urban_planning architecture cities population data_visualization urbanization video
A New Way to Look at the Life of Cities

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by Michael Keller

The video below is a visualization of population growth in cities around the world from 1990 to 2015. Two Yale University architects created it as part of a proposal called “Urban Sphere: The City of 7 Billion,” which won the 2013 Latrobe Prize from the American Institute of Architects.

In announcing the award, the institute wrote that the winning team’s “research will study the impact of population growth and resource consumption on the built and natural environment at the scale of the entire world as a single urban entity. An antidote to the fragmentary analyses of current practices, this project will remove arbitrary boundaries and reframe the entire world as a continuous topography of development: the city of 7 billion.”

Each column represents the number of people living on a 25-square-kilometer piece of land.

The team behind the visualization, Bimal Mendis and Joyce Hsiang of the Yale School of Architecture and Plan B Architecture & Urbanism, are working to map multiple sets of data, including demography, finance, geography, infrastructure and resources. They hope this will create a more complete geospatial model of the world.

Mendis told The Atlantic Cities: “It’s impossible to look at the city as a kind of discrete entity any more given the way financial networks, ecological networks, social networks work. These systems have much larger footprints than the actual physical or political boundaries of cities.”

From their initial work collecting and spatializing changes in urban demographics over time, they built a physical installation to offer a different way to look at the interconnectedness of the global human population. The WorldIndexer installation folded a 3-D global population map around visitors to offer a different perspective on the issue of urbanization.

Top Image: testing / Shutterstock.com

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