Friday, May 25, 2012

Puzzling Skyline

I believe my skyline obsession has hit its peak, or rather its top floor.

Probably because there's a model of the Chicago skyline sitting on my kitchen table, and I can't imagine geeking out any more than that.

Getting to that point took quite a bit of work and dedication.

At a tourist shop on Michigan Avenue, I bought a "4D Cityscape Time Puzzle" for Chicago.  I'd been seeing these around for some time, and after much pining, I finally bought myself one.

The "4D" refers to the fact that the puzzle is three-dimensional-- it includes little model 3-D buildings-- plus the fourth dimension, time.  You can build up your skyline based on what year each famous building was erected.

So here's a 4D rendering of my puzzle:

The first step was doing a regular two-dimensional puzzle of a map of downtown Chicago.  This phase took the most work.  The puzzle itself is pretty crappy-- the pieces are all kinda generic so it often looks like there's a fit when there isn't.   Especially the water pieces that were solid blue, it was sometimes impossible to tell whether a piece was in the right spot.

The next step was putting together a second, thicker layer of foam pieces onto the part where the buildings would go.  Then I had to punch out all the little holes where the buildings would fit snugly into place.

Then I had to go through each of the buildings-- there were 89 of them-- and figure out where they go on the map, based on numbers assigned to each one.


 Here are the first 10 buildings, the oldest ones. 

From there, I just kept adding buildings chronologically...

Until I got to the final product, the current skyline:

One interesting thing about this puzzle is that is also includes future buildings: things that are planned but not built (or finished) yet.

In this case, something called the Chicago Spire is included.  This is a massive spiraling tower at the mouth of the Chicago river that was planned, but has since been scrapped.  You can see how ridiculously huge it is here.

Although it would have dominated the Chicago skyline, it was never supposed to be THAT huge in relation to the rest of the buildings.  Which brings up two important limitations of this 4D Cityscape.

Not all the buildings are to scale.  The Willis Tower (nee Sears) should be way taller than it is.  This is a travesty.  How hard is it to make the tallest building in the city-- the tallest building in the whole fucking country!-- the right proportions?! Same thing for the Hancock Tower.  A lot of the buildings are the wrong size.  Some are way huger than they should be, and some are way tinier.  I don't get it, and it's a real disappointment.  Also, the map is a little off.  It's an approximation, so many of the buildings are not in the right place.

 The other issue is color.  On the box, they have prominent buildings like Sears and Hancock in their trademark black, but in reality all the pieces are one of two colors: gray or bronze.

It makes for a rather dreary skyline (despite the morning sunshine.)
The cat that ate Chicago!
So to dork out to the highest degree, I bought some model paint and touched up the skyline.  I used black, white, sand, blue gray, dark green, and rust to add some color to a handful of buildings. Not all of the colors took very well to the gray base, but it definitely improves the overall feel:

The three future buildings. I decided not to add those until they're actually built-- if I'm still into skylines by then.


Anonymous said...

Cool post. I have a skyscraper obsession myself, good sir.

Anonymous said...

Cool post. I have a skyscraper obsession myself, good sir.

Anonymous said...

Cool post. I have a skyscraper obsession myself, good sir.

Anonymous said...

Wow, internet, thanks for posting my comment 3 times...