(Image: NLA/Paul Raftery, Pic 2 Nils Jorgensen/REX Shutterstock)

It’s a tabletop version of London colour-coded for architects. In this view of the interactive model of the city, unveiled yesterday at The Building Centre in London, red and yellow sections represent sightlines – restricted areas where construction cannot take place to preserve views of famous landmarks such as St Paul’s Cathedral.

The 12.5-metre-long reconstruction, built by design company Pipers over five months, reproduces more than 85 square kilometres of the city. One-tenth of its 170,000 buildings were constructed recently enough to have existing digital versions that could be used to fabricate scaled-down copies with a 3D-printer. Older buildings, however, had to be laser-cut or fashioned by hand, at a cost of about £250,000, before the city’s landscape was assembled with the help of Ordnance Survey, the UK’s mapping agency. The final model contains many elements that are accurate down to the nearest centimetre.

(Image: NLA/Paul Raftery, Pic 2 Nils Jorgensen/REX Shutterstock)

Not everything on the map exists in the actual city – at least not yet. Tall buildings for which planning permissions have been issued have been rendered bright white, to distinguish them from their existing, dove-grey neighbours. There are currently 263 of these future constructions.

(Image: NLA/Paul Raftery, Pic 2 Nils Jorgensen/REX Shutterstock)

The interactive model has been designed for visitors to explore how the city will adapt and change. A projection and lighting system controlled with a touchscreen can be used to focus on certain features, for example sightlines or historic events, by displaying digital animations across the surface. The Great Fire of 1666 can be depicted in one view, where the financial district in the centre of the capital appears to burn. Key facts about upcoming projects to reshape the city can also be brought up.

In the virtual world, changing cities have been captured in time-lapse videosMovie Camera created from online photos of sites snapped at different times. Drones are also being used to quickly produce detailed digital 3D models of complex landscapesMovie Camera, simply by surveying an area from above.

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