Article by Sean Finnan: “Can you see me?” says Mark Linnane, over Zoom, as he walks around a plastic structure on the floor of an office at Maynooth University. “That gives you some sense of the size of it. It’s 3.5 metres by 2.”
Linnane trails his laptop’s webcam over the surface of the off-white 3D model, giving a birds-eye view of tens of thousands of tiny buildings, the trails of roads and the clear pathway of the Liffey.
This replica of the heart of the city from Phoenix Park to Dublin Port was created to scale by the university’s Building City Dashboards team, using data from the Ordnance Survey Ireland.
In the five years since they started to grapple with the question of how to present data about the city in an engaging and accessible way, the team has experimented with virtual reality, and augmented reality – and most recently, with this new form of mapping, which blends the lego-like miniature of Dublin’s centre with changeable data projected on.
This could really come into its own as a public exhibit if they start to tell meaningful data-driven and empirical stories, says Linnane, a digital exhibition developer at Maynooth University.
Stories that are “relevant in terms of the everyday daily lives of people who will be coming to see it”, he says.
Layers of Meaning
Getting the projector that throws the visualisations onto the model to work right was Linnane’s job, he says.
He had to mesh the Ordnance Survey data with others that showed building heights for example. “Every single building down to the sheds in someone’s garden have a unique identifier,” says Linnane.
Projectors are built to project onto flat surfaces and not 3D models so that had to be finessed, too, he says. “Every step on the way was a new development. There wasn’t really a process there before.”
The printed 3D model shows 7km by 4km of Dublin and 122,355 structures, says Linnane. That includes bigger buildings but also small outbuildings, railway platforms, public toilets and glasshouses – all mocked up and serving as a canvas for a kaleidoscope of data.
“We’re just projecting data on to it and seeing what’s going on with that,” says Rob Kitchin, principal investigator at Maynooth University’s Programmable City project….(More)”