Instant Bin Laden Compound!


Osama Bin Laden’s Compound 1, source


Osama Bin Laden’s Compound 2, source

Within a few hours of the new reports of Osama Bin Laden’s death, these models appeared on Googles 3D Warehouse. Sketchup ready, these 3D models are composed from who-knows-what source material and are made for who-knows-what-ends. Downloading by Sky News for some hot fly-through action perhaps? (see also a project by Langlands and Bell that modeled a previous Bin Laden hide-out in the name of art)

It’s a strange, but I suppose in another way, a perfectly reasonable response to sensational breaking news. Something to keep you busy while you watch the rolling news. And it turns out that the same user has previous for rapid response media-event inspired 3D modeling.

Here we have a column from outside Westmister Abbey (the same one as featured in this post on the Royal wedding, augmented with camouflaged TV positions)

And here some oil storage tanks from Misrata, Libya

And a ‘A harbour complex at Misrata, Libya

Here, Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant

‘Inshore coastal defences at Nakacho near Sendai, Japan’

These super-hot – at least in news terms – sites are interspersed with the most banal models by the same person. Take this one for example:

Waste processing shed for Oxigen Environmental

And fragments of high culture, like the Grand Canal, Versailles:

As some of you know, I have a huge fascination with both SketchUp and Google Warehouse. This selection of models collapse geography and media space, history and the contemporary, the spectacular and the banal into the endless digital desert of SketchUp and Google Earth. The technique and media in effect make all of these sites the same so that there’s no possibility of difference – even when everything else we know about them tell us that they are different.

Is it, like many other forms of modeling, a way of exerting a sensation of control over things way outside of our own influence? Is it a way of trying to make our relationship with media realer? Is this a way of getting closer to distant events that we have such strangely intimate and emotional relationships with? So close we can zoom into until the pixels fragment completely. Certainly there is something in them about our relationship to information, something very different to datascapes, nurbs and parametric concerns. There’s something here about how we understand the nature of a world we increasingly experience through media.

What I wouldn’t give for unlimited access to large scale rapid prototyping equipment. I’m sure that churning out huge one-to-one polystyrene replicas of these virtual approximations would help us find out what purpose these SketchUp models actually serve.



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Pings to this post

  1. [...] A SketchUp model of the compound where Osama bin Laden was killed. Image (c) Strange Harvest. [...]

  2. [...] Laden hideout round up. Sam Jacobs finds the ‘mansion’ moments later in the Google Sketchup Warehouse, the Washington Post has a more detailed model, complete with [...]

  3. [...] A SketchUp model of the compound where Osama bin Laden was killed. Image (c) Strange Harvest. [...]


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