London Urban Form 3D Map

The structure of large cities such as London is complex and endlessly fascinating. Effective visualisation can reveal the many patterns in urban structures for research and planning tasks, and the visualisation challenge is to manage the multi-dimensional and dynamic nature of urban complexity. Here we explore the geography of land-use and density across Greater London using 3D cartography at a 500 metre grid scale (HD version here):

London is highly centralised, with recent patterns of intensification in the City of London, Canary Wharf and Inner London more generally cementing this pattern. Meanwhile much of Outer London struggles to attract higher value commercial uses. We will explore the agglomeration, property market, and planning policy processes that underlie these trends in future posts.

Many of land use patterns visible in London resemble the ‘classic’ urban location theory models: there is an extreme Alonso-type density gradient; retail uses retain a central-place hierarchy; and there are distinct radial corridors. Additionally further theories on the economics of mix-of-uses (e.g. Jacobs) and the lumpy mega-scale of real-estate investment are clearly key parts of London’s make-up.

The London Urban Form movie was created in ArcGlobe, which has some nice features like the ability to change the background mapping and animation timeline features. The advantages of doing the movie within GIS is the ability to easily combine spatial data at a variety of scales. Some of the more advanced animation effects that I would like to use such as geometry transitions (to show growth and decline) and controlling lighting are however not possible in GIS. A previous visualisation of this data in 3DS Max by Andy-Hudson Smith shows how these effects can be achieved.





2 thoughts on “London Urban Form 3D Map

  1. Your work shows in a really appealing way the density of different floorspaces but it seems to fail when showing diversity. The effect you get looks like a result of displaying all previously shown 3d blocks. This approach lacks clarity- you cant tell which cell is most diverse.
    I worked on similar data in visualising it in 2d and also measured diversity represented by the number of different functions inside a given cell. The results could be easily turned into 3d (diversity value used as Z value). Send me an e-mail if you’re interested in the procedure.

    1. Hi Tomasz,

      Yes there are lots of diversity indices and I have used various diversity and dissimilarity indices in my own research. In this particular application diversity was not the focus- rather is was collocation. So by retaining the original uses it is possible to see that office and retail functions are generally complementary and often collocate in centres at various scales, whilst industrial uses have distinct location preferences and are to an extent repulsed by high value centres. These kind of trends tend to be disguised by diversity indices. Incidentally the most diverse location in London is the West-End.


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