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Cities in Miniature

Scale model buildings are fascinating, but entire ensembles of buildings in full scale model cities are truly spectacular. The Queens Museum of Art houses the world's largest architectural model, which depicts all of the buildings in the entire city of New York. Entitled the Panorama of the City of New York, the model is built at a scale of 1:1200 (one inch = 100 feet) and covers 9335 square feet of exhibit space.

Scale models have traditionally been used for architectural and urban planning projects to show the impact of large developments on the rest of the city landscape. Constructing and updating the models is expensive and nowadays most planning models are visualized in digital simulation rather than by physical constructions. But there is more interest than ever in building large scale models of cities. Large scale models are on display at the planning departments in many Chinese cities, as both tourist attractions and as showpieces for the shiny visions of government planners. New 3D printing technology has made it easier for modelmakers to produce complex scale models, while older handcrafted city models of the past are treasured and restored.

Around the world, urban populations are exploding and the largest cities compete in a globalized marketplace to capture capital and host world events. Scale model cities can function as concise visualizations of otherwise sprawling and disconnected urban places. They are camera-friendly icons of urban identity for tourists but are also useful 3D maps of urban labyrinths for local residents. Mostly they are fun to visit and explore with the imagination.

Here is a little world tour to visit several scale model cities in person.

Beijing Model

Beijing Planning Model

Berlin Stadtmodell

Berlin Stadtmodell

Chicago Model City

Building Boston City Model

Chicago Model City

Chicago Model City

Chongqing Model

Chongqing Planning Model

London Model

Cincinnati in Motion

London Model

Pipers Central London Model

Moscow City Model

Moscow City Model

Panorama of Moscow

Panorama of Moscow

Panorama of New York

Panorama of the City of New York

Quito en Miniatura

Museo del Quito en Miniatura

Shanghai Model

Shanghai Planning Model

Stockholm Model


Stockholm Model

Tiny Toronto


Other miniature scale model cities around the world:

Maqueta de Antequera - 1:200 scale handmade model depicting 18th-century Antequera, Spain, built by artist José Carlos Capella

Astana City Plan - 1:600 scale model completed in 2008 of the 2030 master plan of Astana, Kazakhstan, on display at the Palace of Independence

Bangkok City Model - 1:750 scale model built in 2008, on display at the Department of City Planning

Beijing City Model - 1:750 scale model of the master plan of Beijing on display at the Beijing Planning Exhibition Hall

Berlin Stadtmodelle - 1:500 scale model of modern Berlin and several other city models on display at Senate Department for Urban Development

Building Boston - 1:1200 scale planning model built in the 1970s on display at the Boston Society of Architects storefront gallery

Budapest Makett - 1:500 scale 1720-sq-foot wooden planning model of Budapest begun in 1976

Miniature Buenos Aires - 1:1500 scale model of the entire city of Buenos Aires entitled 48 Barrios, 15 Comunas

Chongqing City Model - 1:750 scale model of Chongqing, China master plan on display at the Chongqing Urban Planning Exhibition Hall

Chengdu City Model - 1:1000 scale model of the master plan of Chengdu on display at the Chengdu Planning Exhibition Hall

Cincinnati in Motion - a 1:64 representation of Cincinnati from 1900-1940 at the Cincinnati Museum Center, featuring working trains and streetcars

Chicago Model City - 1:600 scale model of downtown Chicago on display at the Chicago Architecture Center

Dresdener Stadtmodell - 1:500 scale 600-sq-foot planning model of Dresden depicting current and future buildings

Stadtmodell Franfurt am Main - 1:500 scale 600-sq-foot planning model of Frankfurt on display at the city planning department

Le Relief Magnin - 1:250 scale 345-sq-foot metal model of Geneva in 1850 built by architect August Magnin over 16 years, completed in 1896, on display at La Maison Tavel

Hanoi Planning Model - 1:750 scale planning model of future developments in Hanoi, on display at the National Urban Planning Exhibition Hall

Maqueta de la Havana - 1:1000 scale 1550-sq-foot model of Havana built from cigar boxes, cardboard, plastic and sand

Jerusalem Model - 1:500 scale planning model of central Jerusalem on display at the Jerusalem Center for Planning in Historic Cities

Kölner Stadtmodell - 1:500 scale planning model of Cologne which opened in 1993 and has been enlarged several times

Kuala Lumpur City Model - 1:1500 scale 200-sq-foot model on display at the Kuala Lumpur City Gallery

Los Angeles 1940 - A model of central Los Angeles built in 1940, on display at the LA County Natural History Museum

Pipers Central London Model - 1:1500 scale model of central London on display at the Building Centre

Futura CDMX - 1:2500 scale 2500-sq-foot interactive model of Mexico City opened in 2016

Interactive Model of Moscow - 1:400 scale model of Moscow under construction which aims to become the world's largest at 10,000 sq feet by 2017

Moscow City Model - 1:500 scale 1550-sq-foot wooden planning model of Moscow completed in 1986

Panorama of Moscow - 1:75 scale 400-sq-foot diorama model created by artist Efim Deshalyt in 1977

Stadt München - 1:616 scale wooden model of Munich built by Jakob Sandter in 1570 (along with several other Bavarian cities), on display at the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum

Nanjing City Model - 1:850 scale model on display at the Nanjing Urban Planning Museum

Panorama of the City of New York - 1:1200 scale model of the entire City of New York, at 9335-sq-ft the world's largest, built for the 1964 World's Fair

Miniature Oslo - 356-sq-foot planning model of Oslo built by architect Harald Hals in the 1930s on display temporarily at Oslo School of Architecture and Design, current location unknown

Phnom Penh Planning Model - Unknown-scale planning model of planned developments in Phnom Penh

Prague City Model - 1:480 scale model of central Prague made from cardboard by librarian Antonin Langweil in the 1830s, at the Museum of the City of Prague

Providence Model - Unknown-scale wooden planning model of downtown Providence, Rhode Island

Scale Model of Québec - 1:300 scale model of Québec City built in 1806, on display at Artillery Park

Quito en Miniatura- 1:200 scale model of the colonial center of Quito built of cardboard and wood by artist Guido Falcony Palacios

Le Plan de Rome - 1:400 scale model of ancient Rome built in the early 1900s by architect Paul Bigot, on display at l'Université de Caen Basse-Normandie

Plastico di Roma Imperiale - 1:250 scale model of ancient Rome built in the 1930s, on display at the Museo della Civiltà Romana

San Diego Model - 1:50 scale 290-sq-foot wooden model of downtown San Diego built in the 1970s, on display at Civic San Diego

Seoul, Now and In the Making - 1:1500 scale 3355-sq-foot model of Seoul on second floor of Seoul Museum of History

Shanghai City Model - 1:500 scale model of Shanghai 2020 master plan on display at the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall

Singapore City Model - Model of downtown Singapore and 1:5000 scale model of Singapore Island on display at the Singapore City Gallery

Stockholmsmodellen - 1:1000 645-sq-foot scale model of Stockholm created in 2005 on display under a glass floor at the Kulturhuset

Sydney City Model - 1:500 scale model of downtown Sydney on display beneath a glass floor at Customs House

Minato-ku Scale Model - 1:1000 scale model of Tokyo on display in the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower

TinyTO - 1:1250 scale planning model on display at Toronto City Hall

Musée des Plans-Reliefs - Hundreds of 1:600 scale models of French cities created in the 18th century are on display at this Paris museum

Some impressionistic not-to-scale model cities:

Metropolis II - Kinetic sculpture by artist Chris Burden depicts a futuristic city of tiny cars and trains in motion, at LA County Museum of Art

Rolling Through The Bay - Kinetic sculpture by artist Scott Weaver made of 100,000 toothpicks featuring landmarks of San Francisco

San Francisco in Jello - Gooey technicolor model of San Francisco made by artist Liz Hickok