Participatory methods: Participatory 3D Modelling (P3DM)

Participatory 3D modeling is a method of creating and using 3D models of relief based on information from a topographic maps in community planning. The models are formed from paperboard or for the wire patterns, which are then decorated. Individual labels are mostly in the form of tack for point features, coloured strings for linear elements and colour painting for surface elements (IFAD, 2009).

P3DM is one of the very popular methods of community mapping and is widely used in different cultural environments (Corbett et al., 2006; Rambaldi, 2010). Discussion during creating a 3D model can serve as a good introduction for the next steps in solving spatial problems in the community. However, it is important to record at least the main topics of discussion possible, in order to be able to return to them later.

Difficulty: technologically challenging and time consuming

Group size: medium – up to 50 participants (otherwise split into several smaller groups)

Required time: a few days (including discussion)

Links to other methods: This is mostly independent method.

The aim of this method is to gather information and spatial knowledge of the individual members of the group with regard to their personal perception of space and the use of the site in the 3D environment. This is a group work and the overall result is a joint effort of the whole group/community.

History and Present

Participatory 3D modeling is a relatively new method, which is based on group work. In 2007, the model generated from Fiji P3DM was awarded at the World Summit Award as the best outcome in the category of e-culture.

The advantage of the process of creating these models is to create a strong bond between the individuals involved in the process. Another advantage of this model is that it can later be digitized and converted to a GIS environment, the physical model can remain in the community and show not only the result of the process, but also its course and commemorate the creation process and build cohesion. The models are useful for other activities and are mostly used for multiple purposes. The concept of 3D space is intuitive and understandable even for illiterate people.

The main disadvantages are particularly time and energy intensity for the model and heavy handling. This method requires a lot of community involvement, because the creation of models is very time consuming and models are difficult to transport because it is often the work of over 10 m2 in size.


  1. Clearly define the scope of the area, ie the area which will be mapped.
  2. You also need to create a mock-up of the 3D model in the field of sufficient size (at least 3x3m). You can create a model based on contours. Ideally contours are printed on paper, later redrawn on the stiff paper and cut out. Layers are stick to each other in order to create a 3D model.
  3. Select a suitable place to work on model – ideally in a larger room, which is protected from the weather.
  4. Invite the selected group to the meeting place or public meeting.
  5. Present the objectives of the project and the mapping method – explain why it is the most appropriate method chosen and how the results will be used further.
  6. Provide supplies (see below).
  7. Provide sufficient time for the group to become familiar with the model, its orientation, etc.
  8. The creation of a 3D model itself.
  9. Presentation of results and subsequent group discussion.

Resources and tools

  • The area in which it will be able to create 3D model
  • Enough material to create 3D model (paints, brushes, cottons, pins, scissors, etc..)
  • Paper for notes – refers to the facilitator.


The whole process is very demanding and time for preparation. Therefore, it is recommended to devote sufficient technical preparation time. If necessary (if you are operating on a relatively flat area) it is possible to increase the importance of Z values ​​- i.e. Vertical exaggeration.

Examples experiences, literature, etc.

Corbett, J., Rambaldi, G., Kyem, P., Weiner, D., Olson, R., Mucha, J., Chambers, R. (2006). Participatory learning and action. Mapping for change: practice, technologies and communication (Vol. 54, p. 154). London: International Fund for Agriculture Development.

IAPAD. (2012). About P3DM. Retrieved June 04, 2014.

IFAD. (2009). Good practices in participatory mapping (p. 59). Rome: International Fund for Agriculture Development.

Krouhlík, M. (2011). Participatory GIS and 3D modelling as tools for development cooperation. Palacky University in Olomouc.

Rambaldi, G. (2010). Participatory Three-dimensional Modelling: Guiding Principles and Applications 2010 edition (p. 98). Wageningen: CTA, The Netherlands.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s