4D city map puzzle
Image: 4D Cityscape

Puzzles from 4D Cityscape let you piece together the puzzle of the city plan, then add the 3D buildings as they were built over time.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, but if you’re good at puzzles, New York City, London or Paris could be – right on your dining room table. The scale will be a tad Lilliputian, but you’ll get a three dimensional view of these cities and see how they developed over time.

The Canadian company 4D Cityscape has created a line of city puzzle maps that provide more than any two dimensional puzzle can. The 4D puzzles come with a collection of 3D scale model buildings and a timeline so that you can "build" the city structures chronologically, as they appeared over time.

First you put together the 2D puzzle, creating a map of the city center. The pieced-together base map is thick enough to provide indentations into which the building models will sit. That’s where the temporal aspect of the city appears. The 4D puzzles come with a history timeline showing when each building was constructed. Follow the numbers on the timeline, and your city takes form block by block until it reaches its present shape.

4D NYC puzzle timeline
Image: 4D Cityscape

The New York City 4D puzzle map comes with a timeline of buildings, in this case bringing us into the future.

In the case of New York City, the puzzle pops all the way into 2013: one of the buildings is the not yet completed Freedom Tower where the World Trade Center towers used to stand. The process of putting together the puzzle becomes a history lesson and time lapse view of the evolution of the city. And the finished puzzle reminds us that any map is really no more than a highly edited snapshot of a certain place at a certain time.

The puzzles cost $40, and the list of cities includes the above-mentioned NYC, London and Paris, as well as Las Vegas, Berlin, Toronto, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Sydney, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. Alas, Rome is not available; that ancient city can never be built in a day, the puzzle makers seem to be telling us.