Brian McGrath, Mark Watkins

Manhattan Timeformations

Interaktives Modell zur Entwicklung der Skyline von Manhattan

Manhattan Timeformations [link 01]

Manhattan Timeformations



Manhattan Timeformations zeigt eine interaktive Stadtgeschichte von New Yorks Häuserentstehung. Das Projekt zielt auf eine interaktive Visualisierung der Entwicklung des urbanen Raumes und auf ein Verständnis, wie Städte sich im Laufe der Zeit entfalten. Es kombiniert digitale 3D-Modelle von New Yorks Wolkenkratzern mit abstrakten Darstellungen, um die dynamische Beziehung zwischen Manhattans Wolkenkratzern und anderen Schichten städtischer Information zu erforschen, wie die geologische Formation und die Kommunikationsinfrastruktur, Flächennutzungsverordnungen und Immobilienkreisläufe. Manhattan Timeformations nutzt geografische Informationssysteme (GIS), um gesellschaftliche und Umwelt-Kontexte von Stadtdesign, -planung und –architektur zu definieren. Der ungewöhnliche und hybride Charakter dieses Computermodells erlaubt dem Betrachter, die kartografische Geschichte von 370 Jahren Stadtentwicklung der Insel in Beziehung zu setzen zu den Hochs und Tiefs der Bürogebäudespekulation. Manhattan Timeformations wurde als Teil einer Ausstellung im Wolkenkratzermuseum NYC als online-Präsentation entworfen.

KünstlerInnen / AutorInnen

  • Brian McGrath, architect,
  • Mark Watkins, multimedia designer,


  • Akiko Hattori, 3D Modeler
  • Lucy Lai Wong, 3D Modeler


Vereinigte Staaten, 2000

Partner / Sponsoren

Dieses Projekt wurde vom Skyscraper Museum, NYC (Direktorin: Carol Willis) in Auftrag gegeben. Die Finanzierung wurde durch einen " technologies initiative grant" des New York State Council on the Arts unterstützt.


Das Projekt beruht auf vorhergehender, zweijähriger Archivrecherche. Das Modell und die Webseite wurden von vier Mitarbeitern während eines halben Jahres fertig gestellt.

Die finanzielle Förderung des NYSCA ($15,000) ermöglichte es dem Skyscraper Museum, NYC, den Architekten Brian McGrath zu engagieren, der mit dem Web Designer Mark Watkins das interaktive Modell zur Entwicklung der Skyline Manhattans anfertigte. Es gab 20 öffentliche Foren während der Entwicklung des Modells und des Web Interfaces.

Eingabe des Beitrags

, 17.05.2004


  • künstlerische Arbeit


  • Themen:
    • Repräsentation |
    • Abstraktion |
    • Urbaner Raum |
    • Architektur
  • Formate:
    • Modell |
    • 3D |
    • interaktiv |
    • Computergraphik |
    • Internet
  • Technik:
    • Flash


Inhaltliche Beschreibung

Manhattan Timeformations was begun in the early 90's by architect Brian McGrath, author of a folio called Transparent Cities, "a boxed edition of twenty-four historic and contemporary maps on clear acetate -- twelve of Rome, twelve of NY -- that invites readers to assemble, transform, and contemplate the ever-evolving urban spaces of almost any city". In 2000, McGrath and The Skyscraper Museum received public funds from a Technology Initiative Grant from the New York State Council on the Arts, allowing this previous research to be revisited with specific focus on New York and the age of skyscrapers. Designer Mark Watkins was brought in to put the website together, and to help reimagine the project in interactive form.
Throughout the Summer of 2000, The Skyscraper Museum, curated by Carol Willis, held a series of informal discussions with the public, presenting the aims of the project while 3D digital models of New York skyscrapers were constructed in the gallery by Parsons School of Design architecture students Akiko Hattori and Lucy Lai Wong. These models, also built by McGrath and added to his large, historical / analytical model of Manhattan, were exported and formatted for online presentation. (McGrath & Wattkins)


Technische Beschreibung

The project was constructed with the 3D modeling software form*Z by autodessys, Adobe Photoshop and Macromedia Flash. Exporting from one program into the other required a number of experiments. Data integrity, file size and download time were major concerns. Flash offers the representation of a 2D space in which to work, so importing 3D models into the program involved the flattening of the data and the sequencing of animated views. Flash works well with vector-based artwork. About one-third of the data remained vector-based from form*Z to Flash, while two-thirds were formatted as lots of individual gif files with Photoshop. Flash also allows the designer to consider the presentation of information. Thus, a variety of related interfaces were created to support the data. The designer learned much about Flash in the interim, and Macromedia was eventually kind enough to recognize the project in the Showcase section of their website (McGrath & Wattkins)

Particular skills and resources necessary to realise the project:
Architectural and urban design background and drawing skills, 3D modeling skills, web design skills, public communication/exhibition design skills.

Hardware / Software

Software: form Z (autodessys); Adobe Photoshop; Macromedia Flash



McGrath: Recent practicioneers in urban representation have embraced a belief that computer-generated models will provide a greater truth and accuracy in depicting the city, whether in the seduction of „realistic“ rendered views or in an increased capacity to compile quantifiable data. The immanent convergence of Geographic Information Systems and „walk-through“ urban simulations has generated great enthusiasm, but little critical reflection. This project, in contrast, begins with a desire to „view“ the city beyond the seduction of simulated natural perception and the belief in the transparency of data. My representational language borrows from both the arts of cartography and cinematography.
While the history of cartography makes claims to a greater truth in accuracy, cinema, through the a-centering of the subject by the movint camera eye, and the temporal displacements of montage, brings traditional ideas of „truth and accuracy“ to a state of crisis.
Following Gilles Deleuze and Friedrich Nietzsche, I believe that „... it is never at the beginning that something new, a new art is able to reveal its essence; what it was from the outset it can reveal only after a detour in its evolution.“ Manhattan Timeformations is such a detour in the evolution of computer modeling and urban representation.

Theorie / Forschung

Innovative aspect of the project and particular research interest:
To quote WIRED, McGrath "liberated" the NYC map from the x-y plane with an unusual third dimension: time.This succently describes my interest, to understand how cities unfold in time.

Reactions to and evaluation of the project:
The reaction was quite diverse. Art organizations christened it "digital art", journalists called it on on line data base, designers called it "information architecture", some even called it a 9/11 memorial. The openness of interpretation and diversity of the audience is the most important consequence in evaluating the project. The users learn how to coordinate temporal and spatial information to better understand urban complexity.

Updates or follow-up projects:
No updates. Elaboration of the lower manhattan portion of the model for dvd installation in the world financial center, NYC to celebrate the re-openning of the winter garden.

(all answers by McGrath & Wattkins)

Ausstellungen / Präsentationen

  • The project is online since 2000 and has received over one million hits. It has been additionally presented at international digital art and video exhibitions and in academic lectures. Furthermore it is linked to many educational and cultural sites.
  • z.B.: 12.17.2001-01.16.2002: 9th Annual New York Digital Salon


  • MCGRATH, Brian: Transparent Cities. New York 1994 (New york SITES Books)
  • › Medienkunst und Forschung [link 02]

» http://www.skyscrape…formations/intro.html [link 03]