Slovenia is the center of the world, or planetary borderlocking

A couple of years ago, Twelve Mile Circle came up with borderlocking – finding the centermost area (state, municipality, county) of a county by seeing how many other areas one must go through.

12MC came up with a few cool examples, like the US, and The Basement Geographer came up with a few others, like Canada and Poland – and Africa.

So I decided to look at the first-level divisions of the the EU and the world, based on Natural Earth data.

First I looked at the EU:



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The historical city 3D visualization masters: Assassin’s Creed

Assassin’s Creed is doing amazing things with historical 3D visualization.  Obviously they are taking liberties with details – was there a tree right there? What did the sign hanging off this building look like? Who knows.

But there is a lot of data out there, including street layouts, trace evidence of plot and building size, and potentially deeds and tax rolls that would tell us, say, if a cheesemonger was at a particular place or not.  Most interesting to me, however, is whether they got all the streets right, or if they got the main monuments, after which they used artistic license or a script to generate the rest.

Academically, getting those streets and the outdoor rooms they create right is my main interest.

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3D visualization historic cities

I’m trying to get into the flow of being a potential academic, an urban historical geographer or an architectural historian. My current project is 3D visualization of a historic city. My first attempt will be the North End of Boston in 1775, (based on the map at right (large).


The process I’m playing with now is to trace the buildings, streets, plots and waterlines in illustrator, which I will then export to Sketchup.  Some of the buildings we know, such as the Paul Revere House and the Old North Church.  These I can inset into Sketchup from the Google 3D Warehouse.  I can then enter various Saltbox houses, wharfs, etc. for the rest of town.  This won’t be exact, but it will I hope give a sense of the city.

Ultimately, I am thinking that I want to put this into a game engine, so that people could experience running around the city.  I have Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, and will probably get the sequel, Skyrim when it comes out next month.  Obviously, these are  not programs everyone has, however, so I can’t distribute as widely as I might like.

Questions for y’all:

Do people know good open source game engines?  Especially ones that you can import from SketchUp?

Are there any topographical maps of early Boston? ow high were the various hills originally?

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RIP Alasdair Turner

Didn’t know the guy at all, but was affected by him – he created Depthmap, the space syntax program I used a bunch, and was active in the message boards and listserv that got me through my master’s project. An obscure connection, but I am still saddened to hear this.

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Tourist maps and street vending

While I found street vending to be very stressful in India, I know many people quite enjoy exploring markets and street food in developing countries. At the same time, many of these street vendors are small businesses that I believe ought to be fostered. These vendors are often cleared away as part of development projects that are aimed at attracting tourists, however ironic that may be. MIT’s Sidewalk Laboratory (SLAB) made this tourist route map that brings tourists to street vending.

This seems a wonderful synergy, except that my cynicism tells me that the people who have the real and social capital to make such cool maps are not street vendors, but rather those who would wish to clear them out of a potential development opportunity.

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TIGER II leaks so far

So far, I’ve found sources saying that just over half of the funds have been leaked.  Of this, 11% is in New England, and none are multi-modal path focused.  The latter still gives hope that we might get the word that Somerville has won funding for The Community Path Extension.  I will be updating this as I find more information.  For those interested in the planning grants, it looks like only 10.8m has been announced so far, so 69% are still to come.

– update: only 37% left, 64% of (max) planning grants left, only 11% to NE yet –

(Chart of the leaks I have discovered so far after the break.)

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5 Concepts to Revision Western Avenue, Cambridge, MA

Created Google SketchUp models for a future road diet; my spring internship with the City of Cambridge, MA

Western Avenue in Cambridge, MA is planned to be rebuilt in 2011. With the help of consultants, the City has conceptualized several potential redesign ideas, including a motor-vehicle lane reduction, sidewalk widenings, a street-level or raised cycle track, and back-in angle parking. As part of the community outreach, I created SketchUp models so that the options could be more easily envisioned by someone not accustomed to reading a plan. These models were included in the City’s Western Avenue Reconstruction Conceptual Design Booklet.  Concept 3 got me into the press for the first time: a lot of people don’t like separated paths! I just draw the  pictures here.

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A tip for getting a planning job this summer

I met yesterday someone who recently graduated from my program. May 2009 was a very bad time to be looking for jobs, and he was one of the few to have one right out of school. He suggested choosing what area you most want to work in, and plan on going there over spring break. Send applications to firms or agencies which you might want to work for as winter break ends. Say in those letters that you are going to be available to meet anytime over break, whenever they want. This way, those employers don’t have to handle the logistics of getting you to an interview: why not interview you? He did this, got two interviews over spring break, and was offered both jobs.

Good luck!

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Two Papers, Five Points about reconnecting Winston-Salem

  1. In the first paper, I argue that Winston-Salem should  knit historic Moravian Old Salem and modern commercial Winston back together across Business-40 and the Salem By-Pass using the principles of road dieting.
  2. B-40 could be bridged; W-S should look to prior examples from Atlanta’s 5th St. Crossing, and Boston’s crossing of the Mass Pike (not the Big Dig, but prior crossings in Back Bay), along with many others.
  3. In doing these projects, W-S already has many advantages, including:
    1. the skinnyness of the highways
    2. the topology that allows level crossings
    3. good urbanism on both the Winston and Salem sides of the highway
  4. In the second paper (summary available here), I looked mostly at the Salem By-Pass and “coffeepot square”, and different methods of analyzing the pedestrian-friendliness, including:
    1. Identifying and Measuring Urban Design Qualities Related to Walkability by Reid Ewing, et al., the stronger tool
    2. The CDC’s Walkability Audit Tool.
  5. I suggest changing the Salem By-Pass into the Salem Parkway, complete with:
    1. Creek daylighting
    2. Oak tree preservation
    3. Historic macadam pavement
    4. And, of course, the great Moravian-Czech-German institution, the Beer Garden.
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Uploaded my resume

It is available here.

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