30 January 2020

Sandy River Flood

In class, we talked briefly about a great video by Alexandra Erickson that makes the dangerous flooding of the Sandy River look more beautiful than threatening.

Here is a map of the Sandy River near its confluence with the Zigzag River.


And, they say it will happen again.

28 January 2020

The School of Architecture at Taliesin

After 88 years of rich tradition, The School of Architecture at Taliesin is going to close.

Coronavirus dashboard

The news conversations about the spread of coronavirus clearly describe it as a spatial and temporal phenomenon. To help you see that fully, Esri has created an online dashboard that maps the confirmed cases worldwide (currently just at 4,473, but sure to go up). Open the dashboard and pan over to the US to see if the suspected cases in NJ or OH become something more.

27 January 2020

Planning Board Meetings

A few municipal planing board meetings that will be close to campus in the coming weeks:
  • New Brunswick - Feb 10 and March 9 (Mondays)
  • North Brunswick - Feb 11 (Tuesday) 
  • East Brunswick - The Board holds public hearings on the first and third Wednesdays of each month at 8 p.m. in the Municipal Building.
  • Edison - Feb 19 and March 18 (Wednesdays)

In the meantime, you might find the East Brunswick guide to meetings useful.

23 January 2020

The author speaks

This semester I am asking my students to read The Living Landscape by Fritz Steiner. But instead of thinking about him abstractly as an author, I recommend this talk he gave at the Geodesign Summit. Well worth taking a break and watching for a few minutes.

20 January 2020


Atlanta is home to the National Historic Park that includes Martin Luther King Jr's Ebeneezer Baptist Church and his burial site. It stands as a powerful symbol of the diversity of issues that he worked on, from labor issues to anti-semitism to civil rights. And, situated in his neighborhood, reminds us of his humanity.

I anticipated seeing the sanctuary, just like in the photos. But I was taken aback by the Fellowship Hall, which looked like so many other basement meeting rooms. While his sermons and writings got featured at the park's museum, I couldn't help but imagine the less historic meetings that the pastor held in the basement with small bible study groups or struggling families.

In his final Christmas sermon, in the pulpit picture above, he famously said:

"If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective." 
 The National Park Service's mission is: "The National Park Service preserves unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations." While totally different than Yosemite, this site seems essential to fulfilling that mission.

18 January 2020

Tissot's indicatrix

The world of GIS and cartography has lots of little treats hidden away for you to discover. One of them is the development of Tissot's indicatrix. The simple description is that these are ellipses that illustrate map projection distortion. But if you read up on it, there much more going on than is at first obvious.

And if reading about it isn't enough for you, it also inspired a song.

17 January 2020

Snow hype

All winter we are deluged with teases of news reports about whether the coming storm will leave a little or a lot of snow. Lots of hype comes with that. In NJ, High Point State Park can often get 6-12" more than Rutgers gets in New Brunswick, which means that the news can regularly announce in advance that some parts of New Jersey could get 9" even though the forecast for Central New Jersey is just a dusting.

Rather than getting worked up by a quick headline on the radio, let me encourage readers to simply check the National Weather Service snow maps for our areas. The maps are regularly updated, easy to read, and not pegged to just wherever the broadcaster or blogger is located. It will be one less thing to stress out about over the spring semester. They are also a nice looking map product.

14 January 2020

A breach of public trust?

The prominent landscape architecture firm, Nelson Byrd Woltz, appears to be caught in a controversy brewing in midtown Manhattan. According to the NY Times, the latest plans the NYC's Hudson Yards has added a previously unmentioned 20 foot high concrete wall stretching along 720 feet of the High Line. The article includes a site map and some diagrams to help explain the proposal.

For a sense of how dramatic this change might be, the Times offers this perspective:
Corey Johnson, speaker of the City Council, who represents the district, called it a breach of public trust. Luxury buildings that have sprouted beside the High Line have increasingly walled off what was the park’s original charm and fascination — the urban adjacencies and “Rear Window” views into and onto old warehouses and tenements. To wall off the remaining northern- and westernmost stretch of the park, Mr. Johnson said, would betray “what public officials negotiated a decade ago.”
The High Line and the Hudson Yards represent an incredibly complex public-private relationship that has taken decades to develop, but has also seen increased tension in recent years. This could still boil over or blow over. Keep an eye on it.

13 January 2020

Good books

The New York Public Library is celebrating its 125th anniversary with a list of the all-time most checked out books. While the numbering seemed off on the website, the list is pretty interesting.

07 January 2020

Panoramic maps

Start the year by wasting some time looking at panoramic maps hosted by the Library of Congress.

This 1903 map of Ocean City, N.J. purports to show "its unrivalled location, beautiful sea-shore, protected sailing waters, and famous fishing grounds, also railroads and ferry connections, artesian water, sanitary sewage [sic], electric lights, gas, electric cars."

03 January 2020


Take some time and build a city with this isometric city builder from Victor Ribeiro. (h/t Kottke) It is easy, pointless, and uses a few different brain cells. Although our readers will quickly notice the lack of green infrastructure and urban forestry.