Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Book - The Map Reader


Mapping and maps as the contextual representation and abstraction of an environment is a very diverse, complicated and very challenging disciplin. With the current ongoing trend of spatialisation the understanding and suitable interpretation , but also creation of maps has become more important.

Martin Dodge presents together with Rob Kitchin and Chris Perkins The Map Reader: Theories of Mapping Practice and Cartographic Representation, a Wiley-Blackwell publication. With this substantial reader the editors are presenting a very comprehensive discussion of the topic in five section: Conceptualising Mapping, Technologies of Mapping, Cartographic Aesthetics and Map Design, Cognition and Cultures of Mapping and Power and Politics of Mapping.

Imhof Laufen Relief Shading
Image taken from linkingelephants / Relief shading example by Eduard Imhof showing a detail map of Laufen.

On these topics the editors brought together a very prominent list of contributors. This ranges from Bruno Latour, Eduard Imhof, David Harvey to Mei-Po Kwan, to name a few. The over fifty specially edited excerpts from key, classic articles and monographs are introduced carefully and with a lot of detail.

The editors not only introduces each section with a specific essay to introduce the topic, but also each essay or book exert. This explains where it comes from and what the wider context is of the tet to follow. Further more each essay is accomplished with references, but also a list of further reading, plus a list of publication internal links 'see also'. This refers the reader to related chapters in the same book extending or continuing the discussion. It would have been nice to have page numbers with this section to make it more convenient for the reader to directly jump between the chapters.

Mapping is currently a dramatically fast changing field and with the introduction and extensive use of new technologies it probably even speeds up. Maps are dynamic, online, interactive and probably crowd sourced these days.

The publication acknowledges these changes without being drawn into the buzzyness of these developments, providing key readings and background information. Some of these texts are quite old. Only a dozen or so were originally written this century. However, this provides a substantial background with a lot more relevance than simply having some bibliographical references. In this publication one has the real thing the editors are referring to. Somehow it is like reading a text, plus also reading the references as they are discussed.

This makes for a tour de force of mapping, but mainly provides what the book is promising, an 'coherent edited compendium of key scholarly writing about the changing nature of cartography over the last half century'.

The publisher offers chapter pdf's of the book for download on their Wiley-Blackwell page.

Imhof Laufen Relief Shading
Image taken from the view from the blue house / The Map Reader Book Cover.


Dodge, M., Perkins, C. & Kitchin, R. eds., 2011. The Map Reader: Theories of Mapping Practice and Cartographic Representation, Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Open the Void


It is ten years since the 9/11 attacks in New York in 2001. Quite a lot has happened in the mean time and something unbelievable has become accepted as part of lives that will go on. The attacks with two passenger panes crashed into the World Trade Center at the heart of Manhattan brought with them many changes of perspective in the way cities are viewed.

A memorial is going to be opened at the site on 09/11 this September. It is part of the ten year anniversary. After a lot of discussion and back and forward there is not going to a new tower or set of towers but a garden with two fountains. The two sunken fountains are designed by architect Michael Arad and landscape architect Peter Walker.

A animation rendering of the project can be fond over at Dezeen. It is a flight through showing some context and some details.

As a place of remembering this will serve the public with a museum and a visitor centre. No doubt it will become an attraction in Manhattan and indeed a very welcome space. It is a place for families to remember but also for office workers to eat their sandwich. As any urban space it is multifunctional. In this respect the design could probably become quite successful.

The design is built around the two footprints of the towers. The two wholes in the ground are transformed into waterfalls within a forest of trees. As Rowan Moore points out in a article for the Guardian, the design uses materials of commemoration – water, stone, trees, bronze.

9/11 Memorial Fountain
Image taken from nyctrip / Memorial fountain at the 9/11 memorial in New York with broze plates and engraved names.

Another one of the very important elements that are from the original site is the Vesey Street Stairway, practically the only remains above ground. It will feature as an element in the exhibition directly at the entrance.

Memorials are not any more as much in fashion as they used to be. Remembering is not something that fits into a busy dynamic and smooth society. The function of memorials changes as the events move into the distance. In the best case they become landmarks as an integrative part of the individual mental map and a point of orientation for visitors.

Cénotaphe a Newton Boullee
Image taken from 911memorial / Vesey Street Stairway as it will be integrated with the museum.

This is not at all a negative thing, but actually the way the city and its places can live, if people can connect to it and project their visions onto it. Memorials are with their 'non-function' the perfect place for this and have the potential to become essential anchor points for identity and place-making.

The site works as a cenotaph similar to the one placed outside Whitehall in London. However is quite a lot bigger as the entire site is the monument. In this respect it remains more of the project for the Newtown memorial by Étienne-Louis Boullée, Cénotaphe a Newton (1784).

The 9/11 site is massive and the memorial to be opened is at a very large scale. It is both, two sculptures and a park in one. Were otherwise a park has a place for a memorial, that is maybe a statue or a plate. Over time we wil see if this nationally styled function is actually functioning as it is designed.

Cénotaphe a Newton Boullee
Image taken from Wikimedia / Boullée, ''Cénotaphe a Newton'', 1784.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Book - Architecture: A Woman's Profession


Gender stereotypes have changed in the past twenty years and in many areas of professional live the gap between the sexes has started to close. The western society has started to accept that both men and women can do the same jobs and should be rewarded the same.

According to a RIBA report investigating the reasons why so many female architects leave practice in the UK the right to work as an architect was only established in 1919 with the Sex Discrimination (Removal) Act - women were allowed to become architects. However, after a brief moment at work were sent home to do domestic work until the end of the second world war.

Lisa Iwamoto
Image taken from dailytonic / ‘Voussoir Cloud’ by San Fransisco-based studio IwamotoScott (Lisa Iwamoto) with Buro Happold.

The current most notable women in architecture are arguably Kazuyo Sejima from Sanaa and Zaha Hadid from Zaha Hadid Architects. Both are Prizker Prize winners, Zaha Hadid in 2004 and Kazuyo Sejima together with her office partner Ryue Nishizawa in 2010. Both feature in the media frequently with their professional achievements.

In a new book Architecture: A Woman's Profession published by Jovis, Tanja Kullack Brings together a reference book that looks not only at the current situation, but also at the wider context such as education. The book offers a range of perspectives from individual women professionals on a range of topics.

The way the content is presented is very interesting in so far as it aims to emulate a discussion. This discussion is arranged by topic, not contributor. The individual vies are presented as statements under a summarising topic. This structure produces text that is very much a debate as if you had a round table and everybody there would put in their thoughts.

Some of the topics discussed are: on authorship and genius; on education, graduates and students; on identity; on leadership; on success and career and conditions therefore; on media and the 'society of spectacle'; plus of course many more.

In addition to this every contributing architect also is portrayed through their profesional practice through a photo essay of their designs and work. There is no individual practice description or anything only the statements and the work. This makes it quite a personal setting for not having this professional security shield of achievements put up front, making the discussion much more accessible.

Alison Brooks
Image taken from inhabitat / Wildspace by Alison Brooks Architects - Colorful Factory Building - Industrial Building Design.

The publication points out that even though in the education stage the classrooms are fu of female architecture students, the professional world is not, especially not in leading roles. Education has only recently become female dominated but the participants in this bok very often reflect on their personal education as the defining element and the absence of female role models has its impact. As for example Alison Brooks reflects in the text: ... I wasn't sensitive at the time (to the fact that non of the studio teachers were female). Until recently, we were kind of brainwashed into thinking that men are the authority figures; therefore, they teach, run things, etc. Women have been accepting this for such a long time. Men are raised, or grow up expecting to be in positions of leadership and women do not.

Architecture: A Woman's Profession
Image taken from amazon.ca / Architecture: A Woman's Profession - book cover.


Kullack, T. ed., 2011. Architecture: A Woman’s Profession, Berlin: Jovis.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

London aNCL


London was the first city we collected Twitter data for when we started to create the New City Landscape (NCL) project, monitoring location based Twitter activity in urban areas. This was back in May 2010 and since we have collected data for a lot more cities from around the world.

We have now finally also an animated NCL (aNCL) version using the same dataset. This part of the project was only developed earlier this year in collaboration with Anders Johansson at CASA and we are trying to catch up on the different cities we have data for. A series of aNCL visualisations has already been realised.

aNCL London
Image by urbanTick for NCL / Showing four screenshots taken from the aNCL visualisation for a weeks worth of Tweets in and around London. The timings are midnight, morning, afternoon and evening. Each do is a tweet, re-tweets show a lin between sender and re-sender.

There are only very few features we are using for these visualisations. A characteristic landscape feature to roughly describe the urban area and the 30 km collection radius parameter to provide scale. Other than that there are only the individual Twitter messages that were collected over the period of one week. THe animation superimposes all seven days in to 24 hours.

With the visualisation we are highlighting the way information disseminates through re-tweeting of messages. An RT message will show a thin yellow line between original sender and re-sender. The information travels at some speed, which is based on the time it takes between sending and resending.

London, even though the data is already a year old is compared to other cities a very busy place in Twitter terms. We have a lot of individual messages, but more interesting there are quite a lot of different interactions happening simultaneously. Where as other cities don't show a lot of interaction, in London the sharing of information is quite an important part of tweeting. An interactive, but static activity map can be found at London NCL.

Its great to see how London wakes up between 07h30 and 09h00 in the morning after a moderat night. Then there is however, not very much sharing at this point of the day. Only after lunch and especially later in the afternoon the sharing really starts in London. It is almost as if the city was to digest the information it had created earlier in the day, reprocessing it and passing it on.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Book - Figure of Motion


Motion is both elementary and fleeting; it is a fundamental precondition to our survival and our civilization. Motion is the functional basis to the discovery, measurement and exploration of the world that we live in. Elucidating and calculating motion are central issues within our culture, which is not only based on motion but designs it, being built upon a history of dynamics and acceleration.

The Jovis Verlag Gmbh publication Gestalt der Bewegung Figure of Motion is edited by Annett Zinsmeister and was published in July 2011.

The book presents Representatives of different disciplines—ranging from architecture to car design, from art-, cultural- and media-studies to sociology—discuss the depiction and design of motion in art, architecture, design, dance, and technology. This overview of historic developments and current trends discloses some surprising, border-crossing correlations.

An interesting chapter for example is on ergonomics and the history of making human motion to sync with the rhythm of machine production. Inge Baxmann is discussing the work of Frederick Winslow Taylor who used photography and video to dissect complex working processes in to micro movements and reassemble them to fit better with the machine cycles.

This is a very interesting perspective since motion, especially human motion is generally taken given and natural. We simply move the way we move because of some biological constraints. However as Baxmann argues there i a great deal of training and capitalist rationalisation. Of course this would then on a larger scale be similar as to the way we move in cities and urban areas. WHere we are trained to step in sync with he beat of the location.

dance body motion
Image by Andrew Davidhazy taken from people.rit.edu / Figure in Motion
Stroboscopic Photograph of a dancer in motion.


The publication includes essay contributions by Inge Baxmann, Margitta Buchert, Söke Dinkla, Christophe Girot, Scott de Lahunta, Claus Pias, Stephan Rammler and Annett Zinsmeister, and interviews with Michael Schumacher and Chris Bangle.

For a sample preview of the book see HERE.

Figure of Motion
 book cover
Image taken from architecturebooks / Figure of Motion book cover.

Zinsmeister, A. ed., 2011. Gestalt der Bewegung Figure of Motion Weisenhof., Berlin: Jovis Verlag Gmbh.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Networks Networks


The main buzz word of the 2011 discussion in urban and spatial research is networks. Networks start to appear everywhere and everything is linked in to most other things. This is however, in fact not new. The network discussion has started at least ten or fifteen years ago.

It is very fascinating how network are entering the repertoire of scientists and with the tools to construct analyse and draw them more and more data is analysed towards its network structure. Some of the platfomrs like Gephi or Cytoscape, but also the integration of network analysis capacity with existing software such a GeoTime in version 5.1 makes this emerging branch accessible to a wider research community. The basic elements of nodes as the actors and links as the activity are a pretty simple, but very powerful way of describing very complex structures.

Some three interesting examples of recent weeks shall be presented in the following. The examples chosen are very divers, but show how the term and the idea is unfolding in many disciplines leading to new discoveries of previous unknown aspect. This is not to dismiss anything known previously, but to add another puzzle piece to the picture from a 'network' perspective.

15m social network
Image taken from 15m.bifi.es / The figure represents the evolution of the network of Twitter users that exchange messages during the 10 days following the beginning (May 15, 2011) of camp in Puerta del Sol in Madrid, Spain. Each node in the network represents an individual, and the node size is proportional to the total number of messages he/she sent or received in the period analyzed. Two nodes are connected if they have exchanged at least one message. The colors encode the "age" of the node: the first active users are represented in yellow, while black color is used for the latecomers..

Social network analysis i probably the biggest and most obvious branch of network analysis. Since the concept of social connection is part of our everyday experience this is the area easies accessible for a general audience. With the data from digital social networks becoming available as for example the NCLn maps using Twitter show or also the Facebook global connection by Paul Buttler it is opening new possibilities for social sciences. The overwhelmingly massive amount of detail could potentially provide a different understanding of social mechanisms.

The project by he BIFI (Institute for Biocomputation and Physics of Complex Systems) is focusing on Twitter data collected between end of April and beginning of May 2011 during the youth movement 15m in Spain. The researchers have collected data over a period of three weeks as the activities are unfolding on Twitter across the country. The visualisation show how the information spreads across the digital social network, more and more groups joining in pushing the converation and the use of specific # hash tags as indicators. In total, 581.749 messages coming from 87.569 users were identified and used for the study.


Clip taken from 15m.bifi.es / video is a visual representation of the tweets exchanged between users involved in the 15M movement. All the information received/generated reflect the actual spreading dynamics in the period analysed.

Another obvious source of network information is to be found in science itself, mapping out the collaboration across the world. The institutions or the individual research groups can act as nodes and a collaboration is establishing a link between the nodes. Similar scientific citation are another established source of network data.

A lot of this work has been collected and presented in the MIT publications Atlas of Science by Katy Boerner. An online version of a research collaboration from 2005 to 2009 network is computed by Olivier H. Beauchesne at Science-Metrix, Inc. At wired explains "analysed the extracts of all of these articles to find where there was collaboration. So if a Cambridge University researcher published a paper with a colleague at the University of Arizona then that would create the pairing of Cambridge and Tuscon."

global science collaborations
Image taken from flowingdata / Map showing global science collaborations. Click for full screen interactive version.

In a third example scientist have discovered network of trees. In which the threes are actively exchanging and scientists believe that this network provides an advantage to connected trees over unconnected tree of the same species in the same area. The soundfoundation explains: "Graduate student Kevin Beiler has found that all trees in dry interior Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca) forests are interconnected, with the largest, oldest trees serving as hubs, much like the hub of a spoked wheel, where younger trees establish within the mycorrhizal network of the old trees." The original presentation can be found here. It is pretty amazing that networks form such a fashion between plants previously thought of as static and dull in a spatial activity sense.

Tree network
Image taken from abject.ca / Map showing connected and unconnected trees in the study area.

The networks can extend to many other areas and the built environment being on of them. Just like the trees the buildings are al interconnected with a network of cables and pipes, services and goods, linking across the city and the country. In this context one of the obvious example is the transport network and how a bus service links to a tub service bringing you to your destination via a short walk some gates and Oyster card operated barriers. At CASA, Jon Reads is currently working with some Oyster Card data visualising and analysing public transport networks across London. There is definitely more to come in this area in the next few weeks and month.

London public transport network
Image taken from Simulacra Bog / Map showing Central London Detail of public transport network based on TfL segments.

Networks will be with us for the foreseeable future being stronger an stronger embedded in out everyday thinking of objects and actions. It is definitely linking into a growing awareness of connectivity very much in line with the current sustainability debate as well as the of similar age system thinking theories.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Book - OneFiveFour: Light, Matter and Energy


What is the material architecture is made of? Is it concret, glass and steel? Mortar, bricks and timber Stone, fabrics and plastic? All of them or none of them? So many different ways of putting this, but there must be something just beyond the physicality of the materiality of architecture, something that holds it together and creates an atmosphere as the sum of all pieces.

For Lebbeus Woods architecture is in essence light, mater and energy put in combination, mastering the elements spatially. He is mainly interested in geometry and light, where geometri is the relationship between light, matter and energy, in reference to Einstein's E/m=c2.

Woods Berlin Underground
Image taken from the Fun Ambulist / Lebbeus Woods project Berlin Underground.

In a 2011 reprint of the 1989 publication oneFiveFour by Lebbeus Woods and published by Princeton Architecture Press some of Woods' projects are showcased. Foremost, these are A. City, Centricity and Berlin UNderground. It's a beautiful black and white print of projects, sketches and writings unveiling an, at times, futuristic or star wars like scenery of buildings, as a vison for a city. There is a lot of movement in the sketches implying a strong sense of process and making. Most of the elements are partially finished, waiting to be extended and developed further. It's a sort of invitation. Woods is not proposing those structures as static objects everything is in the making, on offer for collaboration?

Woods Berlin Underground
Image taken from the Fun Ambulist / Lebbeus Woods project.

Woods Berlin Underground
Image taken from the Fun Ambulist / Book Cover OneFiveFour.


Woods, L., 1989. One Five Four, New York, N.Y: Princeton Architectural Press.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Cartographica - GIS for the Mac Platform - 02


Traditionally Geographic Information System (GIS) have been exclusively run on the Windows platform. Only very few applications run on either cross platform or exclusively on the Mac. This is part two of a review and introduction to Cartographica, a Mac based GIS software. Find part one with a general introduction HERE.

Getting data into the Cartographica GIS platform is possible in multiple ways. There are a number of formats directly supported, such as shapefiles and kml. It can be also either a vector, a raster or a table format. To connect to other services and devices there is data base import as well as direct GPS import or WMS (Web Map Service) map data.

Cartographica GeoImport
Image by urbaTick / Screen shot showing the import dialog for tabular data. Here we are importing the Primary school league tables as found on the Guardian Data Blog. The data does not have geo coordinates so we are using the geocoding feature of Cartographica to locate the data via the address given in the csv file.

If you are working with a external data source trying to map some information that comes in a table for example the dialogue will guide you through the steps to identify the different columns, where you have to indicate the location columns and the value columns. It is also possible to use this import option to extend on existing content, by matching two columns to exiting fields and Cartographica will import the additional data to the corresponding data. Also this feature can be used to geocode addresses if you are working with address data.

Once the data is loaded it will be displayed on screen. The next steps will be to either combine it with other data or information, to adjust the projection, to manipulate or to analyse the data.

Cartographica Aerial BingMap
Image by urbaTick / Screen shot showing the imported data with a Bing Map aerial imagery underlay for the whole of England. The points start to make sense as to how they are located in a spatail context.

Cartographica OSM zoom SE
Image by urbaTick / Screen shot showing the imported data with a Open Street Map underlay. In this view we have zoomed into the South East of England. The street information as well as geographic features are visible and annotated.

To combine additional data simply import other sources or add a live map. Cartographica currently offers the option of Bing maps or Open Street Map. Bing maps come as street map or as satellite imagery. Through the WMS any other map can be used in the background. This is brilliant, because with just a few clicks the data can be put in context and read in a very different way. See the data information on a aerial photography background or on an Open Street Map background depending what the criteria is.

The projection can be adjusted for the map or for the layer. Cartographica offers a range of preset projections with the very traditional projections such as Mercator or WGS. There are also a range of country specific projections, but most important, with the hundreds of specific projections out there you can import your own projection. This adds flexibility and accuracy.

Manipulating the data by hand is done in Cartographica using the four interaction tools provided above the main map window. The first one from the left is the zoom element, the second one is the information tool to retrive details from objects, but also to select objects. The third tool is the pan tool to move the map around and the fourth tool is for measuring either area or distance. The very handy thing with the tools in Cartographica is really that it work in good Mac tradition with keyboard shortcuts. Selecting the tool and performing some operation can be done directly from the keyboard. This is really good for doing quick and precise work.

Cartographica Density
Image by urbaTick / Screen shot showing a density overlay calculated from the imported school data set. There is a concentration of school in London as expected.

For the data analysis Cartographica offer again a range of options. There are for example a range of tools to enhance the data like adding the geo coordinates to a point layer that was imported via the address, as in the example above. Then there is als the density analysis tool to create a kernel density from point information. The result is a raster layer representing the density of points. Here the colour scale can be adjusted in much detail. Cartographica is also capable of buffering, creating a distance zone form a feature, either point or line data.

Cartographica OSM Buffer
Image by urbaTick / Screen shot showing each school buffered by a 800 meter radius in Camden and Islington in North London. There is Regents Park and Hampstead Heath as empty areas.

A great feature is also the capacity to plot GPS geo coded images you have, for example from the iPhone. This will provide you with a map of the location of all the images, including a small icon. If you are working on a documentation or have field notes together with picture you have taken this is very handy.

Cartographica offeres a range of powerful basic GIS analysis functions. all at the benefit of simple usage. It is not just easy to use but intuitive as one would expect from a Mac application. In case you are not as familiar with GIS analysis and not quite sure how to do this or where to find this, the online platform offers a tutorial on all features and showcases a range of how to step by step guides. Its a great resource for anything technical in Cartographica.

The software is available form the web store at a price of $495 and as an academic student license for only $99 for one year. This is tremendously good offer, especially if compared to some of the other packages prices. Also the latest version has been optimised for OSx Lion, so you should not experience any problems if you have already upgraded to the new Mac operating system.

In a next part the exporting feature and the mobile version of Cartographica will round off the three part review of Cartographica. Watch out for the next bit.