Friends from the Mid-80s–Antioch, CA

Xeni Jardin at Boing Boing posted this video of some old friends of mine from way back. Laden with nostalgia, I found these in some old boxes of negatives. I just scanned and uploaded them to Flickr today. I haven’t seen most of these people in decades. I hope they’re all doing well.


Here’s the original video on YouTube.

Bay of LA

Bay of LA

This is the third in a series of extreme sea level rise maps. The other two so far are Seattle and Portland.

See Burrito Justice’s map of San Francisco.

This will happen someday, but not in our lifetimes. Some who have dared to speculate on a timeline have given themselves plenty of space for error in their predictions–one estimate says anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 years. Whatever the time frame, it is a fact that humans are speeding up this process.

You can purchase LA Bay posters on Zazzle!

Each of the maps I’ve made so far (see Seattle and Portland) vary somewhat in amount of sea level rise. The USGS has estimated that the total rise would be about 265′. I’m taking artistic license with anything over 225 or so feet, up to what the USGS calculates as the maximum, and just calling it “all the world’s ice sheets”. Within this range, I render an ocean rise that I think is the most visually interesting. I am not portraying any sea level rise higher than what is possible.

Update: See other sea levels of LA.

Preview details of map:

h/t Burrito Justice for the inspiration and encouragement.



Bay of LA–Other Sea Rise Levels

As a follow-up to the Bay of LA map, here’s a slideshow of progressive sea level rise in the LA Basin. Click through the gallery, or scroll down for an animated gif.

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Islands of Portland

Islands of Portland

Welcome to Greenhouse Earth–Portland edition. The Portland archipelago awaits your descendants.

Available now at Beard’s Framing online or their shops in the Portland area!

This is the second in a series of sea-level-rise maps. Seattle was the first. There are more cities in various stages of completion, and I’ll be posting them as they are finished. Right now, I’m working on all the major North American West Coast cities, except for San Francisco, which has already been done. The loose confederation of future city-states is slowly taking form.

What fascinates me the most about this project is the landforms, bays, seas and other geographies that emerge. In Seattle’s case, the landforms were compelling up close–the hills and valleys of Seattle’s glacial topography made amazing islands and passages. For Portland, it gets interesting as you zoom out–the inland seas, islands, and fjords are what make this map fascinating to me. The Cordilleran Ice Sheet had massive influences on the geologies of both cities, but only indirectly here. The sheet didn’t extend this far south, but the Missoula Floods swept through many times–the result of breaking ice dams from the glaciers upstream.

Let me stress the approximate nature of the sea rise level of these visualizations. For the Seattle map, I used 240 feet. For this map, I’m using 250. The USGS has estimated that the total sea rise possible from ice sheet melt is 80.32 meters. Because I’m trying to convey both terror and entertainment, I put the sea level wherever the bays and islands look the most interesting, up to the maximum of about 263 feet.

Sea level rise of this extreme has been estimated to take anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 years, which may seem like a long time in the context of a single human life span, but in terms of human civilizations, it’s really not. Anyway, this end point is not really important. The real damage will come long before then–a small fraction of this 250′ level will devastate coastal cities.

h/t Burrito Justice for the inspiration and encouragement.

Preview details of map:


Islands of Seattle

Welcome to the Anthropocene! Behold, the Seattle Archipelago–a future history of the city of Seattle.

Purchase at Museum Quality Framing and Frame Central–both online and in Seattle area shops.

20140220IslandsOfSeattle_Streets_web240′ is about the most severe sea level rise being talked about, and that’s only if all the world’s ice sheets melted. This is the extreme scenario. I don’t even know if researchers are seriously discussing this as a possibility. If it is, it’s a long way off.

When I first showed this map to people, the general reaction was horror. For me, it’s been more like detached fascination. If there are any humans left, what kind of society will be here–hunter/gatherer or godlike technology–dirt-floored huts or gleaming cities–The Road or Blade Runner or Metropolis.

I think the islands will be inhabited by pirates–tribes of Queen Ann islanders and Capitol Hill islanders living in shaky détente, with occasional forays on each others’ territories. The tribes of the Archipelago of Bainbridge or the Kirkland Peninsula will make weekend raids into the Seattle Archipelago, despoiling these fair island villages. So really, nothing much will have changed.

See my post on the Whole U website.

h/t Burrito Justice and Brian Stokle for the inspiration and encouragement.

Preview details of map:

See the original versions of this map here.

Bebb & Gould Regent’s Plan for the UW, 1915-1945

The Bebb & Gould plan for the University of Washington–updated nine times between 1915-1945. North is left.

1915-1945 UW Regents Plan

This plan is a great display of both what was built and what wasn’t. A few roundabouts remain from the AYPE. Campus Parkway never had the grand plaza envisioned here. The South Campus golf links were replaced by the UW Medical Center, but never made it to East Campus (except, I suppose, for the driving range).

They seemed to care about maintaining a connection from the main campus to the South Campus waterfront–this was forgotten by the next generation, but has been recently made a priority again.

I’m glad they never enclosed the Liberal Arts Quad as shown here. In the way it was eventually developed, the elevation change as you move to the northeast gives a good sense of enclosure, and allows for an axis from the northeast dormitories into the central campus.

Denny Yard would be a much more interesting space if they had actually enclosed it as shown here. The energy of the Yard is sapped by a poor sense of definition. The tighter, defined plaza shown here would be a place to gather and be seen.


A History of the UW in 120 Frames

I love watching things change over time.University of Washington--1909

Buildings, landscapes, street grids–everything morphs with changing technologies and cultural priorities, and time-enabled mapping can help us visualize and understand the changes that have occurred.

When I started this project for the University of Washington, we had just celebrated the centennial of the 1909 Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition. John Stamets, who teaches photography at the UW College of Built Environments, had co-authored a book about the 1909 event, documenting  with maps and then-and-now photos. He had aligned a number of historical AYPE plans in Photoshop, transforming each until they all lined up with a modern map. Using this method, he was able to pinpoint the locations of the historical photographs, and take photos of the current conditions from the same location and angle.

He gave me his collection of digitized AYPE plans, which I took and georeferenced. Using the plans as a guide, I then digitized the building footprints and created links between the new geometry and the existing historical database. Once the 1909 buildings were digitized, I researched plans and maps of other eras, looking forward and back from the year of the Exposition. Where there were additions to buildings over the years, I georeferenced old construction plans that enabled me to show the evolution of the building shapes over time. Over the course of several months I was able to put together a spatial database of nearly all the UW buildings that ever existed, tied in with a rich historical database. The timeline features of ArcGIS allowed me to create a 4d map, showing any of the buildings at any specific time between 1885 and 2015.

This timeline video is a distillation of the information collected and created.

Cool things to look for:

The Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition was the single most profound influence on the layout of the University. Although most of the AYPE buildings were demolished shortly after 1909, the landscape retains much of the physical form of that event. Rainier Vista is the most obvious remnant, but the influence can also be seen in the layout of much of the central campus. The HUB Yard area had a circle with a band stand. Frosh Pond/Drumheller Fountain was larger in 1909, but was in the same location. Stevens Way is essentially the same route as the parkway in the 1909 layout. Some of the AYPE structures were put to use as institutional buildings for years or decades–the Forestry Building, at the site where the HUB now stands, was used until 1930, when its rustic timbers were deemed too rotted to save. The Washington building was used first as a library and then as the High Energy Physics Lab until demolished in 1961. Its foundation survived as a landscape element (not shown) until the construction of the Allen Library. Gradually, over the years, most of the surviving Exposition buildings were torn down. Now, only three remain.

Five years after the AYPE, the Lake Washington Ship Canal was completed, and Lake Washington dropped by eight feet.

At the end of and just after WWI, from 1917-1922, barracks stood briefly where Guggenheim Hall is now. The post-WWII (1946–mid 50s) era saw a tremendous construction boom, including the erection of temporary barracks all across the UW to house returning soldiers. Located in the center of campus, in the north campus where Dempsey Hall and Paccar Hall now stand, and especially in the eastern campus, at the site of Center for Urban Horticulture–none of the barracks remain.

The original Lander and Terry halls were built on the site that is now the Sound Transit University of Washington Station (at Husky Stadium). These were built in 1917 and demolished in 1928.

Some buildings morph over time–watch Suzzallo Library, the Art Building, the power plant, and the Applied Physics Lab.

in 1937, 15th Ave NE was widened to the east. This necessitated the construction of the retaining wall along the west edge of the UW campus. I was surprised to learn that this wall was designed by Bebb & Gould.

Watch the changes in the Southwest and West Campus. In 1937, the University’s grand boulevard to and from nowhere, Campus Parkway, was cut through what was a neighborhood of modest single-family homes, removing scores of houses. The era of urban renewal hastened the change.  Properties were condemned by the city and deeded to the University, allowing the consolidation of lots, the re-routing of streets, and the construction of most of the University-owned structures in the area. in 1962, I-5 was completed. NE Pacific Street was re-routed in the 1970′s. The UW’s suburban office-park buildings along Boat Street were completed in the 80′s and 90′s. 15th Ave NE was re-routed in the late 90′s, in between the construction of the first nasty Portage Bay Garage that cut The Ave off from the waterfront and the second nasty Portage Bay Garage addition that was ironically LEED-certified. All of these changes altered the street patterns, destroyed old neighborhoods, and cut the University District off from surrounding communities.

Some Caveats:

The building data should be pretty accurate–I spent a lot of time and did a lot of research to create it.

The original downtown Seattle campus is not included in this project.

The campus landscape, paths and roads are accurate at several points along the timeline, but they aren’t coded year-by-year as the buildings are. Really, they’re only accurate from 1895–>1930 or so. After that, the 1930 landscape stretches out to 1960, and the 2013 landscape stretches back to 1980. Between 1960 and 1980 there is a very noticeable lack of landscape.

The roads, modified from Seattle right-of-way GIS data, are approximate. Again, they aren’t coded year-by-year. I did a snapshot for about every decade starting in the 1900s.

For all layers, there will be points when two things exist in the same place at the same time. This is a result of the coarseness of the time data. For buildings, this will mean that a building was demolished and a new building was erected in the same place within a single year.


GeoSIMS–An Application for Interior Mapping

In my years at the University of Washington, my greatest accomplishment (along with Eric Darst) was the envisioning, design and implementation of GeoSIMS–the Geographic Space Information Management System.

FloorPlanGISThis online application utilizes a multi-campus set of georeferenced floorplans to enable the tracking of room information. The implementation was a challenge–a  lot of different people and departments had to be brought together to make it work. Some groups were indifferent. Some were resistant. Ultimately it all came together, and the UW has a system of space tracking that is streamlined and automated.

For those of you interested in a bit more detail on the background of the program and its uses, you can download my presentation to the University for the GeoSIMS rollout (warning–10 mb Powerpoint file).


Seattle Archipelago in the Media

Even though I’ve only made nine posts on this blog, I’m going to get all self-referential. What happened with the Islands of Seattle map was both thrilling and overwhelming. I went in knowing that it had the potential to go viral, but I wasn’t quite prepared when it did.

20140220IslandsOfSeattle_Streets_webI got the idea for the map from Burrito Justice’s map of San Francisco. In his scenario, there was 200′ of sea level rise, creating a fascinating landscape of islands and bays. From a purely geographical perspective, it was beautiful and compelling. The horror of the damage to the city was lightened by the way he named the resulting land forms. Seattle was a perfect subject for this sort of treatment, and I knew how to do it.

I made the map in December, and posted it on a handful of social media outlets. In addition to the dozen or so Twitter followers I had at the time, I tweeted directly to Burrito Justice, to let him know I’d appropriated his idea. He immediately re-tweeted, and I got a small bump in traffic on my Flickr site where I’d originally posted it. I posted on Facebook and LinkedIn, where a few people liked, nobody commented, and it just fizzled into nothing. I knew that it had the potential to go viral, but I lacked the network to really make it happen.

Then I got lucky. I was approached by Robert Lindsley, Director of the brand-new Whole U program. He was looking for University contributors to his website. He was thrilled with the map, and I offered to write up an article to accompany it.

The article was published on January 15. It included a link to, so I checked the stats before going to bed that night. It had over 200 views referred from the Whole U–I thought that was fantastic, but the trajectory was just beginning to rise. The next day got started when former Mayor Mike McGinn shared the article on Facebook. By the end of that day, there were 4,900 views. The day after that, there were 5,600. Those were just the stats on my site–at the end of the week, my article on Whole U had over 85k views, and ultimately had over 100k. It got over 6,000 shares on Facebook, and hundreds of tweets through the Whole U site alone. It was on the front page of RSpatialitiesStats_CountryMapeddit for several hours. My post on Spatialities was shared on Facebook over a thousand times. I picked up a bunch of new followers on Twitter. Visitors from 53 countries visited my site (I don’t know if they were all human). I got calls from the Seattle Times and KUOW, asking me questions about global warming that I couldn’t answer.

It was all happening simultaneously with the demands of my regular job. I still had work to do! I had some significant deadlines to meet the next day, and all the attention was distracting me from my tasks. I was completely unprepared when the Seattle Times called. Most of the questions weren’t difficult or probing, but I just hadn’t thought about what I was going to say to the media. I hadn’t thought that I would be talking to the media at all. I was slightly better prepared when KUOW called the next day. But when they asked me to do a brief on-air interview, I had to defer. I had too many demands from my job, and I didn’t feel ready for a live chat. By the time I had figured out my talking points, most people had stopped asking.

The media contact issue was minor compared to scale of all the other attention. The map became something of a Seattle icon, I got 96 hours of fame, and I learned a lesson about preparedness.

About a week later, Dr. Kirk JohnsonKirkJohnsonLecture, the Sant Director at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, contacted me. He wanted to use the map in a presentation he was giving at the University of Washington. I was honored to have him include it–it was the highlight of the entire experience. It was like getting a scientific stamp of approval…without all that messy peer review. I’d assumed that in the presentation, he’d show it for a few seconds before moving on to the next slide. It wasn’t until the very end of his talk that he finally showed the map–and it stayed up or he next half-hour as he and Dr. Julie Stein, Director of the Burke Museum, did their Q&A session.

Over the next week, it had calmed down; the virus had run it course. There were still spikes in my stats, little Facebook flareups, as the latecomers discovered it (and it was always Facebook–even at the height of it all, attention on Twitter was relatively minor). I still get a few visitors a day, usually from the Whole U or Facebook.

Thanks to all the posters below, as well as all the folks on Twitter and Facebook who shared it.

And of course, the original post that I wrote for the Whole U:

I’m looking forward to seeing how all this attention translates into he physical world. I don’t have a firm date yet, but printed maps will be available at Museum Quality Framing and Frame Central shops around Seattle.

In the next few days, I’ll also be releasing a Portland version of the map. They’ll be available at Museum Quality Framing, Frame Central, and Beard’s Framing around Portland.

Moving to

This site hasn’t been up long, but I’ve started finding limitations in what I can implement in my site. So, I’ve packed it up and moved it all over to a self-hosted site with a installation. Everything should look and function the same as before, but any of my subscribers will need to click through and re-subscribe.

Watch for new historical and speculative maps!