Visualizing the World: 7 Billion People, 1 Urban City.

The Night Lights of Planet Earth

The Night Lights of Planet Earth (Photo credit: woodleywonderworks)

Globalization has further blurred the lines between urban and rural. In fact, it can be argued that the the entire world is a single urban entity laden with economic, social, and cultural problems including the scarcity of national resources and infrastructure, the exponential increase of inhabitants, pollution, economic division and unplanned urban sprawl. Advances in technology, exploration of sustainable systems and new urban and architectural methods have the potential to solve these problems. The question is where to start?

What if you could connect the world’s land use, population density,  income data, carbon dioxide levels, and geographical landscape into a single model of continuous urban terrain? Could that model serve as a predictive tool to help plan sustainable development into the future?

Architects Joyce Hsiang and Bimal Mendis of Plan B Architecture & Urbanism believe that it can and are setting out to create a geo-spatial model scaled to the global level to study population growth and resource consumption with their project, City of 7 Billion.

As reported in The Atlantic Cities, Hsiang and Mendisare are hoping to build a publicly accessible, open-sourced platform that the public will be able to use to grasp the implications of building in a food plain or implementing an energy policy; that architects will be able to use to investigate public and private space and explore responsive and adaptive design; and that researchers will be able to use to research development patterns or air quality.

In 2011, Hsiang and Mendis created a spatial visualization that modeled one measurement of urbanization, the world’s population distribution relative to land use. At the 2011 Chengdu Biennale in China, they built a physical installation that modeled the world’s population distribution in an inverted map in a room that visitors could enter.

Perhaps by visualizing the world’s population as living in one single urban space, we will be better equipped to predict and respond to the impact of population growth and resource consumption with sustainable design.

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Shannon McGarry

Shannon McGarry, a Project Specialist at Campaign Consultation, Inc., was an environmental activist from age 7 when she organized neighborhood children to protest a housing development.  Her dedication to sustainable water & sanitation systems grew from her time as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Read More

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