The Spatial Information Design Lab is now the Center for Spatial Research at Columbia University. Visit our new site at c4sr.columbia.edu to find out about current projects and upcoming events. This site is an archive of work completed up to 2014.
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Posted on March 1, 2009 by Laura Kurgan

HURRICANE KATRINA DISPLACED hundreds of thousands of New Orleans residents; as they’ve returned, their struggles to remake their lives and communities have been well chronicled. But smaller waves of displacement, followed by straggling return, have been washing through the city, largely unremarked, for many years. In 2003, upwards of 12,000 New Orleans–area residents left the city for prison; more than half were expected to return home within three years. This destructive cycle, interrupted by the storm, is slowly reasserting itself.

Nationwide, an estimated two-thirds of the people who leave prison are rearrested within three years. A disproportionate number of them come from a few urban neighborhoods in big cities. Many states spend more than $1 million a year to incarcerate the residents of single blocks or small neighborhoods.

One such “million-dollar neighborhood” is shown above—a half-square-mile portion of Central City, an impoverished district southwest of the French Quarter. In 2007, 55 people from this neighborhood entered prison; the cost of their incarceration will likely reach about $2 million.

The perpetual migration between prison and a few predictable neighborhoods is not only costly—it also destabilizes community life. Some New Orleans officials and community groups are now using prison-admission maps like these to explore new investments—block by block—in the social infrastructure of these damaged neighborhoods. Plenty of money is already being spent onthese neighborhoods, in the form of policing and prison costs; the hope is that by spending more money in them, in a highly targeted fashion, the release-and-return-to-prison cycle can eventually be broken.

The Same Old Problem

The maps below show the citywide density of prison admissions in recent years. As of 2007, incarceration rates had not returned to their pre-storm levels, but they had been rising. Incarceration patterns had also shifted, reflecting the uneven return of the population. In the badly damaged Lower Ninth Ward, for example, prison admissions were down by 75 percent, though that’s hardly cause for celebration: the district’s population had fallen by 85 percent since 2000.

Visit the link below to find out more:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/03/prison-blocks/307294/

Posted on March 1, 2009 by Laura Kurgan
Posted on September 14, 2008 by Laura Kurgan

The exhibition Into the Open highlights America's rich history of architectural experimentation and explores the original ways architects today are working collaboratively to invigorate community activism and environmental policy. 

In the absence of large-scale public infrastructure projects in the United States, local initiatives are becoming laboratories for generating new forms of sociability and civic engagement. These new community-minded architects are questioning traditional definitions of practice by conducting unique research into the socio-economic challenges and environmental rifts that define our times. They are going beyond building-- defining architecture not just as a physical infrastructure, but also as a social relationship. 

Into the Open debuted as the official United States representation at the 2008 Venice Biennale, where it offered international audiences insight into the ways America's architects are reinventing public space. Critics noted the exhibition's unusually sober assessment of the challenges America faces, as well as the inspired attempts by grassroots architects to mitigate these conflicts. In presenting the architects featured in this exhibition in Venice, New York, and finally Philadelphia, where the American experiment began, we underscore the power that intellectual entrepreneurs can have in enacting positive change. 

Currently on display in Philadelphia, the projects featured in the exhibition are divided between the National Constitution Center, Independence Mall, and the Slought Foundation on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania. Additionally, off-site community programming is being presented in partnership with local organizations. At the National Constitution Center you will encounter eight of the sixteen projects, including Estudio Teddy Cruz's 89-foot photo-narrative of the U.S.-Mexico border and Alice Water's model Edible Schoolyard outside on Independence Mall. Immersive, bold, and interactive, the intention of this exhibition is to inform and provoke--but commentary and participation are essential. We hope that the ideas presented in this exhibition prompt discussion in your own communities, adding yet another layer to the mix: your thoughts, your voice. 

 

Venues: 

National Constitution Center 
Slought Foundation 
July 15 through September 7, 2009 

Parsons The New School for Design, 
Sheila C. Johnson Design Center 
March 4 through May 1, 2009 

The U.S. Pavilion for La Biennale di Venezia, 
11th International Architecture Exhibition 
September 14 through November 23, 2008

Posted on August 23, 2008 by Laura Kurgan

Architecture and Justice on exhibition at MoMA, New York as part of an exhibition curated by Paola Antonelli.

http://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2008/elasticmind/

Scroll down to Mapping to see our work.

Posted on August 19, 2008 by Spatial Information Design Lab

Measures taken by the Chinese government to reduce carbon monoxide emissions in Beijing appear to have worked, based on preliminary data collected by Columbia University's Spatial Information Design Lab.

Read more at: 

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2008/08/16/sports/olympics/20080816-c0-graphic.html?scp=3&sq=spatial%20information&st=cse&_r=0

 

Posted on August 8, 2008 by Spatial Information Design Lab

Over the past twenty-five years, people have weathered dramatic changes in their experience of time, space, matter, and identity. Individuals cope daily with a multitude of changes in scale and pace—working across several time zones, traveling with relative ease between satellite maps and nanoscale images, and being inundated with information. Adaptability is an ancestral distinction of intelligence, but today’s instant variations in rhythm call for something stronger: elasticity, the product of adaptability plus acceleration. Design and the Elastic Mind explores the reciprocal relationship between science and design in the contemporary world by bringing together design objects and concepts that marry the most advanced scientific research with attentive consideration of human limitations, habits, and aspirations. The exhibition highlights designers’ ability to grasp momentous changes in technology, science, and history—changes that demand or reflect major adjustments in human behavior—and translate them into objects that people can actually understand and use. This Web site presents over three hundred of these works, including fifty projects that are not featured in the gallery exhibition.  

Find out more by visiting the link below: 

http://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2008/elasticmind/

Posted on February 22, 2008 by Spatial Information Design Lab

Several works in “Design and the Elastic Mind,” an exhibition that opens at the Museum of Modern Art on Sunday, offer intriguing and unexpected perspectives on New York. A team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has mapped the international phone calls and Internet traffic that connect the city with countries around the world, showing, for example, just how often Queens immigrants are on the phone back home with India. A design lab at Columbia University has traced the costs of incarceration in poor minority neighborhoods, demonstrating that taxpayers in some cases pay $1 million a year to imprison inmates from a single Brooklyn block.

In a review published today in The Times, Nicolai Ouroussoff writes that the exhibition “makes the case that through the mechanism of design, scientific advances of the last decade have at least opened the way to unexpected visual pleasures.” Several of the works are of particular interest to people who care about the future of cities.

Read more at: 

http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/02/22/new-york-and-the-vanguard-of-digital-design/?hp

Posted on February 22, 2008 by Spatial Information Design Lab

Bioengineered crossbreeds. Temperamental robots. Spermatozoa imprinted with secret texts. Although the fascination with organic form has been around since the Renaissance, we have now entered an age in which designers and architects are drawing their inspiration from hidden patterns in nature rather than from pretty leaves or snowflakes. The results can be scary, but they may also hold the key to paradise.

“Design and the Elastic Mind,” an exhilarating new show opening on Sunday at the Museum of Modern Art, makes the case that through the mechanism of design, scientific advances of the last decade have at least opened the way to unexpected visual pleasures.

Read more: 

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/22/arts/design/22elas.html

Posted on September 26, 2007 by Laura Kurgan

September 26 – November 18, 2007
LACE (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions)
Organized by Ava Bromberg and Nicholas Brown

OPENING RECEPTION: Wednesday, September 26, 7-9pm

/// INTRODUCTION ///

Everyday we confront spaces that don't work - from our neighborhoods and parks, to our prisons, pipelines and borders. In this exhibition and programming series, artists, scholars and activists reveal how these spaces function - and dysfunction - making way for thought and action to create just societies and spaces.

The projects in this exhibition reflect the renewed recognition that space matters to cutting edge activist practices and to artists and scholars whose work pursues similar goals of social justice. A spatial frame offers new insights into understanding not only how injustices are produced, but also how spatial consciousness can advance the pursuit of social justice, informing concrete claims and the practices that make these claims visible. Understanding that space - like justice - is never simply handed out or given, that both are socially produced, differentiated, experienced and contested on constantly shifting social, political, economic, and geographical terrains, means that justice - if it is to be concretely achieved, experienced, and reproduced - must be engaged on spatial as well as social terms.

http://criticalspatialpractice.blogspot.com/2007/09/just-spaces.html

http://www.walkinginplace.org/justspaces/overview.htm

Posted on August 11, 2007 by Spatial Information Design Lab

By Laura Maggi

Taking a novel approach to crime research, Columbia University researchers studying New Orleans ignored where offenses happened and looked instead at the home addresses of incarcerated criminals.

They found a few distinct neighborhoods that serve as a home base for lawbreakers who commit their crimes citywide.

Central City, the triangle of territory bounded by Louisiana Avenue, Earhart Boulevard and St. Charles Avenue, emerged as one area with a high concentration of incarcerated residents. Almost 13 percent of the New Orleans residents sentenced in 2006 to state Department of Corrections institutions hailed from Central City, an area that at the time boasted a little more than 5 percent of the city's population, according to the analysis. Other hot spots included the 7th Ward and parts of Algiers.

That information could prove a powerful tool, according to researchers and city leaders trying to fashion a long-term strategic plan to battle crime through neighborhood revitalization. New Orleans City Councilman James Carter said neighborhoods like Central City -- with failing schools, crumbling public housing and rampant blight -- serve as breeding grounds for criminals, a problem beyond the capability of law enforcement to solve. The solution, he said, calls for multiple government agencies, businesses and nonprofit organizations to pour money and volunteers into rebuilding neighborhood infrastructure, including schools, parks, community centers, health clinics and recreational facilities.

Find out more by visiting the link below:

http://www.nola.com/frontpage/t-p/index.ssf?/base/news-8/1186813512301240.xml