Once you choose the city (facing), a zoomable satellite map lets you choose the street and the very building
you want to model. Then pick from a series of fully adjustable 3D icons (this page) that most closely match
the building shape. The accurate model emerges incrementally through various satellite views.
effort to the internet, explaining that the nascent
infrastructure — Google Earth — already exists and
merely needs to be filled in. “Plus, we want to create
a community of mapmakers,” he said, and I had to
admit: I loved modeling buildings in my favorite city.
But I was curious: how long would it take Google
to approve — or reject — my models? And what
were their criteria for doing so? About a week,
Limber said, once Google techs determined it was
a reasonably good likeness and not a duplicate of
one already further along in the process.
A week passed as I attempted more complicated
buildings: places I’d worked and visited. Some were
modeled already; others required more time than
I was willing to spend. Still, I liked how Building Maker
made me see architecture anew, encouraged me
to scrutinize a building’s aesthetics. Even an edifice
as drab as the DMV became interesting once I discerned it was made of a series of staggered slabs.
Yet after a week, my models remained unapproved. I phoned Limber back. The popularity of
Building Maker’s launch meant they were a little
backed up, he explained sheepishly. But at my
behest, clicking into my warehouse, he crowed,
“Those are awesome!”
“We want to create
I glowed with pride.
Sure enough, a few days later, my little phalanx
of San Francisco models appeared on Google Earth
— abrupt, odd-looking edifices springing up from
the flat map and beginning to populate the city’s
impossible topography. Every day I see more of
them, modeled by me and others, and soon anyone
will be able to tour the San Francisco I know and
love. I hope that in time, Google will perfect a
technology that models the fog, too, that clings
like cotton candy to her hills in the afternoons.
Building Maker: sketchup.google.com/3dwh/
Colin Berry ( email@example.com) is a freelance arts and design
writer who lives in Los Angeles. He is the author, with Isabel
Samaras, of On Tender Hooks (Chronicle Books).