web analytics

— urbantick

Tag "lisbon"

This will be some relate, but maybe thrown together rumbling over a trip to Lisbon with bits and pieces of a conference and various thoughts and discussion extracts that link to this particular context. Being on the road usually brings up numerous new perspectives and lines of thought that might initially not be directly related to anything in particular but later on might as well find their way into a more contextualised form.

Visiting places as a tourist can often be quite frustrating. You are always the outsider, you stand out unable to step in to the secrets of the place. Scratching the surface and trotting the main paths with your fellow visitors. The guides direct you to what ever thousands of visitors have seen before tell you a little about the history but never really what you want to know and leave you in the dark about the real local narratives and secrets.

Lisbon Oriente Station
Image taken from skyscraper city / The oriente train station in Lisbons new quarter built by Calatrava for the expo in 1998.

See a place and learning about a place are quite some different things. This visit to Lisbon makes no exemption and the best probably is to accept and keep on walking, with open eyes continuously processing and combining trying to fit the puzzle pieces together reshuffle and attempt a new combination, establishing links both in terms of orientation and local practice whilst sucking ip the atmosphere of a quite unfamiliar place.

Its usually the subtile elements and little details as compared to the familiar context that stand out the most. Here in Lisbon as compared to London these are the sound, the smell and the space of the city. The three are probably diametrically the opposite of what you’ll find in the UK and especially in London.

Strong smell are common in Lisbon and you can find them everywhere usually before if at all you will find out about the source. From pleasant to truly awful there is everything. In terms of the sound, based on the dramatic differences in terms of space, architecture and topography the sound scape appears to have very different qualities. There is a lot more transition noises from activities blending into one another. A lot more activities take place in semi public spaces with a lot of balconies and loggias being involved. Then there are taler building and different street with-building hight relations transporting sounds into upper levels of buildings you might not associate normally with a ground floor situation.

Spaces are vast here in Lisbon. From the airport gates to the tube stations, train stations or university reception areas, everything is triple the size one would possibly assigne for the usage. Very impressive and completely changing the way enclosures are navigated used and finally perceived. Spaces flow a lot more here.


One of the talks at the 7VCT conference here at the Nova University was on Biomimicry and the promis of sustainable design based on such a concept. Various very beautiful and striking reference images were sown by Guorreiro during a tour do force of visually linking biological structures to urban physical form.

The occurring question of course immediately is as to how can one explain the linking of organic to man made other than visual similarities? Especially if we look at the creative capacity of people, the factors of decision making of the individual, also resulting in a cultor of space and space making.

Prof Mike Batty put it nicely in his comment during the sessions discussion time that in terms of energy consumption and optimisation of ‘the’ spatial problem this can be the result. With such a explanation the visual argument is extended and especially moves away from a direct comparison where people and cars in the road shall be see as blood cells transporting goods to the houses.

There is no doubt that there are similarities but there also are striking differences. Of this the capacity to take decision being one, but also the longevity of persistance being an example. if a mouse dies the same cells are very unlikely to reemerge as a mouse since the new baby mouse grows insed its mother, for the mouse being a mammal. However, a house is very likely to be built on the very same plot since this plot is guarded by boundary lines and the neighbouring property is likely to be owned by somebody else and at a very different stage of its live cycle (maybe there is a thing with local similarities though). This results in the discussion around boundary and finally organisational rules as sit would be extended to the discussion about culture and society in the next step. How do people live together in cities. Rules govern the structure, but they are not universal, its a trade off and locally emerged in regards to very specific conditions.

Taking this further these very same conditions however allow also for her consistence and persistance of the urban structure for a long times much beyond the individual inhabitant. Thus guaranteeing the built urban structure to develop and persist at a very different time scale. It is not down to a single planing act or the work of a generation that cities are stil there, but to the fact of social structure and the inscription of social structure manifested in physical form that lead to the continued existence of cities.

Cities rarely dye. Although there are some examples, there are even more stories of cities being rebuilt after great disasters. The earthquake of Lisbon being one or te fire of London. Nearly every city had its great fire actually , see the Wikipedia list of Fires. There is a very particular resilience about cities they don’t often die. Although thinking of it it might be the case that there are some examples to be fond.

The point is though that there are structures in place managing the functionality beyond the individual how ever important the single cities might be. This is what the pattern of activity and everyday structure is describing, inscribing activities in the urban morphology. THe word most overused in the past two years in this particular context is resilience. The capacity to withstand impacts and forces running against the everyday structure of the place.


To come back to the paper presented at the conference about the similarities between organic as in natural and planned as in organised one of the examples was the plan of Lisbon before and after the earthquake of 1755. The intention was to show how similar ‘natural’ growth is to planned growth since the planned result bears similar to the previous setting. The question being what is order and how does it emerge.

Lisbon map before 1755
Image taken from strangemaps / The city of Lisbon just before the 1755 earthquake that destroyed most of the existing city. The square and the gates to the city are already established structures. So are the linear streets following the topographical conditions.

This comparison makes an interesting example for what the organisation of order can produce. However, to argue based on this that there are similarities between ‘natural’ growth and ‘planned’ growth.

There are clear restrictions linking the two stages of the urban fragments. The first image shows the old city of Lisbon just before the earthquake in 1755 and the second plan shows how the planners headed by Manuel da Maia laid out the rebuilding plan. The bold option with a complete restructuring of the Baixa area was chosen by the king as the plan to be implemented.

Lisbon 1785
Image taken from intbau / The city of Lisbon after the replanning following the 1755 earthquake that destroyed most of the existing city.

Still as seen in many examples of reconstruction efforts, for example in London after great fire and after the second world war bombing with some of Abercrombies plans for the restructuring of the city, there are a lot of constraints that can not just be swept away as if it were a fresh plan. Landownership and established routes as well as other infrastructure or topological conditions make the rebuilding more of a puzzle task than a grand design effort.

There are of course some top down examples of restructuring such a Hausmann’s Paris plan or maybe some water dam projects in China were restructuring at such a scale is taking place.


Of course being in Lisbon makes it worth mentioning agani the visualisations developed by Pedro Cruz for the city traffic. These were covered in earlier posts HERE and HERE. The data stems forma survey covering traffic on the roads of Lisbon recorded over the period of one month. These animations developed in processing using explorative algorithms together with testing a range of analogies. Visually these representations are very captivating and stimulative in a number of ways. and on top it just loks pretty, very important too.

Having experienced a little bit the city of Lisbon over the past two days let me read these renderings in a different way. Some of the arteries have an distinct image attached and lend to read the network in relation to the topography and feel for urban identity.

Read More

I will be at the 7th Virtual Cities and Territories conference in Lisbon today. The conference ihas six theme tracks Modeling for urban and spatial analysis, Sustainability, Urban Form and Urban Design, New Technologies in Architecture, Urban Design and e-Planning, Housing and Land Policy, Governance, Competitiveness and Innovation, Land management for urban dynamics and is co-hosted by José António Tenedório, e-GEO-FCSH-UNL and Nuno Norte Pinto, DEC-UC.

Conference registration starts on October 11th, at 8:30 am at the lobby of the Reitoria building, where you will receive your conference kit.

The opening session will take place at 9:30 am at the Auditório A (Reitoria building), with the presence of Prof. António Rendas, the Rector of the NOVA University of Lisbon, and of Prof. João Gabriel Silva, the Rector of the University of Coimbra.

At 10:00 am we will have the opening keynote lecture by Prof. Michael Batty.

The conference puts forward an interesting conceptualised summary of the topics as something called “five fingers”.

“Inventory finger”: The papers reflect the need to structure information acquired by modern means such as 3D laser scanning and satellite images.

“Visualization finger”: The visualization, namely the 3D, is currently an effective way to promote public participation in plans. The third dimension and the possibility of its manipulation is a powerful computational representation of the city and of the territory.

“Analysis Finger”: Shape analysis, urban and territorial processes, as well as the manipulation of spectral data, image segmentation, image processing, object-oriented analysis, and networks analysis (transport, social, etc.) are currently the starting points in the debate of the importance of geographic information in the organizations.

“Modeling and simulation finger”: Computer Science has become a key research field for modeling spatial phenomena in Geography, Architecture, Engineering, and Town Planning.

“e-Planning finger”: The conjugation of the previous “fingers” allows the construction of new electronic tools or computational representations of city and territories. Consequently, virtual cities and territories become the new place for planning and for designing the real world.

I will be presenting the paper NCL – Tracking Location Based Social Networks Using Twitter Data discussing how currently static descriptions of urban areas can become dynamic using data available through mobile technologies and digital social networks. The key to this shift lies in the fact that the new data allows analysis completely independent from established location formula and boundaries. The description emerges from the action not the location. The facts are newly laid out and a true dynamic description can only be achieved if fix points are eliminated. The new information is only pinned down on the here and now. With the new media everywhere is here and here is everywhere.

Since the conference is in Lisbon it makes sense to put together a few Twitter images on the place. It is not the most active place but still generates a fair amount of location based tweets over one week.

Image by urbanTick for NCL / Tweet times compared between Lisbon, San Francisco and Singapore. Lisbon has this characteristic four o’clock peak at night. It is very strong on the weekend. Another characteristic is the slow start in the morning the work plateau and te jump over lunch to the evening plateau where it drops off quickly.

Image by urbanTick for NCL / Tweets by location mainly in the centre and along the river shores.

Image by urbanTick for NCL / Tweets around the centre of Lisbon witha few hotspots highlighted by a crude density estimation. For example the Instituto Superior Técnico is a spot as well as the Estádio da Luz in the top left corner.

Read More

Pedro M Cruz has updated his work on the Lisboa traffic visualisation. His earlier visualisation, part of his Master Thesis, featured here and on many other blogs back in April 2010.

The visualisations are built in processing using different models. The data represented traffic on the roads of Lisbon recorded over the period of one month.

About his new version Cruz sais: “the traffic of Lisbon is portrayed exploring metaphors of living organisms with circulatory problems. Rather than being an aesthetic essay or a set of decorative artifacts, my approach focuses on synthesizing and conveying meaning through data portrayal”.

His new attempt is clearly chalenging to some extend slowly settling standards in the field of visualisation. Those being the attempt to visualise everything as is and as much of it as possible. Traditional techniques of abstraction, simplification or focus, what ever you would like to call it, are ignored and rendered away using sheer computing power.

The system used here is developed having some rough biology concepts in mind, images of blood vessels. Cruze explains: “the thickness, the color and the length of the vessels are excited by the number of vehicles and average velocity in each road”.

Lisboa Bood Vessels
Image taken from mondeguinho.com / The road network of Lisbon was queried from OpenSreetMap, parsed and filtered. Using this information, a spring based physics system is build for the road network and a filling structure of each vessel. The data is overlaid on the resultant structure to determine the road where each vehicle is at a given moment. This allows to inject data at runtime and excite the system.

This has a dramatic effect for the representation of the geometry and alters the appearance of the whole system. Nevertheless since the visualisation is reduced to the road as the single feature this is not producing any complication, on the contrary the system starts to become readable.

Especially interesting in this visualisation is the built in time-distance representation. The basic idea of that if a connection is fast it is short and if it is slow it becomes longer. This is as if saying time = distance (length). This is of course a very abstract and dangerous thing to propose, but in this case it produces some interesting results, since one all of a sudden is reading a visualisation roughly to its location in regards of how long it takes. As Cruz points out his is connecting the local and the global features of this representation and in this sense take it a step forward. Details on his blog.

Read More

For his Masters Thesis, Pedro Cruz has developed a visualisation of Lisbon traffic. It represents 24 hours in the capital of Portugal.
The data is derived from 1534 vehicles recorded over one month. All the records are then put into a 24 hour stack.
The colours represent the speed of the traffic with green being fast and orange/red being slower. The main roads to bring traffic through the city with a higher speed show up in green where as the local roads beautifully draw the tight network in between.

Image by Pedro Cruz / Vehicule traffic in Lisbon on a Friday, visulisation inspired by Aron Koblins’s flight patterns.

The visualisations are built in processing and Cruz experimented with a number of different typs, each emphasising a different aspect. He eventually settled for one that is combining the speed as well as the focus on the main road. I am not sure however what the trailings/diagonals, between points actually mean. Guess it could be were the tracking signal was ost, but that seems a bit too geometrical for this. On the other hand as an area it also doesn’t make too much sense. Cruz describes it as a visual thing.
Interestingly the speed on the local roads seems to be fairly constant, were as the speed on the main roads seems to slow down at night. This is surprising, since one would think that during the day there is more traffic and drivers would naturally slow down or even get slowed down by clunked up roads. on the other hand, at night there is more room on these roads and drivers would go faster and race around the city.
However this is great visualisation work. For more such visualisation visit Cruz’s blog or his vimeo channel.

Found via Datavisulisation.ch .

Read More