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Stunning 3D Topographic Maps of Any Place on Earth

These highly detailed maps function as cartographic wall art.

3D Wooden Maps

Love maps so much you’re not content to just look at them, but need to rub your fingers over all their various lumps and fissures? Then pick a location, any location, tell it to the folks at 3D Wooden Maps, and they’ll carve a highly accurate simulacrum of it suitable for hanging on the wall.

The person behind the business, who’s reputedly a geologist, uses satellite or LIDAR terrain data to cut topographies in 1.7-inch-thick plywood with a CNC milling machine. According to Designboom:

The essence and motivation behind the project is to give maps another dimension. To do so, the digital satellite terrain data was converted into 3D models, adjusting scales to give an impressive look on wood. The dark layers of glue on the plywood play the role of the isohypse lines as on topological maps.

There’s no limit on scale: You can go big with a map of the world, which displays mountain ranges, bathymetry, and examples of “tectonic plates drift, collision, and rifting points”:

3D Wooden Maps

Or you can go smaller with cities and metropolitan regions, like this model of the Bay Area (San Francisco is at lower left):

3D Wooden Maps

Prices vary according to the job; the pieces presented on the 3D Wooden Maps online store range from $222 to $1,666. Here are a few more examples:

North America (3D Wooden Maps)
California (3D Wooden Maps)
Lake Tahoe, on the border of California and Nevada (3D Wooden Maps)
The Grand Canyon (3D Wooden Maps)
Australia (3D Wooden Maps)

About the Author

  • John Metcalfe
    John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.