Mapping Almost 250 Years of Buildings in Manhattan


Morphocode‘s Urban Layers allows users to drill down and view the history of Manhattan’s buildings by mapping out over 45,000 buildings and symbolizing them by age.  Users can filter buildings by age by interacting with the graph which shows year of construction on the X axis and the number of buildings built in each year on the Y axis.  The oldest buildings are color coded red and the newest buildings are shaded dark blue.

Urban Layers uses two datasets from New York City (NYC): PLUTO and  building footprints.  PLUTO is attribute data from NYC’s Department of City Planning including information about year built, height, and borough.  The building footprint data was downloaded from the NYC Open Data portal.  The Making of Urban Layers page provides some excellent detail on the GIS processes the team at Morphocode used to prime the GIS data for public consumption and deliver them via the web.  The shapefile data was imported into a PostGIS database using Shp2pgsql and then joined to the PLUTO data using the BBL field.  For the web display, the GIS data was converted to GeoJSON and Leaflet’s vector layers was used to show them on the map.   To provide a smooth and quick web viewing experience, Mapbox GL for Web was used to filter and style on the fly the vector layers in the browser.  The basemap for the interactive map is from Esri.


The completed project can be viewed on Morphocode’s site:  Currently, Mapbox-gl-js is only supported only in Chrome and Firefox on the desktop.

For those that want to learn more about the process behind the project,  there is an upcoming course at Morphocode Academy called “Data and the City: Urban Visualizations” which will discuss how to find, store and visualize urban data.




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