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Research Case studies

The Urbal Mapping Project

Tom Bliss’ film 'The Urbal Fix' (2010) presented a potential spatial framework for metropolitan resilience by filtering 'pre-car' planning theories through Continuous Productive Urbal Landscape theory, and the delivery of ecosystem services by means of re-imagined, re-engineered green infrastructure.

The Urbal Mapping Project tests that proposition in real time by combining historic planning and 'expert' data from Local Authority and corporate sources, with crowd-sourced data, to create an online, interactive tool for both 'bottom-up' food, amenity, biodiversity and development groups, and 'top down' planners, politicians and opinion-makers.

Specifically, the objectives are:

  1. To identify housing more than 500m walking distance with shopping from a fruit & veg outlet and/or more than 300m from 2ha of green space.
  2. To map existing ecosystem service veins and water channels.
  3. To help growers assess and then establish new productive sites.
  4. To explore the relationships between all of these to create a permanently self-updating 'Urbal Masterplan' of value to all.

All visitors to the web page can interrogate existing data by switching between GIS (Geographic Information System) layers and reading embedded notes and links. Self-authorising 'guests' may enter the locations of food-growing sites, fruit trees and fresh food outlets. This data is separated and is authenticated by authorised volunteer 'members' and transferred to the robust layers. Members can also enter authenticated data from the Local Authority and other sources. Researchers will eventually begin to draw conclusions and suggest patterns and opportunities, but the project will remain evolutionary, keeping in step with the development of the city.

The initial research area for the project is Leeds, West Yorkshire but the project can be accessed from, and applied to, any settlement around the globe.

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