Upcoming course: Mapping Urban Data


Mapping Urban Data” will be the first in a series of video courses dedicated to exploring and visualizing data about cities. The course is coming soon on Morphocode Academy and will provide you with all the necessary skills to create web maps, work with data and explore urban insights.

You will learn how to collect and use geospatial data, as well as how to style and publish your maps on the web. “Mapping Urban Data” takes a hands-on approach to data visualization through a range of New York City–based case studies covering topics such as built density, energy consumption and mobility.




Exploring the City: Case Study NYC

New York City is exemplary for its thorough use of data in urban analytics and policy evaluation. The success of large scale projects such as the reconstruction of Times Square; Green Light for Midtown and NYC Plaza Program is largely due to the data-driven approach applied by city departments. Currently, the Big Apple’s open data portal provides public access to over 1,500 datasets from various agencies, making the city a great starting point for data explorations.



The course will introduce you to interactive web mapping through one of New York city’s most valuable datasets –  PLUTO. Containing detailed information on the tax lot level, PLUTO was first released to the open data community in 2013 and was considered a huge win. We will use PLUTO and a handful of other interesting datasets to explore urban insights and create interactive maps from the ground up.



Key Takeaways

“Mapping Urban Data” will guide you through a series of practical examples. You will start with a raw dataset, explore its attributes, design a map, add interactivity and finally publish it on the web. You will gain understanding of data formats, information design principles, cartography fundamentals and the coding skills required to finish the project.

The course is designed to be beginners-friendly and is suitable for architects, designers, urban planners, journalists or anyone genuinely interested in the topic. We will cover the following topics:


Learn how to handle open data sets and common data formats such as CSV, GeoJSON and Shapefiles. Work your way through data fields, types and file formats.

Information Design
Create beautiful maps and data visualizations. Learn the fundamentals of information design, color scales, qualitative and quantitative maps.

Transform data into maps. Handle map projections, inspect features, modify data attributes and style geometries.

Web Mapping
Export your visualizations for the Web. Learn the fundamentals: raster and vector map tiles, Web Mercator, zoom levels, feature collections.

Provide additional levels of interactivity. Handle user interactions and design a functional interface for your visualization.

Learn JavaScript, HTML5 and CSS and bring your data to life. Combine data, map and story into a single web page and share it with your friends.




The Big Picture: Data and the City

Rapid urbanization and advances in Information and communication technology are the most pervasive processes shaping the course of contemporary culture and society. “Data & The City” video series is about the intersection of these two global trends. As mobile devices become ubiquitous and spatial information even more abundant, data visualization allows a critical evaluation of active policies and city services by transforming otherwise hidden patterns into visual arguments. The act of transforming raw data into an interactive map creates visual narratives and opens up new possibilities for context-sensitive analysis conducted by urbanists, civic organizations, journalists and policy makers.




The course is launching in the beginning of 2017 with special discounts for subscribers to Morphocode AcademyYou can subscribe in the form bellow and we will notify you when the course is available.

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NYC Sidewalk Cafés


We have recently explored Sidewalk Cafés Licensing Data, provided by the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs.
We’ve used mapbox-gl-js to create an interactive story line, that will highlight different locations and aspects of the data.

A “sidewalk café” is a portion of a legal restaurant that operates on the public sidewalk. There are three main types of sidewalk cafés – enclosed, unenclosed and small unenclosed sidewalk cafés. A combined license is also available for cafés located on corners, where zoning regulations for different types intersect. Currently, there are over 1500 active sidewalk cafés in New York city with the majority of them located in Manhattan. Unenclosed sidewalk cafés happen to be the most popular type and represent 75 percent of the total number of active sidewalk cafés in the city.





Unlike traditional coffeehouses that have been present in urban culture for centuries, the sidewalk cafe is a relatively recent phenomenon, whose popularity crossed the boundaries of the Old Continent and made its way to the USA in the 20th century – not without controversy .

In 1929, New York City started legally allowing unenclosed sidewalk cafes. Soon after, in 1933, they were banished by H. Warren Hubbert, Manhattan’s commissioner of public works, and it wasn’t until the mid-1960’s that city officials began to endorse the spread of this continental touch. In the beginning of the 60’s there were around 30 sidewalk cafes in NYC, located mostly in Greenwich Village.




Currently, sidewalk cafes are regarded as neighborhood amenities that encourage social interactions and allow people to engage in street life or simply to enjoy the “sidewalk ballet“. Outdoor sitting is highly valued by urban planners and is considered to have a positive impact on street vitality. Since sidewalks represent a huge fraction of the city’s public spaces, they are – as Jan Gehl puts it – the very reason for creating sidewalk cafes.



Streetfight by Janette Sadik-Khan


In recent years we have followed closely New York City’s urban transformation, notably the installation of a growing number of new pedestrian plazas, the redesign of Times Square and Broadway, and the rising focus on pedestrian-friendly streets. That is why we were excited to get a copy of Janette Sadik-Khan’s recent book – “Streetfight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution.



“Streetfight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution” – cover

Subsequently to the drastic urban transformations she initiated as a former transportation commissioner of New York City under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Janette Sadik-Khan is now a highly influential figure in urban planning. The book sums up the lessons learned during her six years of tenure, to a large extend dedicated to improving street safety, ensuring access to public space for all and pushing relentlessly forward “the most rapid installation of bike lanes ever executed in any city“. The pedestrian and bike-friendly agenda set by Sadik-Khan enabled projects such as Green Light for Midtown and the NYC Plaza Program, both of which extensively discussed in the book, to transform one of the most challenging urban environments on the planet.

NYC Plaza Program was launched in 2007 with the goal to ensure that all New Yorkers live within a 10-minute walk of quality open space. Public plazas were installed in place of underused street space encouraging a public-private model of partnership between local communities and the DOT. Often referred to as an example of tactical urbanism, the Plaza Program used temporary materials and movable street furniture to transform refuge island into pedestrian plazas overnight. DOT’s first plaza was set up in 2007 at Pearl Street triangle in DUMBO and was followed by another placemaking intervention on Ninth Avenue and 14th Street in Manhattan. As of today the NYC Plaza Program has led to the installation of over seventy new pedestrian plazas in the city. The successful start of this pilot allowed for the Department to take a step further and initiate what was later known as Green Light for Midtown.



The installation of a new pedestrian plaza at Pearl Street Triangle in DUMBO marked the beginning of NYC Plaza Program in 2007. Image courtesy: NYC Department of Transportation


“The strategy, process, and tools used in DUMBO and at Ninth Avenue and 14th Street provided the street-design and community-outreach template for hundreds of projects to come, setting us up for the greatest transformation yet: Broadway”

Janette Sadik-Khan


In the same spirit of experimentation and with pedestrian safety in mind, the Green Light for Midtown project started with a radical move – by closing diagonal Broadway to cars at Times and Herald Squares. This six month pilot project led to the iconic reconstruction of Times Square by Snøhetta and skyrocketed the area into the top ten retail districts on the planet.


The transformation of Times Square started as a temporary closure of Broadway for cars and resulted in a full reconstruction project by Snøhetta

The transformation of Times Square started as a temporary closure of Broadway for cars and resulted in a full reconstruction designed by Snøhetta.


” Next to safety and mobility, which should be the first considerations, the economic power of sustainable streets is probably the strongest argument for implementing dramatic change.”

Janette Sadik-Khan


Janette Sadik-Khan’s tactical interventions were strongly supported by a data-driven approach to urban planning, culminating in DOT’s report – “The Economic Benefits of Sustainable Streets“. The study, as well as the role of data in the process of understanding the street are discussed in Chapter 12, that emphasizes on the necessity to develop new methodologies for measuring the impact of capital projects.


New York City Bike Map. Image courtesy: http://www.nycbikemaps.com/

New York City Bike Map. Image courtesy: http://www.nycbikemaps.com/

A large part of the book is dedicated to the importance of encouraging multimodal forms of transportation. As a strong supporter of bicycling, former DOT commissioner enabled the installation of 350 miles of cycleways in New York City during her tenure, including the first parking-protected bike lane in North America on Ninth Avenue. The book also tells the story of NYC’s first rapid bus network, inspired by the worldwide success of BRT . The changes initiated by Janette Sadik-Khan and her DOT team were not met without discontent and often led to severe cultural and political backlashes. Nevertheless they show that transforming an urban environment as complex as New York City is possible and set a great example for other cities to follow.

“Streetfight” is a must read for anyone interested in transportation and urban planning. Though not necessarily a handbook, this volume illustrates how small, incremental changes can become scalable citywide solutions, when combined with a set of clear goals and the right tools to measure the impact of each intervention.


Cover image: courtesy of NYC DOT




How we move in cities, data collider, visualizing algorithms, exploring mobility

Here are some of the most interesting resources that we’ve shared recently on facebook, twitter and google+.

This is how we move

Human data shows how we move in cities. Walking, running, cycling and motorized transportation data tell us different stories.

View More



Dannish Architectural Policy

“Good architecture provides a secure, functional environment for our fulfillment, both as individuals and collectively. The Danish government therefore wishes to give all, especially children and young people, access to experiencing the architecture’s creative world and gain insight into how architecture affects us as human beings.”

Read the Policy




Data Collider

Data Collider is a new web platform to “create next generation visualisations in a fast and easy way”. The project was created by a team at MIT Senseable City Lab and is currently in beta.

Learn More




Visualizing Algorithms

A great presentation by the creator of d3.js – Mike Bostock about how algorithms work: their logical rules and behavior.

View More


Isoscope – Exploring Mobility

An interactive tool that creates aesthetic visuals about locations that are reachable by car in a chosen time from a chosen location.

Visit the Project



“It is more exciting to be designing conditions for events than to be conditioning designs.”

Bernard Tschumi



Breathing City

An animated map that visualizes the cliché of New York as the “city that never sleeps.” The map displays a 24-hour cycle of Manhattan’s populations at work and home.

Read More




Manipulated Landscapes by Witchoria

Artist Victoria Siemer aka Witchoria transforms landscapes by adding an element of the geometric into natural surroundings.

See More

Data and the City: Urban Visualizations

According to Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, the amount of data collected between the dawn of humanity and 2003 is equivalent to the amount we now produce every two days.

Urbanization and the spread of information technologies transform Cities into huge data pools. This big data provides new opportunities to reveal the hidden dimensions of the city and better understand the processes taking place within its physical boundaries.

In one of his recent editorials for “Environment and Planning B” – “The database of intentions“,Michael Batty notes that, despite its long-standing presence in urban studies, the theme of Complexity and the systems approach are no longer as popular as they once were:  it is urban data that will play a major role in understanding how city areas have changed and are likely to change in the future.


Understanding Urban Data

On July 25, 2013, the City of New York has released its biggest source of land use and geographic data: the Pluto Database. This “epic win for NYC’s open data community” was the result of a big community effort to open urban data that was once unaccessible.

Urban visualizations can create awareness about important urban conditions and provide a valuable insight into how cities perform and how people interact with the urban environment.

Here are some of the most interesting urban data visualizations that we’ve come across:


PLUTO Data Maps

This is a project created by Anrew Hill, developer at CartoDB.

The project presents a series of maps that reveal some insights and hidden patterns of New York’s built environment. For example: “Who owns the private land of Manhattan?” and “Which lots are the farthest from public spaces?

Visit the project



The Beijing City Lab (BCL)

The Beijing City Lab (BCL) is a virtual research community, dedicated (but not limited to) studying China’s capital Beijing.

They also have published a series of maps, exploring diverse themes such as “Communities of public transportation in Beijing” and “Beijing Planning Permits Vis (1997-2003)

Visit The Beijing City Lab 



Block by Block, Brooklyn’s Past and Present

This is a map of Brooklyn’s building blocks by age. “The result is a snapshot of Brooklyn’s evolution, revealing how development has rippled across certain neighborhoods while leaving some pockets unchanged for decades, even centuries.”

Visit the Map



We are Here Now

A project of Spatial Information Design Lab that uses FourSquare check-in data from different cities around the world.
The data is plotted on a map, in order to explore urban patterns that might be hidden otherwise.

Visit the Flickr Set of the project.



Locals & Tourists

Eric Fischer from MapBox and the Gnip team have used Twitter data to create a map of local allegiances.
Blue points on the map are Tweets posted by “Locals”. Red points are Tweets posted by “Tourists”.

Visit the Project





Flocktracker is an android application, designed to easily collect urban data in order to create “inexpensive, highly accurate, and robust data sets”. It has been developed by the Urban Launchpad – a global team of urban planners, designers and researchers. The app was used to create the first ever Bus Map of Dhaka.

Learn more about Flocktracker



Upcoming at Morphocode Academy


Data and the City: Urban Visualizations” is an upcoming course at Morphocode Academy. It will discuss how to collect, store and visualize urban data in a useful way. The course is under development at the moment and will soon be available online to subscribers.

Subscribe here