Online Mapping

The folks at Carto gave me an expanded membership, so I’m moving some of my data to an interactive online format. Check out my first map….

It shows 66 meters of sea rise on the west coast of Canada, the US, and Mexico, from Juneau, AK, to just south of Mazatlan.

Bay Area & Central Sea

Ursula LeGuin did it first–Always Coming Home has a fantastic drawing of this, created in the mid-1980s.

This map shows what central California and the Bay Area will look like when the ice caps completely melt–66m of sea level rise.

The poster is available at Zazzle.

CentralValleyForWeb20150802Burrito Justice did a San Francisco version a few years ago. His map inspired much of the work I’ve done wigh sea rise maps in the past couple of years.

My favorite landforms? Sutter Island and the Isle near Rio Vista. Marin also becomes an island, which makes sense in many ways. Sacramento? Stockton? Lodi? Manteca? Screwed. The historic Tulare Lake re-emerges, but with salt water this time around. Monterey Bay becomes much larger.


Heat Maps

While at the UW, I created a set of heat maps showing the density of responses to our Campus Landscape Framework survey. The survey asked a number of questions about the preferences and perceptions of students, staff, faculty, and alumni. I took the responses and visualized them geographically…

A History of the UW in 120 Frames

I love watching things change over time.

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.


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.