Thursday, June 25, 2009

Getting Details Right: Cityscapes

I spent part of today studying - and rejecting - a setting in a series of stories I hope to create with my oldest daughter. The period is a little over 14 centuries from now, and this specific setting is a (for the time) mid-size city.

I'd first thought of a design based on the Shimizu Corporation's proposed 'pyramid' for Tokyo Bay: an outsized space frame of struts running along the edges of a matrix of octahedrons. Like many visionary designs, the Shimizu pyramid looks very cool, requires materials that aren't available yet - at least not commercially - and, in my view, vastly underestimates how much infrastructure needs to be devoted to moving people around.

I made a pretty good start, I think, on a transportation system/building ration that looks reasonable: when I realized just how complicated the model would be.

Here's the deal: these stories are, as currently imagined, going to be comics. "Graphic novels," if you want to sound grown-up, or manga, if you're looking at some of our inspirations.

That means that, at a minimum, some of the settings will have to be drawn. And, since I plan to make heavy use of 3d modeling software, 'virtually' constructed.

I've created a moderately complex setting or two, but nothing approaching the Shimizu pyramid. Since it's an open framework, at least a rough model of the entire structure would have to be constructed.

Back to the drawing board.

I'm using some of the research I did for the pyramid: including the traffic circle and (even better) roundabout. Those systems of handling intersections are visually interesting, give a moderate degree of flexibility for 'serious' design, and could - in principle - be automated.

A real-world example of a roundabout is The Magic Roundabout in Swindon (between London and Bristol). There's a pretty good writeup about Swindon's roundabout in the Wikipedia.

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