The Nitty Gritty of Urban Life

The Urban Observatory is where cities happen online


Photo by Flickr user Werner Kunz

The modern metropolis is a living, breathing entity, teeming with people, pets, housing, health systems and transportation networks. A new web application called Urban Observatory –the brainchild of TED creator Richard Wurman and Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) founder Jack Dangermond - creates an Internet-based environment where cities can share information, and users can access maps and geographical data and compare them.
The idea of the site is to facilitate learning through comparison, creating a common benchmark to help city and land-use planners in their future endeavors. But it's not just professionals who can take something from this formidable tool – anyone can log onto the site and compare cities from Abu Dhabi to Auckland and Los Angeles to London, using categories including traffic rates, population density, commercial and industrial areas and open spaces. A population density comparison between London, New York and Tokyo, for example, reveals strikingly different patterns (see image below).
According to Wurman, the Urban Observatory site makes "everyone want to come and play." And we couldn’t agree more.