3D Atlas of Ann Arbor:
The Google Earth® Approach

Part II

Sandra Lach Arlinghaus

Note:  Google Earth
® and Google SketchUp® are both names trademarked by Google®.

Part I of this work concluded with the comment below (cyan background in table below).  During the meeting on June 9 (yellow background in table below), in which Part I was displayed to a set of viewers, the authored noted (as does Part I) that textures placed on buildings in Google SketchUp® did not transfer to Google Earth®

During the past 6 months presentations of the 3D Atlas of Ann Arbor, 1st Volume  (without Google Earth/SketchUp®), were given by the author to various groups of community leaders.  Particular wishes, beyond what was presented in that material were:
  • a desire to model buildings
  • a desire to introduce detail at the level of a single building (awnings, window displays, design elements of the building, and so forth)
  • a desire to measure the effect of shadows
  • a desire to be able to add buildings oneself, in considering possible sites for future buildings
  • a desire to build an Ann Arbor game
  • a desire to be able to own easy-to-use software and do all of the modeling on a home computer, or a city council computer, with no additional purchase of software.
The Google Earth/SketchUp® package enabled the entire wish list.  It is an important tool to add to the glittering array of software already employed by many urban and environmental planners.
What remains, beyond the obvious (but time-consuming) completion of all buildings and field-checking of heights and facades, is:
  • to integrate the effect of terrain
  • to learn to transform the files into a format that will play out in an immersion CAVE or other interesting 3D visualizations.
On June 9, 2006, the author presented the material in this article to an invited group at the 3D Laboratory of the Duderstadt Center at The University of Michigan:  John Nystuen, Gwen Nystuen, Fred Goodman, Ann Larimore, and Bart Burkhalter.  Staff of the 3D Lab were also present for some or all of the presentation.  Click here for photos from the event:  photo 1; photo 2.
Lars Schumann informed the author on June 12 that a new version of Google Earth® and Google SketchUp® had just been released and that the new version supported textures in Google Earth® (among other things).  The links below are links to files to load directly into the most recent version of Google Earth®.  Download the files, and then open them in Google Earth® using the File|Open command.  Also upload the aerial.  Then, you should see a section of downtown Ann Arbor, Michigan, complete with building textures applied to modeled buildings (completely redone from the effort in Part I).  Given that the photographic textures were in good shape and needed little extra work, it took about 15 hours to build the model of 6 blocks of the downtown--a small effort when compared with previous work.  The image that follows the links is a screen capture from the smaller of the two files, showing textured buildings in Google Earth®.

  • Aerial link:  image.  Load directly into Google Earth®.  It will be positioned correctly.
  • Main Street, historic district (first image below)
    • Buildings, small file (3.6 Mb):  Load directly into Google Earth® and drive around the streets--3 blocks.
    • Buildings, medium file (4.4 Mb):  Load directly into Google Earth® and drive around the streets--4 blocks.  Source of the image below.
  • Huron Street, buildings (9.5 Mb)  link to file for Google Earth®;  interesting modeling of buildings in Google SketchUp® (second and third images below).
  • All Buildings, large file (10.8Mb):  Load directly into Google Earth® using a Pentium 4+ machine with at least 1GB of RAM.

The author thanks Michael Batty, University College London for his encouragement in with respect to the Google Earth® upload.  She thanks Lars Schumann of the 3D Laboratory of The University of Michigan for pointing her to Google SketchUp® and especially for his continuing follow-up on the topic.  She thanks Professor Klaus-Peter Beier (The University of Michigan College of Engineering) and the staff of the 3D Laboratory, as well as Matthew Naud (Environmental Coordinator, City of Ann Arbor), for their continuing interest and encouragement in all aspects of this project over the past 4 years.  Merle Johnson of the City of Ann Arbor kindly supplied images of various sorts for this and for related projects.  For a full list of all individuals associated with this project, please see the online 3D Atlas of Ann Arbor also on the IMaGe website.

Solstice:  An Electronic Journal of Geography and Mathematics, Institute of Mathematical Geography, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Volume XVII, Number 1.