenslerOnCities explores the planning, design, and the potential futures of urban landscapes.

Search GenslerOn
Cities Topics
Connect with Us
« Gensler at COP21: Art and Climate Change | Main | Small Interventions with Big Impact: Forging Relationships and Improving Cities through Tactical Urbanism »

Gensler Models Oakland’s Explosive Growth

Gensler Oakland’s 3D model of Oakland.

It’s no longer breaking news that the Bay Area is one of the most expensive places to live and work in the U.S. There are a plethora of articles covering the surge of residents migrating to its neighboring city, Oakland. The San Francisco Business Times recently reported that 15 companies have decided to make the move from San Francisco to Oakland in 2015. Oakland is experiencing a major economic boom, which has piqued the interest of multiple parties including politicians, real estate developers, residents, small businesses, entrepreneurs, and more.

So how will Oakland deal with this influx of people and commercial enterprises?

While there are many ways to document and plan for urban sprawl and city growth, 3D models are at can help innovate these processes. In order to understand this tool and its capabilities, we interviewed technical designer, Matthew Ridgeway, who has developed a 3D-printed model and digital model of the Oakland’s downtown neighborhood. Matt talked to us about the goals of this tool, its diverse capabilities, and how cities can benefit from having a similar resource for their own urban development and planning needs.

Hi Matthew! Can you tell us a little bit about the model you’re working on and how it was developed?

Our studio realized that there was a need to develop a 3D model and digital representation of Oakland as we started to work on more projects within the city. We wanted to have the technology, as well as the physical study of the city’s evolving landscape, to inform our practice, open the dialogue about the architecture, and help the city grow in a way that is both sensitive to its existing built environment as well as the residents. The accuracy and accessibility of the model, both built and digital, allows our team to look at the city from a birds eye view and analyze it in a comprehensive and holistic way.

What is the goal in developing the model of Oakland?

We want the model to help achieve logistical, physical, and conceptual resolutions. In addition to the data that can be collected, we want to be able to have larger, inclusive conversations about planning and architecture—and how both have a direct impact on social, economic and political issues. Having a sensitivity to this is part of our responsibility.

How can this particular model be further developed and used?

This model will evolve in parallel with the city. The final model will have a number of tiles to cover all the neighborhoods and districts, and can be disconnected or reattached to allow for conversations about individual parcels or macro conversations about planning and urban design.

3D versus Digital… How does it compare?

The two modes – digital and physical – work with one another. The digital model most comfortably syncs information that escapes the physical model: social, political, and environmental. Digital processing can reveal locations of amenities, infrastructure, planning code restrictions, and environmental factors to better visualize data. The physical model addresses aesthetic concerns to a wider audience. Adjacencies of scale and form are immediately apparent.

The 3D model will help architects and urban planners decide how the city should be laid out to accommodate the influx of residents and new businesses.

Who can benefit from the use of a 3D model?

Everyone in the architecture, engineering, and construction industry, from master planners and urban designers and architects to structural and seismic engineers. There’s a broad capacity for anything from daylight analysis to wind tunnel testing.

How can a city that’s on the verge of a development boom, like Oakland, take advantage of a comprehensive modeling tool?

This tool can address the complexities in a visual/physical format. It provides a tangible context for discussion. At the same time, it provides teams the opportunity to collaborate and make assertions that they might have been tentative to make.

In growing cities, achieving consensus amongst residents, designers, and developers can be a challenge. Can digital modeling ease these issues?

It can certainly help. Understanding the city in terms of mass is important, especially when it’s densifying. Making it a priority to be knowledgeable about these factors provides a platform to discuss the naturally sensitive issues surrounding development and growth in an informed and tangible way.

Are there any other projects, of any scale and complexity that are benefiting from this technology?

In terms of digital fabrication as technique, Faulders Studio and Matsys both generate experimental work, typically as installation pieces. Emerging Objects here in Oakland uses 3D printing to pursue opportunities of repetition and intricacy in built environments.

Where do you see the future of 3D modeling going in the next five to ten years?

We can anticipate more accurate approximations of the physical world in digital modeling. This means that models like this one will be more common and more complex.

3D printing techniques will follow similar trajectories: larger, more precise machines will be more available to small-scale users. Print times will decrease; material options will expand. These advances are already being seized by large-scale manufacturers, as industries from dental devices to consumer electronics now use 3D printing to mass-produce components.

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.