John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
The 3D-printed buildings are based on architecture in New York, Chicago, and elsewhere, and can glow at night.
Perfect for the urban-planning wonk who wants to build a personal city—or the destructive child who'd like to stomp one to bits—are these tiny, customizable dioramas, which include skyscrapers that can be hacked to glow in the dark.
The adult toys, called Ittyblox, are 3D-printed by the New York/Netherlands company Shapeways, and include a variety of constituent pieces. There's this glassy, jet-black Chicago office tower, for instance, and also a cute clump of New York townhouses. Each one has a different footprint, so arranging them to fit the baseplate might require a bit of "Tetris" skill. But don't worry about troublesome zoning issues—you're the god of this Twilight Zone civilization.
At least some pieces, like the 1:1000-scale Guggenheim Museum and Tudor City building, are based on real-life structures. And all are cut with fantastic detail. Here's the product description for that Chicago tower: "Because some offices have their sun shades down, there is a variation in window color. The rooftop is detailed with a few air conditioning units."
The blocks range from $6 to $93, with multibuilding sets accounting for the more expensive prices; add in $20 for the baseplate plus shipping. Making the buildings glow requires work, though it's probably worth it to the hardcore model fan; some of the windows are cut out and will become illuminated if underlit with an LED. Check out this guide for detailed instructions.
H/t Laughing Squid