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See the winners of a global competition for cities data visualisation

This announcement was produced by the CityVis team. For more information, see the competition website.

The competition is part of the Habitat X Change exhibit and event space at Habitat III, a United Nations conference on the future of cities. Habitat X Change is a collaboration between Future Earth, the International Council for Science and the University of Applied Sciences Potsdam (FHP) in Germany. To learn more about this immersive space and other upcoming and past events, check out the event website.

You can also read more about data visualisation and science in an earlier blog post here.

From visualising conflict-driven urbanisation in Colombia to Zika risk maps in the U.S, the Habitat III Visualizing Cities competition attracted over 100 submissions from around the world. The five entries selected as CityVis winners were announced at an event Monday in Quito at the Habitat III summit on urbanisation. All entries are available at

Understanding our cities is a more complex task than ever before – from the expanding physical structures that form our cities to the growing number of human beings filling those structures with life and meaning and the almost invisible layer of digital technologies and data streams increasingly connecting all those elements. Many of the processes steering our cities today are not visible to the human eye. How can we make these underlying currents visible and understandable? The CityVis data visualisation competition aggregates the latest and best projects aiming to answer that question.

The competition attracted some of the world’s leading data visualisation talent. Submissions from researchers, journalists, students and designers captured major trends related to sustainable urban futures – migration, climate, transport, food and energy. The entries underline the creativity and innovation of an emerging community of city visualisers.

“Habitat III is all about participatory city-making. We can’t get these participatory processes right if we don’t give the citizens and policy-makers the tools to bridge the gap between information and action. For us, Habitat III was the obvious platform to launch this competition and platform,” said Marian Dörk of the Urban Complexity Lab at the University of Applied Sciences Potsdam, Germany.

“The competition has created a global platform for visual urban knowledge production. I’ve been amazed by the way the winning entries took on tough ecological and social challenges, something we’ve seen across developed and developing countries,” added Dörk, who announced the winning entries on Monday in Ecuador.

Sebastian Meier, visualisation researcher at the Interaction Design Lab of the University of Applied Sciences in Potsdam, Germany, said: “The complexity of cities calls for new methods and tools to improve our understanding of the urban realm and the underlying mechanisms. Visualisation is becoming an instrumental tool for analysis, exploration and communication to make our cities understandable and find the best ways to manage and plan their future.”

“Each visualisation showed me something new about urban living, from the lives of the one million people who live underground in Beijing, to visualising Paris as a vast urban metabolism,” said Owen Gaffney, co-founder of the Future Earth Media Lab and co-sponsor of the competition.

The five winning entries by sector:

Academic research
Conflict Urbanism: Colombia
by Laura Kurgan, Juan Francisco Saldarriaga, Dare Brawley and Anjali Singhvi (Center for Spatial Research, Columbia University)

This work explores the migration patterns caused by the Colombian conflict between guerrillas, military and paramilitaries. The map shows an overview of the routes of internally displaced people in Colombia from 1985 to 2015, which were mostly from rural to urban areas. This project illustrates in a stirring way how urbanisation is also forcefully driven by armed conflict.

Contract (Private consultants)
London Data Streams
by Jacopo Hirschstein & Amanda Taylor (Tekja Data Visualisation)

Can the data we produce tell us what London is thinking, seeing and feeling? London Data Streams pursues this question by aiming to visualise the rhythms of London's live data, ranging from Twitter posts and Instagram photos to Transport for London updates. As part of an exhibition, the datasets were represented in various levels of transformation and aggregation. This project is a particularly strong submission with high aesthetic quality and conceptual depth.

Visualizing The Racial Divide
by Jim Vallandingham (Bocoup)

Visualizing The Racial Divide offers a visual and visceral representation of racial separation in fourteen U.S. cities. Shapes representing urban districts are gradually pushed away from each other based on differing proportions of white and black populations. Where there is a significant change in the racial makeup between neighborhoods, wider gaps are emerging. The form chosen here is novel and intriguing, with a startling and provoking effect on the viewer.

Chennai Flood Map
by Arun Ganesh, Sajjad Anwar, Sanjay Bhangar, Prasanna Loganathar (OpenStreetMap India/Mapbox)

In the wake of unprecedented rainfall affecting the south Indian city of Chennai open source technology activists quickly created a reporting tool to crowdsource the location of flooded roads on an interactive mobile friendly map. The map had over 1 million views and collected over 15,000 reports of inundated street segments, and was widely used for research and relief work. This effort illustrates the great utility that visualisation can have in grave situations.

Inclusive Maps
by Ute Benz, Sylvia Kautz and Sebastian Rauer (Students of Interface Design at University of Applied Sciences Potsdam)

The core concept of this project is to illustrate that every map is specific and no map can be universally useful for everyone. Instead the special needs of its users need to be considered. The student team behind Inclusive Maps proposes novel map concepts especially for persons with impairments. The idea is not just novel, but also significant and applicable to any city across cultural differences.

For more information contact:

Sebastian Meier
Interaction Design Lab
University of Applied Sciences Potsdam, Germany

Prof. Dr. Marian Dörk
Urban Complexity Lab
University of Applied Sciences Potsdam, Germany

Owen Gaffney
Future Earth Media Lab
and Stockholm Resilience Centre, Sweden