The Urban Fabric Map

Compare the building footprints of cities shown at the same scale. Buildings are an indicator of transportation activity as most trips involve going from one building to another (example: home to work). By viewing what cities look like from a given distance above, we can get an idea of the transportation activity in the city. We can also get an idea of the size of the city, its density, and economic activity.

How the project came to be

Frustrated by traffic jams in Yerevan, I wanted to figure out a way to understand if whether or not travel times (time required to go from one place to the other in the city) in Yerevan are representative of the city and its socioeconomic activity. The tradiational way of going about such a problem would be to do some kind of comparative study with other cities using socioeconomic variables such as population, population density, GDP, car ownership, availabilility and access to transportation, connectivity, etc.

But who has time for that? Not to mention the data would be difficult to obtain or gather. Instead, inspired by this map of English cities mapped at the same scale using open data from official sources, I wanted to recreate the visualization for the whole world, using open data at the world scale, and directly in your browser without having to resort to any software.

Disclaimer: The results are purely visual, don't take into account topography, and don't prove anything. Take them with a grain of salt and draw your own conclusions.

How it works

The Urban Fabric Map grabs the building data from OpenstreetMap and displays it on the maps below using a custom Mapbox style. This means that the results are a 100% dependant on what is already mapped in OSM. If you want to find out how your city compares to others, then start mapping!

The data is grabbed in real time (often tens of thousands of buildings) when you search for a city. For this reason, it might take a few seconds for the buildings to show up on the map. Also, considering the insane amount of data that needs to be downloaded in a few seconds, attempting to view large cities at a low zoom level, might cause your browser to freeze for a few seconds (be patient) and in some cases to crash completely. If it does crash, you can retry to view at a higher zoom level by adjusting the bar and trying again. One day when I have enough funds to run my own server, I can make the app work faster and not crash, but until then, this is the best I can do. Enjoy!

Current scale is roughly:

Map One

Map Two








New York