Columbia University
Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation


Spatial Information Design Lab was founded in 2004 as an interdisciplinary research unit in the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University.

SIDL is located in Schermerhorn Hall Extension, Room 654.

The Spatial Information Design Lab is a think- and action-tank at Columbia University specializing in the visual display of spatial information about contemporary cities and events. The lab works with data about space -- numeric data combined with narratives and images to design compelling visual presentations about our world today. The projects in the lab focus on linking social data with geography to help researchers and advocates communicate information clearly, responsibly, and provocatively. We work with survey and census data, Global Positioning System information, maps, high- and low-resolution satellite imagery, analytic graphics, photographs and drawings, along with narratives and qualitative interpretations, to produce images.

Spatial Information Design is a name for new ways of working with the vast quantity of statistical and other data available about the contemporary city. By reorganizing tabular data using unique visualization techniques, and locating it geographically, we try to correlate disparate items of information and picture the patterns and networks they create. Putting data on a map can open new spaces for action, and new options for intervention, as the often-unseen shapes and forms of life in the city becomes visible.

Design, here, is less like a tool and more like a language, a practice that shapes the outcomes and understandings of the things we do. It is not simply an aesthetic prejudice. The ways in which we present ideas and information can sometimes be even more important than the material itself, for better, or more commonly, for worse. The words and pictures we choose make a difference to the way people, including us, imagine their own possibilities of responding to what we say and do.

The goal of the Spatial Information Design Lab is to make partnerships with people and organizations inside and outside of the University. We are most interested in research which requires the independence and rigor of an academic setting (free of the usual politics and pressures of real life situations), and which thrive in an atmosphere of open inquiry, experimentation, and risk-taking, in order to expand the ways in which data is collected, used, and presented.

Laura Kurgan