Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Introducing THINK.urban

I am happy to announce the formation of a new organization, THINK.urban in Portland, Oregon.  Along with colleagues Katrina Johnston and Allison Duncan, our group plans to promote, as our tagline mentions: "Better Design Through Applied Research."   We bring a range of experience in urban design research, landscape architecture, urban ecology, public space, and social science, combining academic rigor with creative expression.

In short, we are a research based non-profit that connects academic research to urban design practice through a number of means, including expertise, scholarship, interventions, publications, and consultation with professionals.   We have current focus areas in public space, streets, and landscape - and cast a broad net across urbanism in general - with a goal to act as a bridge between theory and practice.  We are currently forming the 501(c)(3) organization and recruiting board members, so more is happening in 2012.

A snapshot of a couple of the projects that we are working on in tandem and as an extension of our studies at Portland State, include:

Find out more about the activities of the non-profit on the website and ongoing blog, by following us on Twitter @think_urban or by checking our our new Facebook page.  

In the spirit of economy (and my own sanity), I will be cross posting periodically between these two sites - particularly posts that are relevant to both - but will still have original content on each as it makes sense.   Enjoy!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Data Appeal - Making Map-Landscapes

A follow-up on new mapping tools from the author of 'The Exposed City: Mapping the Urban Invisibles' (read a review of this great book here).  Nadia Amoroso alerted me to a new endeavor called Data Appeal, which provides tools for visualization of data through mapping in order to engage people in new ways.

London - Economic activity w/ Green Space
 Ms. Amoroso sent me some information to give a snapshot of this new tool, which she describes as:  "...a new way of geo-data visualization. This web-based  application takes geo-referenced data files and generates beautifully  designed 3D and animated maps. The application is ideal for anyone  interested in transforming their data into powerful, communicative, and  visually appealing messages."
Toronto - Green Space in Neighborhoods
As you can see, the aesthetic variations allow users to choose from many options of shapes and graphic tweaks such as color and transparency to fine-tune the end result.  This flexibility gives option for a number of different iterations to provide more lively 'datascapes' which will hopefully engage users in new ways.  A variation includes colors and different symbology, as seen below:
Ranking of Los Angeles Restaurants
 More from the site: "This  application merges analytics, modeling and art into a new data  visualization tool. In essence, it is a simplified GIS, and visual  geo-analytics tool. The team at DataAppeal wanted to create an  application in which individuals can analyze their data visually and at  the same time have fun with their information, by designing it in a way  that expresses the subject, and by transforming numbers in an artful  way."

Chicago Green Space - alternative view angle
The exciting aspect of the service currently is that it is available free, at least for now.  In the future, a premium version with advanced features, analytic options and more data-design options will be available.   As Amoroso mentions, there has been lots of interest in the site from government  agencies, municipalities, environmental agencies, universities,  research groups, geography associations, market analysis research  companies, news agencies, media groups, national defence agencies,  healthcare institutions, social enterprise, telecommunication companies,  cultural institutes, real estate agencies are typical users groups.

This tool has been created through a collaboration of GIS specialists  and artists to ensure that data is displayed in a more visually  appealing manner to create a stronger response to information.  The tool   builds on the dialogue from Amoroso and collaborators in her book, while providing a shared platform, easy data interface, and access to robust tools for customization and creation of maps for many uses.

Map with dashboard for customization
Stay tuned, as I plan to interview Nadia to get some additional information on the development and future plans for Data Appeal and how it can continue to expand our ability to generate innovative map-landscapes.  For now, check out the site, and peruse some of the features and demos to more - particularly some interactive sites related to New York City Population and Toronto Bars and Restaurant Ratings - where you can visit the map, data, and other pieces that go into the map creation and visualization. 

Purge Sculpture

Filed under 'random' this sculpture was spotted the previous weekend along the waterfront just north of the Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle.  A pile of vegetated 'cans' with the word 'Purge' punched into them - alas a web search has yielded little in terms of info beyond this.  Anyone have any info?

UPDATE (02/12/14):  Buster Simpson dropped a line with some background info:

"The galvanized steel  barrels or oil drums  are the work of Buster Simpson,   The work is part of an ongoing community streetscape   project,    Growing Vine Street.   The barrels  are placed on both sides of Vine Street and  serve as a entry marker,   threshold or gateway  as one enters Vine Street from  the Alaskan Way  waterfront  and  connects a community garden,  Cistern Steps and Beckoning Cistern.  

The barrels are strapped to galvanized steel pallets   implying product in transit and a reference to the Seattle working waterfront.  The planters are  sited adjacent  the historic location of the American Can Company  and next to the RR tracks  where now shipping containers roll by.    PURGE is pierced into the base   of the barrels,    and allow excess water to drain,  perhaps purged  by plants and the limestone within  neutralizing the acid rain.    

These barrels were originally shown at the Capp Street Project,  in 1993  at an alternative art space,  in San Francisco  as part of a urban watershed reclamation installation.   

(all images copyright L+U)