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Brooklyn Typology: The Electronic Architecture of a Living City Brooklyn Typology: The Electronic Architecture of a Living City

Brooklyn Typology: The Electronic Architecture of a Living City

by Theo Schell-Lambert
February 12, 2010

Neil Freeman is an artist and an urban planner, but he might best be described as an organist, pulling the right stops on blasts of data to reveal elegant new forms. In his "50 States and 50 Metros" graphic, Freeman cut city-sized chunks out of state maps, then scaled and ordered both by population-Georgia as cookie, missing (and dwarfed by) an Atlanta-shaped bite. "Skyscrapers in Order" wove building-height stats into jagged line-drawings, the results looking a bit like medieval weapons.

Freeman's methods are at their most rewarding in his epic Brooklyn Typology project, an online mash of photography, land records, and population statistics that breathes life into stale census data. For the piece, Freeman selected tracts and blockgroups across the borough (covering about 4 percent of its total area), photographed representative structures in each, then indexed his pictures with deep detail about population and housing stock. "The project is an experiment in representing a large area in multiple ways simultaneously," he says. Indeed: the pleasure here is in the sort, the various ways the user can collate the borough. Tour Brooklyn by "Primary Housing Type" or "Decades Built Up." Pick "Population Density per acre" and you'll find the list runs from 341.81 (tract 508, blockgroup 4, in Flatbush) to 0.01 (tract 177, blockgroup 1-a.k.a. Prospect Park).Brooklyn Typology manages to be many things at once: a hard resource, an addictive toy for urban-planning geeks, and also a vibrant kind of Web-era art, enabled rather than diminished by the laptop screen. For all his own walking, Freeman knows it's the user's choices that catalyze the project: "The web interface is a major part of [it]-this couldn't be reproduced as a book at all."
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