Sunday, October 01, 2006

Memphis in 3D

First Baptist Church on Beale StreetBecause I believe in the creative and persuasive power of visualization, I propose that we create a software repository for 3D models of Memphis architecture, destroyed, existing, proposed and imagined.

The content can be submitted by anyone and used by anyone, without fee or favor. Not just architects, not just professionals, not just Memphians -- anyone. The content should exist in the Commons. Possible users include:
  • urban planners.
  • architects.
  • neighborhood and community development associations.
  • developers.
  • game creators.
  • filmmakers.
  • entrepeneurs.
  • graphic artists.
  • economic development professionals.
  • tourism professionals.
  • law enforcement.
  • Google Earth junkies.
  • citizens.
High-quality tools to create and use such 3D content, like Google's SketchUp or Blender (my personal favorite), are freely available and, in most cases, easily used. The ability to create these models will depend on nothing more than a person's inclination.

As I mentioned above, we could categorize the architectural models like this:
  1. destroyed: architecture that once existed in Memphis but has been destroyed (the word "destroyed" isn't as painful to me as the word "demolished").
  2. existing: buildings that exist at the time the 3D models were created.
  3. proposed: future buildings that have an active financial sponsor.
  4. fantastic: future buildings that have no active financial sponsor, which were designed without any intention or reasonable chance of being built, which may indeed violate all physical laws. This is where we would put crackpot ideas like the Gates of Memphis, of course, but could, probably should, include more reasonable ideas.
Besides architecture, I believe we could include 3D models of Memphis signage, generally following the same categories listed above.

Wikipedia could be the place for it. A few weeks ago, Michael Tiemann of RedHat made a proposal on the Wikipedia Village Pump (sorry, cached version) about a standard format for 3D models of Wikipedia content. He proposed the COLLADA format as the standard for Wikipedia 3D content. There seemed to be some confusion on the Wikipedia mailing lists about the purpose of using Wikipedia for this -- they can enable the upload of this format, but why? There are not many/any viewers for this kind of content. The best answer: "Putting it on Commons". The questions I have about using Wikipedia for a 3D model repository:
  1. does it accept content from those with a financial interest in the content?
  2. Does it accept content about something that doesn't exist?
  3. Finally, does Wikipedia have a tagging mechanism that would allow this content, no matter whether it existed as part of the Memphis article, or the Frayser article, or the Mid-South Fair article, to be searchable and findable as a Memphis related piece of content?
If the Wikipedia proposal doesn't come to pass, then perhaps one of our local organizations can sponsor and host such a repository. For instance, the future Design Center, or Memphis Heritage, or the Urban Arts Commission.


Blogger Michael said...

Wikipedia will accept anything ... for a while. However, a proposed building will be trashed quickly by the Wiki-gods. They try and keep grounded ... for what that's worth at times. You'll need another place for your 3D images ... even the destroyed building renderings since someone will want a citation to it's source and accuracy.

12:39 AM  
Blogger gatesofmemphis said...

I'm just a wiki consumer at this point, although I do follow many of the debates that swirl around it. I understand why they wouldn't want proposed buildings -- not wanting to be part of a marketing scheme. I can't imagine they'd care about a destroyed building. If inaccurate, modify it (collada is a read-write format) or annotate it as such.

I had seen the collada discussion mentioned in some Blender sites, which made me think about the wikipedia as a repository, since it is the commons site. But the 3D models can be anywhere. Another place a friend pointed out was wikimapia. A commons is the important part -- the sharing, the remixing.

8:59 AM  

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