Mapping vs. Modeling

My project has been initially conceptualized as a map, and although we will be discussing mapping platforms next week, we have already come across several tools that can be used for this purpose. The simplest option is to insert items as markets onto a google map. However, the capability to embed media into this format seems somewhat limited, and it may be overly simplistic for the time period I would like to map to cover.

Another possibility is to upload an image of a map to a platform like thinglink, or perhaps even prezi. From there, the image could be annotated with comments and images that would indicate relevant historical change. The downside of this is that the map would be temporally static, and the map I selected would represent a specific historical moment, which may pose difficulties for showing the complexity of Watts’ spatial development over time.

Today, we experimented with Sketchup, which is a platform for creating spatial and architectural models. Sketchup has the capability to render an extraordinary level of detail. However, it shares the issue of temporal staticity of the mapping options above, and this time, I am unclear whether I be able to annotate the model.

However, modeling my project, at least initially, could offer some tangible benefits at the same time that it creates unique challenges. One advantage would be the intimate knowledge I would develop about the built environment of Watts during the 1960s that would allow me to better understand the experience of the neighborhood from both the planning and human scales.

The greatest challenge that I anticipate is selecting which moment to base the model on: would it be more advantageous to model Watts as it appeared prior to the uprising, immediately afterward, or approximately one year later? The first option may prove more difficult due to the potential lack of documentation, whereas modeling Watts in the immediate aftermath of the uprising would have extensive documentation to draw upon, allowing a comprehensive understanding of the types of structures that had been destroyed, along with its magnitude. However, I am concerned that this choice would appear to define Watts’ spatial relations as defined by absence and destruction if I can not also visualize the cultural spaces which were established in destroyed buildings during the following year. The third, and most appealing option so far, is to model Watts approximately one year later.

This inspires the question of how it might be possible to indicate destroyed or short-lived structures within these models. It appears that toying around with the options for textures and surfaces would allow for a semi-translucent exterior to be created that could indicate a structure that was no longer extant.

As a way of taking the longest route back to the starting point of this post, the need to choose between making models and creating a map can potentially be circumvented by screen capping the completed model, which could become the basis for a map that could then be annotated. There is most likely a more efficient way to combine the most desired qualities of these two platforms, neither of which were able to have the dynamic timeline I would like. However, what I have determined is that spending some time modeling Watts could be a valuable starting point.


  1. Hey Mary, loving your blog! Your work reminds me a bit on what is going on at the Stanford Spatial Lab
    Good luck and please keep us posted on progress!

    • admin

      February 22, 2016 at 8:08 pm

      Hi Brinker,

      Thanks for checking out my blog! The mapping project has been taking place in fits and starts, but will hopefully move beyond the spreadsheet stage soon. Thanks also for directing me to the Stanford Spatial Lab; I am generally familiar with CESTA, but hadn’t yet dug deep enough to find their work in spatial history.

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