Monday, May 28, 2007

Historical Walks Worth Visualizing

Consider the story of the Smith Hill neighborhood in Providence, Rhode Island. The neighborhood grew up along a major road heading from downtown to the northwest corner of the city. Since it grew up over decades, the architecture follows time in documenting phases in American architecture. Different immigration waves came at different times adding to the diversity of designs reflected in residential housing.

Although various ethnic churches were torn down as the populace changed texture and economics and changing values meant the spiritual neighborhood centers were no longer sustainable, the historical society was able to preserve representative homes of each major architectural era. The Rhode Island Historical Preservation Commission captured the imagination of the historical significance in its History of Smith Hill series of on-line publications.

The significance is another example of man's interrelationship to nature. Many such neighborhood grew up along the flow of waterways that powered the mills that brought jobs to those who decided to settle there. Virtual cities are not just about the physical structures man has created. The ability of man to manipulate his environment, for better or worse, is also demonstrated through interactive visualization.

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