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City mega-models as literal and figurative visioning tools
journal contributionposted on 2018-08-01, 00:00 authored by Andrew Toland, Simon KilbaneSimon Kilbane
While speculative maps and city plans have been the primary lingua franca for centuries to investigate and design the way urban centres and regions grow, this paper focuses instead on the role of large physical models of urban areas as a method for exploring and envisioning future urban strategies. The paper briefly traces their historical development from military and defence maquettes in sixteenth century Europe, through architectural models of the twentieth century, to the present day. Four contemporary examples of city mega-models in rapidly urbanising Asian cities – Beijing, Shanghai, Hanoi and Singapore – are then examined. These serve to illustrate the continuing role that physical models play as literal and figurative visioning tools for city makers, be they engineers, planners, landscape architects or architects. The paper posits that such models will remain an indispensable technique – tangible and tenacious in the city-making toolkit – despite an increasingly digital and virtual era.