This site was born as a Google Group. In the meantime, Google stopped supporting descriptive pages in groups. So what you see here is a recoverd, archival version of the site. Some links may not work.

Virtual City Collective

See these new virtual city collective projects!

Virtual City Collective is a prototype framework for sharing data for building city models in data Google Earth. It is based on a couple of ideas:

  • Your models look better when viewed in context of a greater massing model.   
  • While the Google-Sketchup 3D Warehouse has one level of granualrity -- Buildings, a virtual city wili should allow users to combine models in different ways to compose multiple elements into broader-scale models of places.
  • Having a consistent spatial referencing system that works at different levels of detail will help people to organize and search for content.

Anyone can join this group and post compositions of city models that use the content editing tools of google earth that make it suprisingly easy to combine maps and images and graphic details that you create to make your ideas spatially explicit.

3D massing models of the entire boston area (courtesy of MassGIS) may be added from the Virtual City Collective. 3d models may also be pulled in from the Google-Sketchup 3D Warehouse. Pages posted here that have their census tract and block included as keywords in their text, will be indexed and browseable in Google Earth from the Virtual City Collective index map.

The Future:

The idea for developing this system is that the massing model can be improved one tract at a time -- hopefully with better data developed or contributed by the authorities in each census tract, be they universities or city governments.  Detailed building models will be added one at a time through the ordinary 3d Warehouse routine. Users will combine rough massing models with references to detailed models from 3d warehouse.




This project was initiated by Paul Cote at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design.  It is made possible by the data collection and dissemination efforts of the MassGIS -- for the Boston Building Footprints, and Google for providing the Google Earth and 3d warehouse framework.  We also have made use of a shareware Shape-to-kml plugin made available by Kevin Martin of the City of Portland Oregon.  It is wonderful what can happen when people share!  When using MassGIS data on maps or in digital applications, source credit should be stated as "Office of Geographic and Environmental Information (MassGIS), Commonwealth of Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs."


Basic Tutorial

To get started with our boston prototype, have a fairly recent installation of Google Earth on your computer.  Note that we find that google earth has all sorts of different problems on different machines.  For the most consistent behavior, we suggest that you use the settings in the Google Earth program group to run in OpenGL Mode.  Next,  download the index to massing models that provides links to our boston-area massing models and a new means of organizing the content of the Google 3D warehouse!   You may also want to load Google's 3d warehouse network link.

 The colored area on the map above shows the extent of the VCC Boston Massing Model.  It is too large to be downloaded all at once.  So this index map allows you to select one patch (census tract) at a time.  When you download this index, you will see that it has all of the information points turned on.  These can be turned off with the little checkbox inside the VIrtual City Collective layer at the right hand side of Google Earth. 


For a demonstration it is good to start at a block where we know that there is some properly annotated models in the 3d warehouse.  So we will start at the area indicated on the map above, or type "48 Quincy Street, Cambridge MA" to go there in Google Earth.  Now anyone can go to Harvard!



The little houses represent entities in the Google 3d warehouse.  If you click on one of them, you can download a model or two.  We will download the models for Gund Hall and the CGIS model next door.   These are the only models for this block in 3d warehouse.



Thats very cool, but the buildings look a bit lonlely on this flat aerial.  So , we click the dot on the Virtual City Collective index:



And we see that there is a link to click for downloading a massing model.  So Click it.  Also note that this dialog tells you what census tract and block you are in.  This will be handy to know in a minute.  We also download the massing model for the tract across the street.


Now the problem is that the massing model has rough buildings where our nice models are!  But if we turn on the label points for these conflicting buildings (by opening their folder in the Layers menu on the left side of Google Earth, we can see the individual building models are organized by block and can be turned off individually.

So now all we have to to is open the Features folder for the appropriate massing model, find the sub-folder for the block we are on, and then find the rough models corresponding to our nice buildings, and then flick them off.




Now, that looks better!

If you want to save your edits to the massing models, you can create a new folder in the Google Earth Layers window and drag in your detailed building models and your altered massing models and save it as a KMZ file.  This could be posted on the web or emailed to your mom. Now she can visit without coming over... Have fun!

A noteworthy aspect of this tract-block framework is that it produces a complete and exhaustive referencing system for any place in the country.  This common predictable referencing system is what makes it possible to post model compilations on the Boston Virtual City WIKI.


Questions? Discussions? Look further down this page to get involved!