Autodesk Gallery in San Francisco: Getting physical Exhibit

As I walk to the Autodesk Pier 9 office, I can see the Salesforce building in progress:


My day begins with it because I can also see it on my ferry ride into the city:


Years before the first shovel hit the dirt on that site, Autodesk and Steelblue (a San Francisco-based creative agency that transforms real estate speak into head-turning visual narratives) helped everyone envision the building in context.


There's an Autodesk Gallery exhibit that harkens back to that time.


The Autodesk Gallery at One Market in San Francisco celebrates design — the process of taking a great idea and turning it into a reality. With about 60 different exhibits regularly on display that showcase the innovative work of Autodesk customers, the gallery illustrates the role technology plays in great design and engineering.

With regard to the Getting physical exhibit:




  • Stratasys Objet Connex 500 3D Printer // more

A city is a living thing, constantly changing, always evolving, and San Francisco is no exception. In the years to come, many parts of the city will again be reimagined, both above and below ground. 3D printed years ago at Autodesk's Pier 9 workshop, this model shows the existing cityscape, including they yet-to-be-built Salesforce Building set to be completed by 2018. Used to design and understand future projects in context, digital models are now being printed by city planners and real estate developers to heighten the tactile sense of the real, albeit future, world.

  • In recent years, Autodesk has been working with customers and partners to create digital 3D models of cities all over the world. They are incredible tools for urban planning, but sometimes the tactile experience of a physical model provides insights and understanding you can't get from a screen.

  • In May 2014, Autodesk and Steelblue unveiled the largest-ever 3D-printed scale model of San Francisco. The model covered a 115+ block area encompassing the Financial and South of Market (SOMA) districts.

  • The model was created to aid real-estate developer Tishman Speyer in telling the story of urban development in the rapidly changing SOMA neighborhood, where numerous new buildings and infrastructure projects are under way — including Transbay Transit Center and associated underground rail lines and skyscraper above — to be completed sometime this year.

  • Models like this one help with urban planning and building construction decisions that are better understood with the kind of physicality that only a real-world 3D replica offers compared to digital images or digital models.

  • The model was fabricated at Autodesk's Pier 9 workshop on two Objet Connex 500 printers with a print resolution of 16 microns, based on a digital model that the Steelblue team had been building up from photogrammetry (converting pictures to 3D models), city planning data, and architectural drawings over the course of years.

  • The 3D print itself took about 2 months to complete, and at approximately 36 square feet and weighing 150 pounds, it's the largest 3D-printing project completed at Pier 9 to date.

  • Because the model is 3D printed in square block sections, the physical model can be quickly updated as the cityscape changes — or as new future designs for buildings emerge. Prior to 3D printing, city planners can view prospective buildings in context using InfraWorks 360.

Thanks to the Autodesk Gallery team for the descriptive text for this blog post.

The Autodesk Gallery in San Francisco is open to the public on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. There is a guided tour on Wednesdays at 12:30 pm and a self-guided audio tour available anytime. Admission is free. Visit us.

A skyscraper is alive in the lab.