Building a Town In A Computer in Four Dimensions

batawa computer model fai photo
Images credit CIMS

3D modelling is pretty common these days; Google even gives away Sketchup so that anyone can do it. BIM, or Building Information Modelling, is more sophisticated; with BIM you build the project in your computer, with every hidden 3D component modelled, not just the visible ones.

Stephen Fai of Ottawa's Carleton Immersive Media Studio (CIMS) takes it to the next dimension, adding the fourth, time.batawa computer model fai photo

In 1939 Thomas Bata fled Czechoslovakia ahead of the Nazis and relocated his shoe manufacturing empire to Canada. According to CIMS:

Later that year, he purchased 600 hectares on the Trent River in south-eastern Ontario and began the development of a factory town modeled on his father's form of benevolent capitalism that had proved so successful in his home town of Zlin. By 1999, the factory fell victim to the not-so-benevolent nature of global capitalism and the village of Batawa faced an uncertain future. In 2008, Sonja Bata, the wife Thomas Bata Jr., purchased what remained of the village from the Bata Corporation with the intention of re-establishing Batawa as a model community and an international example of social responsibility and environmental stewardship.

Presenting at the Ontario Heritage Conference in Cobourg, Ontario, Fai showed an electronic model of Batawa, that showed its start, its present and its proposed future.

batawa computer model fai photo
Click here for link to video of project

This BIM incorporates diverse sources of data, from quantitative assets (including historic architectural drawings, topographic surveys, planning proposals, and point cloud data) to significant qualitative assets (historic photographs, first-hand accounts from residents). Our BIM does not represent a frozen moment in Batawa's history, but leverages the capabilities of BIM software to provide a navigable timeline that chronicles tangible and intangible changes in the past and the future of this Bata company town.

BIMs often document changes and built conditions that represent the dimension of time, and I have seen landscape models that show changes over time. But I had never seen an entire town, from its origin to its present, plus projections of its future, all built into one giant model.


This technology has so much promise; if we want to know where we are going with our cities and towns in a world after oil, we have to know where we came from and learn from it. What a powerful way to visualize it.

More at CIMS

More on Models:
1:1 Making the Digital House
First 3D-Printed Car Hits The Road

Tags: Canada | Computing | Green Building


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