top of page

Planning/Printing a Better City

Based in Berkley, CA Opticos Design is an architecture and urban design firm that is rethinking how we zone and plan our urban communities. In response to the increasing demand for walkable urban housing Opticos is leading the way in the development of Form-Based Coding. A type of building regulation that insures a usable and inviting public realm. Their founder is also responsible for coining the term Missing Middle Housing. A transformative idea to describe neighborhoods that provide greater choice in housing types. Opticos' designs include buildings that blend within single family neighborhoods providing affordable housing options.


Transforming the Vallco Mall in Cupertino, CA

After the completion of Apple's new 175-acre headquarters, nicknamed the "spaceship", the city of Cupertino was looking to improve the surrounding area. They chose Opticos to come up with a way to transform the nearby Vallco mall area into a vibrant mixed-use downtown. As part of their design proposal, Opticos held an open door multi-day design charrette with city and community leaders. This provided a forum to discuss the proposal and rapidly obtain community feedback. At the center of the discussion was a large city model showing every individual building in the surrounding area. Participants were encouraged change the design before it is used in the final presentation.

"Titanic Design worked closely with us to help us to make our models in a way that allowed them to be 3D printed quicker and more affordably. Because of their help we were able to produce quality city model that wowed the community"

Models models everywhere!

The city model were printed with PLA, a eco-friendly bio-plastic derived from corn. In Grey are the hundreds of existing structure in the surrounding neighborhoods and in brown were the proposed new structures and the thousands of massing volumes. The color difference allowed the participants to easily differentiate the structures. 

The existing structures were easily modeled by leveraging existing 3D models from Google Sketchup. Then with only a few tweaks Titanic design was able to help Opticos create models that were high quality and quick to print.


Printing the New Buildings

Due to the sheer number of massing volumes that needed to be produced Titanic Design's in house CAD designers handled the modeling. This greatly reduced the overall cost to produce the models and allowed for the addition of some cool features including:

  • Floor lines to provide visual reinforcement of the buildings size

  • Interlocking stories to adjust building height

  • Building additions allowing for the adjustment of the models geometry 

For key structures more complex shapes were able to be produced due to the precise sub-millimeter accuracy of Titanic Design's 3D printers


With an impassioned crowd the city model played a key role in helping build a vision that encompassed the needs of the community. It allowed better understanding of proposal by all members especially given the scale of the project. It also was easier for community members not familiar in architecture to understand plan and allow change, and feel their voices were heard. As a result the project progressed positively.

Titanic Design continues to provide city models to Opticos helping with projects around the country. With a continued relationship and familiarity with Opticos' processes Titanic Design has been able to quickly produce thousands of models with little notice. This is due to Titanic Design's specialization in large format 3D printing which also enables models of any size to be easily printed.

From giant malls to small porches and side yards it has never been easier to 3D print models for any architectural need. Reach out and see how!

bottom of page