Sandra Lach Arlinghaus

A sequence of three e-mails sent to
City Council, appointed officials, selected City staff, representatives of environmental organizations, news media representatives, and selected members of the public.

Dear Friends,

Eureka!  Is Archimedes in Ann Arbor???  If he is not, perhaps he should be!  As water Archimedes displaced from the tub while taking a bath overflowed onto neighboring terrain, it gave him the needed inspiration to determine the percentage of gold in the king's crown and ensure the proper creation and development of the promised item.  Heavy items put into a full tub cause overflow into areas prepared for such an event and perhaps also into areas not prepared for such an event.  It is not a long leap therefore to imagine that heavy items placed into an EMPTY tub will cause perhaps unforeseen amounts of overflow when the tub is filled to its previous capacity. Indeed, a large tub with several anvils placed in it might even cause flooding of the corners of Archimedes bath house!

Municipal authorities have the power to prevent such overflow from being "unforeseen."  The "floodway" is the bathtub; the surrounding overflow area is the "floodplain"--the area prepared for such overflow.  The entire bathhouse is the "watershed" (anywhere the water might flow, given sufficient impetus, from the tub including into areas unprepared for such an event).  When substantial objects, such as buildings, are placed into the floodway or the floodplain, the overflow area is expanded into locales not normally prepared to serve as overflow areas.  The rise and fall of water in a bath tub takes place in the short run.  The history of the rise and fall of water on the Earth is etched into the existing urban and rural landscapes.  To ignore it is to invite disaster.  Long-range planning, that involves careful attention to how what happens in one part of a watershed will affect what happens elsewhere in the watershed, can prevent disastrous unintended consequences.  (Senator Brater notes that she agrees that we need to do planning based on watersheds and that she has developed some legislation to support this approach.)

As we anticipate possible changes in the downtown, I hope that we as a community ensure that we do not permit anvils to be placed in our downtown bathtub or overflow area.  Buildings in the floodway or floodplain are such anvils that can displace floodwaters elsewhere.  Floodplains are for floods. Some might argue that buildings can be built on stilts or that there can be tradeoffs in floodplain shape.  These are, by their very nature, arguments that recognize the basic principle of water displacement of Archimedes. Long-range solutions that endure are ones that are founded on basic principles.  Therefore, I urge City Council to ensure the safety of our watersheds by refusing to adopt plans that would propose the buildup of any floodplain or floodway.  Also, I encourage them to support legislation that is founded on creative and constructive use of watersheds to guide municipal plans:  the story is already out there on the landscape--read the natural plan and fit in with it.

I've included a link to another story (and one that employs poetic license--entirely my own); one created from the base of 3D Atlas of Ann Arbor that I and others have been building over the past five years. To view it, you need first to install a free download, Cortona, in your browser (Internet Explorer).  Here is a link to do so--it's painless and takes only a few seconds--one click, once there, is all it takes and then you never have to do it again and will have access to any web-based virtual reality model--truly an adventure in long-range internet-use planning.

Link to Cortona:

Link to Flood model:

If you want to run the model from your desktop (particularly if you are using a low-speed connection) backup on the link and download the folder to your desktop if you wish. Notice the word "view" in the center of the bottom panel of Cortona; pull on that, and go to different viewpoints of the scene.  Click on the red "chimneys" on selected buildings to get a simple view of what's inside.  Or, if you are more adventurous, use the buttons around the perimeter of the view to drive around for yourself.  When the music is done, go to the last viewpoint and click on the block to go to the next scene.  Once in the
foggy flood scene, use the viewpoints to navigate.  Again, the last viewpoint will take you to the final scene via a block for you to click on.  All three scenes have sound or music attached, so turn up your volume on the computer.

Should you wish them, the urls for the individual scenes are:

Some of you have seen one earlier use made of a basic form of this Atlas.  The Downtown Residential Taskforce (DRTF) used one page of this virtual atlas in looking at alternatives for new buildings in the downtown.  You no doubt know, but I reiterate here as the person who actually made the models/maps in that atlas, that all alternative scenarios stayed out of historic districts, out of steep slopes, and off of church parcels.  They also stayed out of the floodplain; in fact, parcels whose centroid lay in the floodplain were excluded from consideration.  Parcels whose centroid lay outside the floodplain were candidates for development.  This particular strategy meant that therefore as floodplain maps and boundaries change over time, as they will, and as land ownership changes over time, as it will, that then prospective land purchasers might be encouraged to pursue parcel amalgamation so that the centroid of the new larger parcels would lie outside the floodplain boundary of the time.  Thus, in the long run, the parcel map boundary would approach the natural floodplain boundary.  The alignment of the two (floodplain boundary and parcel map) offers a win-win situation both for public safety and for optimizing municipal funds coming from real estate development.  This plan also supported new building that would accomodate either 1000 or 2500 new residential units (whatever DRTF requested); it did so, from a design standpoint on parcels on N. Main, by employing the golden ratio for height in relation to width and depth.  Thus, plans that support the efficient use of our land and our infrastructure, without jeopardizing our floodplains, historic districts, and more, CAN be created and they can be created with an eye to enduring principles.  DRTF has demonstrated that such an approach is possible.  Calthorpe representatitve Joey Scanga has noted that they will build on the base from DRTF.  I hope that the report that comes back will be built on matters as they involve the floodplain and other issues noted above.  Indeed, Judy McGovern called me last week to ask what my hopes in this regard might be.  I gave her an answer in a nutshell and it appeared in Judy's thoughtful article in this past Sunday's Ann Arbor News (direct link to article from November 27, 2005: or click here, (page 1, page 2) to retrieve the article once it is gone from the News's website).   The views in this note are more comprehensive although still simple in expression (hydrostatics, derived from Archimedes Principle, is a complex and difficult field).

Beyond the mere creation of constructive plans, one might wish also for plans that are sustainable.  Thus, as there are those who might sell city-owned properties in the floodway or floodplain to offset currect fiscal problems, recall that not only might there be unintended future public health disaster arising from such sales but also that such tactics do not support sustainable planning.  They are one-time quick fixes, only, and they bankrupt the future of Ann Arbor as a desirable home for future generations (as does the sale of any broad tract of municipally-owned land).  As times and technology change, there is considerable opportunity for lawmakers and others to take advantage of cutting-edge technology.  Folks in a major university town seem particularly well-positioned to do so.  Thus, I invite you to consider, as the creation of the 3D Atlas of Ann Arbor moves forward, to suggest ways in which one might use it.  In that regard, you might wish to know, other than the DRTF models mentioned above (and featured
on the front page of the Ann Arbor News on April 28, 2004), where it has seen use.  Here is a brief history:

1.  Ordinance Revisions Committee of City Planning Commission:  preliminary trials, 2000-2003.
2.  3D models of various segments of Ann Arbor created for Naud, in response to his specific request:  2003-
3.  Presentation to Community Systems Foundation involving potential for applications of 3D models in developing nations.  October, 2003.
4.  Engineering 477, Virtual Reality, U. of M., Prof. Klaus-Peter Beier.  Fall, 2003.  Student team (Kwon, Lazzaro, Oppenheim, and Rosenbaum) developed, with "faculty advisors" Arlinghaus, Naud, and Nystuen, first view of a few blocks of downtown with building textures applied.  This was an exciting model in that it gave a more realistic view than previous ones.  It ran too slowly on common machines to be used by the DDA/DRTF.
5.  GeoWall display of items above, while in the developmental stages, Nov. 11, at the Duderstadt Center, University of Michigan.  City Council and others were invited to offer input at the demonstration.
6.  National Science Foundation grant application, to develop 3D Atlas of Ann Arbor, made with Nystuen, Beier, Naud, and others.  Not funded.
7.  Arlinghaus made thousands of files in the 3D Atlas, many of which were offered to those from the DRTF interested in interacting with them.  Brief discussions with Pollay about a 3D Ann Arbor (DDA) interactive game.
8.  Presentation using interactive and animated 3D models in Council Chambers at a Public Hearing hosted by the DDA, April 27, 2004.
9.  Summer 2004--full set of DRTF models presented by Arlinghaus, in a 3 CD set, to the Mayor, to each Council Member, and to the DDA.
10.  Presentation to Community Systems Foundation involving potential for applications of 3D models in developing nations.  October, 2004.
11.  Engineering 477, as above, Fall, 2004.  Student team (Nolan, Ramesh, Ishani), developed, with Arlinghaus and Naud, view of Huron Street with textures.  Choice of site to consider came after suggestion from Council Member Carlberg and from DRTF member Kelbaugh.
12.  Numerous articles published in electronic journal, Solstice:  An Electronic Journal of Geography and Mathematics.  Link to one (below) by Arlinghaus, Beal, and Kelbaugh describing the DRTF analysis.  Link to another (below) by Arlinghaus joining various projects over time and introducing the concept of putting links on buildings so that emergency management personnel might be able to see, at a click, what is in the building, from paint cans to computers to whatever else the city staff might choose to insert.
13.  Presentation, at the invitation of Matt Naud, August 2005, to a group of City staff in the Emergency Operations Center. Participants were exposed to some of the 3D Atlas in its current state, with particular emphasis on the emergency management characteristic.  Discussions about 3D Ann Arbor game, as well as about uploading to Google Earth.
14.  Conversations with Mike Batty, University College London, about the development of the Virtual London.  London has used almost exactly the plan we have here in Ann Arbor; except where we use cameras on tripods, they use cameras on helicopters--low cost vs. high cost approach.  They have successfully uploaded to Google Earth.  Discussions are ongoing, currently, with Batty and his colleagues.
15.  September 2005.  Participated in teleconference with Calthorpe; gave them url for existing 3D models I made for DRTF.
16.  Presentation to Community Systems Foundation involving potential for applications of 3D models in developing nations.  October, 2005.
17.  Environmental application of the 3D Atlas.  Fall 2005, Engineering 477, as above.  Student team (Domzal, Walters, and Hwang) with Faculty Advisor Arlinghaus with External Advisors Naud, Lippens, and Blake.  Choice of topic developed in consultation with Naud--damming effect of Liberty Street, and more recent interest in removal of Argo Dam.  The link above, to the model, shows my own first cut at such a model (and it draws on previous work in various ways). It has a number of places where it can obviously be improved, but it does tell one story.   Students this term will be populating the model with related objects and perhaps fine-tuning it according to their interests.  All have opportunity to avail themselves of the world-class facilities at the 3D lab of the Duderstadt Center and of the services of the support staff there as well as of Professor Beier and of GSIs Jamie Cope and Brian Walsh.
18.  Ongoing discussions with the 3D Lab involving the Virtual Ann Arbor and Google Earth; meeting with Beier and staff (Eric Maslowski, Lars Schumann, Brett Lyons, Brian Walsh, Jamie Cope, Steffen Heise, Scott Hamm, and others), November 2005.
19.  Ongoing work with Edmond Nadler, Adj. Prof. of Mathematics, U. of M. regarding use of mathematical modeling software to create a smooth terrain file, that can be extended to the entire city, that is also manageable in size.
20.  Desire to get some of the project into the immersion CAVE.
21.  Ongoing work with Matt Naud and Peter Beier to develop the 3D Atlas of Ann Arbor.
I would be delighted to receive your thoughts about where this project might go; I've tried to include a variety of e-mail addresses but if you think of someone you feel would be interested in seeing this, please feel free to forward the entire message. 2D maps are great for many things as are wonderful architectural renditions.  3D models do not replace such items (in fact, parts are built from them); they add to our power to visualize the environment.  I have many ideas about where we might go with these models; it is helpful to look at a piece of the 3D Atlas in order to stimulate further thought.  As you look at the models, think broadly--where would the extra power that comes from a full 3D picture be important or critical?  As interest in this sort of view of the world increases, so too can a response to getting more done.

I was showing the last set of files, a sequence of three flood scenes--tranquil downtown with small storm coming at the end, followed by huge storm scene ushered in by fog and the loud explosion of Argo Dam and the flood up the Allen Creek channel and floodplain, followed by a final scene with debris littering the floodway/floodplain--to Scott Hamm in the 3D Lab of the Duderstadt Center using the wide screen wide angle white board.  He suggested that it might also be nice to look more closely at the animation to see static captures of the flood at different levels.  Sounded like a fine idea to me.  The idea behind all of this (last set or this set of files) is that Allen Creek is in a pipe...there is no force of water coming down the natural floodway/floodplain.  If the dam were to fail, there is no natural partial counterforce to the water surging up the dry floodway/floodplain.

Here's a sequence of 8 interactive virtual reality scenes with flood waters respectively at about 801, 806, 810, 814, 818, 822, 826, and 830 feet.  Notice the damming effect of Liberty and the bluffs just to the west of Ashley.  The water rises against these and the textured buildings in the scene do not flood...however, all the buildings to the west do flood...the flood spreads out from the dam (indeed, piles up against it), innudating the near west side.

You can enter the set of scenes, and navigate using the viewpoints (as before).  Here is the url for the first one:

If you prefer, however, you can go directly to each of the eight scenes from these links:

On the technical side of things--the original flood was created by pulling a plane up through the terrain (made from contours and smoothed).  This idea takes advantage of the
fact that contours are level curves of a surface.  So, when the plane is stopped at various locations, it stops along a contour (with approximation resulting from the smoothing process).

Please let me know if you have any questions about running the files.  Also, I very much appreciate Scott's fine suggestion and, as before, would be very happy to hear from you if you have ideas about integrating 3D models within your interests--ask, if you want...some things are easier than others and it may not be intuitive as to what is "easy" and what is, please don't hesitate to ask!

Several of you have written asking for the link to download the browser plug-in to view file urls sent previously; apparently it gets visually buried in the first note sometimes.

Here it is again, for your reference.  It's a one-step process once you are there and then that's are set to view any .wrl file now, and later!

Link to Cortona:

The files that are there for you to consider come in two sets; I'll list again, for your convenience, all the urls.

Once you have Cortona installed, click on the "views" in the middle of the lower edge--it contains a list of "viewpoints"--the last viewpoint in the list will take you to the next scene.  So, click on the first file below and use the viewpoints to move to the next two...or, just go directly to any of the three using the link below.

The set of models above shows an interpretation, in three acts, complete with music and sound--scene 1 is pastoral Ann Arbor; scene 2 is foggy Ann Arbor subjected to a flood following the failure of Argo Dam (demonstrated in sound only); scene 3 is the aftermath.

The models below show a focused view of the flood, rather than an animated interpretation.  The flood plane (and in this case, that is correct because a geometric plane is pulled up through the terrain and the contours are the level curves of the terrain) stops at different contours, giving the viewer a chance to study the flood at different elevations--see which buildings are impacted and so forth.  Note that the Liberty/Ashley corridor serves as a dam and that the water spreads away from this over the west side---what about all the extra runoff from impervious surfaces in the downtown...

This is not difficult when one can show people how to do it...but e-mail is kind of 1-dimensional (at best 2-dimensional)...more support for the power of the third dimension coming into play!

As a student team in Engineering 477 works to populate this model (one of them of their choice) we will see what else comes along.  There are many ways one can go with these and, as before, I welcome your creative and constructive suggestions!

Best wishes,

Sandy Arlinghaus.

A few related links and references:

Sandra Lach Arlinghaus et al. Kioskland: A Strategy for Linking Hierarchical Levels of
Virtual Reality Maps

Sandra Lach Arlinghaus Spatial Synthesis: 3D Atlas of Ann Arbor

Sandra L. Arlinghaus, Fred J. Beal, and Douglas S. Kelbaugh The View from the Top:
Visualizing Downtown Ann Arbor in Three Dimensions

Klaus-Peter Beier One Optimization of an Earlier Model of Virtual Downtown Ann Arbor

Virtual London:

"Shed Loads" broadcast on BBC World from 17-23rd Sept 2005

Frueh, Christian.  Fast, Automated 3D Model Reconstruction for Urban Environments.

Google Earth:

NASA WorldWind:

Arlinghaus, S. L.  author of "Creekshed Resolution" passed by Environmental Commission,
City of Ann Arbor, June 2003.

General site for Solstice:

Solstice:  An Electronic Journal of Geography and Mathematics.
Volume XVI, Number 2, 2005.
Institute of Mathematical Geography (IMaGe).
All rights reserved worldwide, by IMaGe and by the authors.
Please contact an appropriate party concerning citation of this article: