Before the computer age, Prague city planners used a large 3D model of the capital to see what new buildings, roads and other features would look like in the given environment. But 10 years ago, the model was replaced by digital technologies; now it has been put to a new use. With new interactive features, the model has gone on display in one of the city’s shopping malls.
The 115 square-metre model occupies much of one the mall’s underground floors, and is now part of the Railroad Kingdom, a private exhibition of several model railways. The plain-colour model, which covers most of the city area, is made of cardboard paper; thousands of individual buildings and houses, in surprisingly accurate detail, are made of plexi-glass and painted white.
But there’s more than that. The 3D model now has several interactive functions that allow visitors to look at hundreds of interesting sites up close. The Railroad Kingdom’s Rudolf Pospíšil explains.
“We set up two modes in which the model can be viewed. Visitors can use what we call info-kiosks with touchscreens that are connected with cameras positioned above the model. This allows you to look at details of some interesting buildings and so on. At the moment, there are some 400 points of interest with information provided from the database of the Prague Information Service.”
Another new feature allows highlighting certain parts of the city and its infrastructure. For example, people can see the actual route of the metro, the city’s railway system, cycling paths, Prague’s islands and bridges, and so on. Visitors can also see the extent of the devastating floods that hit the capital in the summer of 2002.
The 3-D model – in 1:1000 scale – consists of more than 300 tiles, or modules, the first of which were made in 1980. Head of Prague City Hall’s urban planning department, Kateřina Szentesiová, says other cities in Europe also used similar tools in the past.
“It was a fairly common tool but only some cities could actually afford it. As you can see, it’s extremely difficult and demanding to build. As far as I know, there are several such models of European capitals, such as Berlin. I also saw a similar model in London where it’s still used today.”
Prague boasts several other city models; the most famous one was made in the 1820s and 30s by Antonín Langweil. It shows the historic centre of the capital, including the city’s former Jewish ghetto that no longer exists.
The modern model also shows parts of Prague that changed in the 1990s. One of them is the neighbourhood of Holešovice where several development projects replaced old houses along the river. And there are also several mistakes. Rudolf Pospíšil again.
“That’s because the model was gradually assembled over a period of 20 years. Some of the modules were made once, others were created repeatedly. You can notice that a road between the Olympic Hotel and the area known as Krejcárek ends in the middle of a slope. When they got to that part, all work on the model was stopped.”
More information about the 3D model of Prague can be found at www.modelprahy.cz.
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