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Mapping for Architecture, Urbanism and the Humanities

  • Columbia University | GSAPP and A&S | ARCHA6805 | Spring 2016
  • Fridays 9-11am | Studio @ Butler
  • Office hours: Mondays 10am - 12pm (previous email required)
  • Professor: Juan Francisco Saldarriaga (jfs2118)
  • Teaching Assistant: Emily Fuhrman (ef2512)

Course Overview

This course provides an introduction to mapping theory and geographic information systems tools. Through the use of open-source GIS software (qGIS) and open data (OpenStreetMap) students will learn how to critically use mapping tools and geographic data for spatial analysis and representation. In this course, students will work through a series of web tutorials and hands-on in-class exercises to gain a better understanding of how these tools and data can be leveraged to analyze, represent and study past or present urban phenomena. In addition to using existing data, students will also be able to create or bring their own sets of data and questions from other courses and will be able to work with these in our class.

No prior experience in mapping, design or data analysis is required for this course. Open only to graduate students in GSAPP or Arts and Sciences.

General Topics

  • Basic mapping concepts and techniques
  • Data types
  • Census data
  • Metadata
  • Data creation
  • Geocoding
  • Georeferencing
  • Vector and raster data
  • Webmapping and crowdsourced data

Evaluation and Grading

  • 5% Attendance
  • 10% Class participation and discussion
  • 30% Individual assignments
  • 15% Final project proposal and midterm presentation
  • 40% Final project and final presentation and report

Resources and Materials

Course files, tutorials and presentations will be located on Courseworks, on the Center for Spatial Research website and on this repository. In addition, students should also contact the Digital Social Science Center (DSSC) located in Lehman Library (SIPA) for extra information and data.

The readings for the class will be duly uploaded to Courseworks. Similarly, students will be required to submit their assignments by uploading them to Courseworks. Finally, the class will also rely heavily on submissions to the blog. Students will be required to upload some of their own work as well as inspirational material, encouraging and developing a critical stance and visual skills.

Link to the blog.

Link to number of posts.


Week 1: Introduction to course

January 22

Week 2: Introduction to mapping concepts and techniques

January 29

Weeks 3 & 4: Maps and data

February 5 & 12

Week 5: Working with census data 1

February 19

Week 6: Working with census data 2

February 26

  • Estimation methods
  • Geoprocessing tools: buffers, clips, unions, update, dissolve, etc
  • Advanced selection methods: select by location, select by attribute, etc
  • Assignment: Tutorial 03 - Create map of census data showing new fields

Week 6: Projections

March 4

Week 7: Midterm presentations

March 11

Week 8: Spring break - no class

March 18

  • Assignment: Written critique of a map (Due March 23rd)

Week 9: Geocoding, georeferencing and editing

March 25

  • Working with address data (APIs), address locator, other methods
  • Georeferencing existing maps
  • How to create and edit spatial data
  • Assignment: Tutorial 05 - Georeference an existing map (old or new) and create new dataset from it
  • Assignment: Create a map with personal data (sound and location) (Due March 30)

Week 10: Working with raster data

April 1

  • Understanding the difference between vector and raster data
  • Understanding the different types of raster datasets
  • understanding raster bands
  • Downloading Landsat images
  • Creating 'true color' and 'false color composite' images
  • Extracting data from raster files
  • Assignment: Tutorial 06 - Create the following maps (Due April 13):
    • Change in population (based on the Gridded Population of the World datasets)
    • 3 different 'False Color Composite' maps based on Landsat imagery

Week 11 & 12: Webmapping and crowdsourced data

April 8 & 15

  • Concepts and tools of webmapping
  • Overview of webmapping platforms
  • Working with webmapping platforms (CartoDB, MapBox, Mapbox Studio, etc)
  • Exporting files ready for webmapping
  • Tutorial 07
  • Tutorial 08
  • Assignment: Create a webmap using both CartoDB and Mapbox Studio

Weeks 13 & 14: Lab work on final projects

April 22 & 29

Week 15: Final review

May 6

  • Assignment: Final presentation (group)



  • Data Flow: Visualizing Information in Graphic Design
  • Data Flow 2: Visualizing Information in Graphic Design
  • Meirelles, Isabel, Design for Information
  • Yau, Nathan, Data Points
  • Bertin, Jaques, Semiology of Graphics
  • Elke, Beyer, Atlas of Shrinking Cities
  • Tufte, Edward, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information
  • Tufte, Edward, Envisioning Information
  • Tactical Technology Creative, Visualizing Information for Advocacy
  • Orff, Kate, Petrochemical America
  • Dodge, Martin, Kitchin, Rob and Perkins, Chris, The Map Reader

Blogs & Websites