WorldIndexer Installation (2011, Mendis & Hsiang)
Bimal Mendis, an assistant dean at Yale, and Joyce Hsiang, a member of Plan B Architecture & Urbanism, work on an ambitious project named “The City of 7 Billion” which aims to study the impact of population growth and resource consumption at the scale of the whole world.
A part of the research consists in finding the way to integrate existing, interconnected metrics into a spatial model, and they have now already done this with one measurement of urbanization: the world’s population distribution relative to land use. They first visualized the data with a 3D software and then turned that spatial visualization into a physical installation at the 2011 Chengdu Biennale in China. They modeled the population distribution of the entire world in a kind of inverted map that visitors could walk into, inside a 10-by-10-by-10 foot room, with North America on the ceiling, Asia on one wall, Africa on the other one.
That installation made tangible what academics sometimes describe as the “spikiness” of global development. “People know these things abstractly,” Hsiang says. “But it’s entirely different when you actually can see it.”
Now, they’re currently working to do something similar with a vastly more complex scenario, which connects not just land use with population density, but also income data, carbon dioxide levels, and geographical terrain. And we’re anxious to see the development.