Urban Infrastructural Data Visualization


The city breathes information and consumes energy. Visualizing this relationship enhances interaction with the urban environment and is the goal of this project. Specifically, I would like to show how much energy an individual building is consuming at any given time.

I’m interested in exploring this area of research for a couple of reasons. First, I’m aesthetically interested in making visible the invisible qualities of our built environment. Second, as we become increasingly aware of the limitations of our resources and alternatives become necessary, the ability to monitor something like electrical load helps us to adjust behavior accordingly. While still in its early stages, urban data on everything from subway tracking, traffic congestion, open wireless networks, and building information should be made publicly available and easily accessible. This is a burgeoning area of research with titles like Marcus Foth’s Urban Informatics recently published.

New York Traffic

The challenge is getting access to this information, often residing behind walls of bureaucracy. The problem is not that it doesn’t exist, but that we’re moving toward a level of openness that can make larger institutions uncomfortable. Some, however, have embraced this opportunity for greater transparency and are seeking ways to make data available. NYU has demonstrated initiative in a recent study of building performance that compares the energy consumption of its residence halls. Still, these graphs aren’t live, nor are they particularly interesting to look at.

Peak Consumption Graph

What if we could combine urban landscape photography with a network of sensor data—like that being pioneered by Pachube—on a systemic level to make information available to people at any time? This is the direction I’m moving in.