Cartography

Maps 2015 (2) The blackout of the bubble

As I have already said some years ago, the central issue for the blog this year will be the grain of the city; i.e., how the detail that you see on the urban space is formed by aggregation of circumstances. The bylaws applied two centuries ago are the fodder of today’s tourism guides, and the old crisis often explain how a neighborhood took its shape (try to explain the XVth district of Paris and its architectural mix without the brutal economic discontinuity of the inter-world-wars period…).

The issue today is the way in which the real estate crisis spread over Spain in the recent years. The real estate sector, central for economic growth since the second half of the 1990s, based its expansion on the construction of new homes, mainly in peripheral zones. In terms of landscape, this means that large sectors of urban outskirts (often still without building, and probably with many years ahead in that situation) were prepared for development by building streets and infrastructure, by contrast to urban cores where existing streets received sometimes a face- lifting, but buildings got not that much of an upgrade in general terms.

The end of what has been called the real-estate bubble has not been homogeneous on the land. This can be analysed in many ways, and this is how I did it. The Ministerio de Fomento, the Spanish Government’s body more related to housing (an attribution of the regions) publishes each quarter data on the evolution of the selling price of the sq m of housing, for a set of 283 municipalities over 25.000 residents, recording differences between homes completed less than 2 years before and the older stock. I did not focus on price itself, but rather on when there has been a “blackout” in data due to a lack of statistic representatively of available data. I’m fully aware that there are other resources, authored by private agents, that have different data, but I chose this one as it is public and everyone can use it, and it also has chances to stay active for some time. A remark for those willing to use the source: for the analyzed period (first quarter 2005- third of 2014) a municipality was added to the list; I used an homogeneous series excluding that one.

This is what I did:

Data "blackouts" in new homes price statistics in Spain. To see again the animated image, uptdate the page.

Data “blackouts” in new homes price statistics in Spain. To see again the animated image, uptdate the page.

  • A map of the data “blackouts” (upper animated image, you can see green turn red): It identifies the last available data for each municipality concerning homes under 2 years. Just two municipalities (Madrid and Barcelona) have had a record of no data blackout in any quarter, and as of the third quarter of 2014 there were only eight municipalities with data: Almeria, Barcelona, Caceres, Madrid, Merida, Las Rozas de Madrid, Madrid, Teruel and Zaragoza. In some cases, as Madrid and Barcelona, metropolitan areas with many points can somehow mask the visibility of still “on the radar” municipalities.

graf-tas-EN

  • A chart of the evolution by quarter of the number of cities without statistically representative values for the price of homes overall (no age class distinction), and for those under 2 years old (new homes). It is clear that in 2009 things became complex, and that the first quarter of 2011 became a clear threshold. By comparing the chart to the evolution of free homes (homes sold in a free market without public subvention to purchase) completed and the average price of a sq m of urban land in municipalities over 50.000, there are many parallels. Homes under 2 years old reduce, as there are no longer produced in large amounts.

graf-ind-pr-viv-EN

  • A comparison between the charts of the home prices, in national average, in Spain, Colombia, France and the United States, by quarter, from the first 2007 to the second 2014, taking the valuest of 1st quarter 2007 as 100%. It is clear that France has not seen a drop in home values (a reduced residential output), in the US the 10% correction seems over (even if the difference in country size probably would deserve a more detailed analysis, and Colombia has a chart clearly reminding that of Spain five years earlier, something that doesn’t seem good.

graf-pobl-tiemp-EN

  • A cross tab vision of the demographic size of municipalities and the number of quarters (regardless of their order) in which they have been “under the radar” for new homes prices. It is clear that size matters, and more populous municipalities (that in Spain are often those with the larger physical areas and have large developments) are those that seem to have best survived the crisis, with wider markets and, against all odds, a better stock of price- stabilizing elements for the housing demand (transportation, distance to jobs, facilities)

All this doesn’t imply automatic answers to questions regarding the future of these municipalities; any plan must face a future that, by definition, is uncertain, and so needs a certain degree of flexibility. But the lesson would rather be (as will be seen in future posts) that long term plans have a sense in urban planning if you grasp the idea that buildings will also be built long term. And therein lied the rump here, as development was drawn without a clear demand for the buildings that had to pay for the streets and pipes and electric lines that were built (leave alone the land itself, often bought at astronomic prices…).

Maps 2015 (1) The American plain

This first example of 2015 is not really a map, but rather a rendering of an idea that has received an award in a competition for students held by the American Society of Landscape Architects. Its author, Reid Fellenbaum, proposes a strategy for the evolution of the central US plains, threatened by the gradual depletion of the aquifers that water its cereal crops. He summarizes the project as an evolution from the current Jeffersonian grid towards a more fine-grained arrangement in a land which is more fragile than it seems. I’m not talking about feasibility (which would be complex to judge in its entirety), even if it is clear that traditional cultivation techniques probably could provide some useful tricks, but rather about the graphical quality of the presentation, which is quite good.

Besides, this project addresses an issue, the “grain” of the land, on which I will soon write… widely.

Maps 2014 (44) The history of cartography according to the Universtiy of Chicago

Venus as the Morning Star in the Codex Borgia, an ancient celestial map from the pre-hispanic Mexico (volume 2, book 3 of the History)

Venus as the Morning Star in the Codex Borgia, an ancient celestial map from the pre-hispanic Mexico (volume 2, book 3 of the History)

As this moment of the year has come, the place in which I live has gained a festive momentum, in which presents are exchanged. I could not possibly give what I don’t own, but I can share with those that like me enjoy maps a link to an extraordinary resource: the History of Cartography edited by the University of Chicago, which encompasses examples from prehistoric times to the European Renaissance. The volumes are not limited to the “western” world, as they include examples from other cultures.

The website allows downloads by volume and chapter. Happy reading!

Maps 2014 (43) The Roman world

Orbis-web

Stanford Universtiy has developed a geospatial model of the Roman world, Orbis, which can be consulted as a web map. In technical terms it is a geographical information system in which you can consult, using current standards of transportation planning, the least costly, the shortest or the fastest route between two points of the empire taking into account what was available in those ancient times. The methodological explanation of the GIS is interesting. I can not judge to which extent the results are close to what was real, but at least they seem consistent.

I’ve tested the fastest route from Flavium Brigantium to Lutetia: 17,2 days in summer, some 50 in winter, mainly by boat. I’ll never complain about two days by car…

Maps 2014 (42) Urban Decay in the US

This map was produced in 2011 by Derek Watkins, graphic editor for the New York Times, whose portfolio is full of extremely attractive references (including details on the tools used to produce these gorgeous images). This map was generated by looking on Flickr for geotagged images with urban decay tags. It is noteworthy that the number of images in some cities si quite reduced. In fact, this is not a map of a phenomenon, but of its perception by a group of people whose definition is complex (photographers aware of the special aesthetics of ruins prone to share their images on flickr?). Gorgeous map, anyway, and it seems quite related when it comes to results with other data about this subject.

Maps 2014 (40) As I move

mapacamin

Chances are that what I’m going to disclose is already known by some of the makers of the electronic contraptions I carry ; so here is a map of the routes I use often (blue numbers are distances in meters).

I live in A, work in B and once a week I eat at C. some weeks I go to cinema at D. 1 and 2 are pedestrian daily routes, which are alternative depending on the day (and the hour); the distance between A and B is so reduced that the presence of an expressway in the middle makes these two the shortest pedestrian routes. 3 is mainly a bus route, an explanation for the 90º angle (by foot it could be shorter, but it would take too long). And 4 is a weekend route, to go to the cinema through the urban core (the return trip is often by underground or bus, or, when it is late at night, by cab). The remaining points are supermarkets, cinemas, restaurants and other interest points.

The city I live in is rather good for a pedestrian; but this doesn’t mean that walking routes are necessarily shorter than by other means. On the other side, they are highly predictable when it comes to time: I usually walk at 4 km/h (compared to the average 24 km/h for cars, which is subject to strong variations during daytime). By walking you always have alternatives (but for the case of obstacles such as expressways or rail lines), and as slopes are gentle I can predict my travel times. And yes, sometimes (with not such regular patterns, once or twice a week at most) I move in my car…

Maps 2014 (39) All those Duch buildings

edificios nl

The Waag Society, a Dutch institute for the arts, sciences and technologies, has developed with designer and software engineer Bert Spaan a map of all the buildings in the country. The maps represents the age of the buildings with a colour code and displays some data about each element.

Maps 2014 (38) Where the internet sleeps

 

John Heideman’s team at the University of California has drawn a map; in fact the study is called “when the internet sleeps”, but as the world is divided in time zones, the map is a good way to render the results. It is an animation showing the answers of an extraordinarily large amount of IP addresses to a ping testing whether they are on or not every 11 minutes for 35 days in 2013. The map shows that during the nights the computers in Europe, Japan, South Korea and  the USA (along with phones and other net-connected devices) are often always on, or at least much more often than in other countries with lower revenue. The reasons are being studied, and the text and graphs of the original website provide more information.

 

Maps 2014 (37) Genealogical map of Pennsylvania

pennsylvania genealogy

 

We Europeans tend to think that the US have no history. Incidentally, this happens to be true from an European viewpoint, as their written records are quite recent (a different perspective would give a more complex vision). Recent history shows some curious features. The Genealogical Map of Pennsylvania, compiled in 1933 by the State Government and already in its tenth edition in 1985, shows the complex journey of the subdivision of the state during the XIXth century, and even the XVIIIth century purchases. New York and Pennsylvania where part of the same country, but even so Erie county was ceded by NY to PA to ensure an access to the great lakes…. The map is useful not by locating the main family names, but the administrative divisions that allow you to go to the proper county office. In most of Europe the reference would be the parishes, as they were long the ones having the baptism registration books…