Supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation this initiative includes both projects and curricular initiatives that bring together students and scholars from across the University.

Call for Applications: Research Scholar for Historical GIS and Visualization

The Center for Spatial Research is pleased to announce a call for applications for a full-time Associate Research Scholar position for the 2018-2019 academic year.

The position, within the Center for Spatial Research (CSR) will focus on critical work with Geographic Information Systems and design for a new grant-funded project mapping historical New York. We invite applications from candidates with a strong interest in interdisciplinary work whose research practices combine GIS-based methods and strong visual design. The position is for one year and renewable for up to three additional semesters.

The position will report to the Director of CSR and will be part of a collaborative project team between CSR and the Department of History. The incumbent will work closely with a postdoctoral fellow in History and Principal Investigators to: develop methodologies for historical geographic information systems research, including geocoding census records; create compelling visualizations of research outcomes for broad public audiences; participate in writing and creating maps and visualizations for papers and other publications in journal and multimedia formats; and develop curricula and teaching materials related to this research. Successful candidates must have experience and interest in using GIS-based research practices to open up new questions in, and modes of representation of, urban environments.

Position Qualifications:

Candidates must hold a Master’s degree or the equivalent. Successful candidates will have robust experience with GIS-based research, and methodology design as well as a range of other computational tools for urban research and must be eager to acquire additional skills through their work with CSR. Experience with historical GIS research is a plus.

The Center’s projects typically draw on a range of tools including: GIS (ESRI and Open Source); R; Python; Adobe Creative Suite; mapping and visualization libraries such as Leaflet, Processing, D3, APIs, HTML5, CSS and Javascript. The candidate is not required to know all of these tools, but a willingness to learn new software, the most up to date tools, and a collaborative spirit is a requirement of the job.

Candidates will have the ability to do collaborative and cross-disciplinary research and the ability to convey specialized knowledge to students and faculty working in the Center. Candidates should demonstrate ability to show how their own fields of specialty intersect with or bring new tools and research methods to research in the urban humanities. Preferred qualifications include publication in recognized media and conference presentations.

Candidates for professional officer of research positions are expected to have established their ability to conduct original, independent research a field of the humanities. Associate research scholars' qualifications and contributions to their fields of research must be equivalent to those of an assistant professor.

Please visit our online application site at:

for further information about this position and to submit your application. You will be asked to submit your 1-2 page letter of interest, CV, and a portfolio which demonstrates your work and research experiences. Review of applications will begin February 1, 2018 and continue until the position is filled.

Columbia University is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.

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Mapping Historical New York Receives $1 Million Grant

The Center for Spatial Research is pleased to announce a new $1 million grant recieved from the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation to create web-based, interactive maps of Manhattan and Brooklyn during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The three-year project is a collaboration of Columbia’s History Department and the Columbia Center for Spatial Research in the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP).

Mapping Historical New York will create digitized maps of the two boroughs as well as detailed neighborhood case studies. The maps will capture two major transformations of the city at the turn of the 20th century: demographic changes resulting from immigration; and changes in land use resulting from the incorporation of parts of Long Island (Brooklyn and Queens) into city in the 1890s. The website and maps created by the project will be freely accessible to the public.

The project aims to both create the interactive maps and to train faculty and students in digital research and teaching methods, by incorporating them into the project’s design and execution and in courses on New York, immigration, and urban history.

The principal investigators for the project are Mae Ngai, Lung Family Professor of Asian American Studies and Professor of History; Rebecca Kobrin, Russell and Bettina Knapp Associate Professor of American Jewish History; and Laura Kurgan, Associate Professor of Architecture and Director of the Center for Spatial Research.

Seth Schwartz, Lucius N. Littauer Professor of Classical Jewish Civilization and chair of the History Department, said, “Thanks to the Gardiner foundation, we have an exciting opportunity to use cutting-edge digital methods in historical research and teaching. We look forward to collaborating with the Center for Spatial Research in GSAPP.”

"GSAPP has a long legacy of studying housing and preservation in New York City, and it will be exciting for the university's research to be made more accessible through Laura Kurgan's Center for Spatial Research and its pioneering forms of visualization," said Amale Andraos, Dean of Columbia GSAPP.

Read the full press release here.

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Ways of Knowing Cities - Conference

Ways of Knowing Cities
Friday, February 9, 2018, 9:30 am
Wood Auditorium, Avery Hall

Free and open to the public with registration, RSVP here

Technology increasingly mediates the way that knowledge, power, and culture interact to create and transform the cities we live in. Ways of Knowing Cities is a one-day conference which brings together leading scholars and practitioners from across multiple disciplines to consider the role that technologies have played in changing how urban spaces and social life are structured and understood – both historically and in the present moment. 

Keynote lectures by Trevor Paglen and Wendy Chun

Participating Speakers
Simone BrowneMaribel Casas-Cortes,  Anita Say ChanSebastian Cobarrubias,  Orit HalpernCharles Heller,  Shannon Mattern, V. Mitch McEwenLeah Meisterlin,  Nontsikelelo MutitiDietmar OffenhuberLorenzo PezzaniRobert Pietrusko, and Matthew Wilson.

From John Snow’s cholera maps of London and the design of the radio network in Colonial Nigeria to NASA’s composite images of global night lights, the way the city and its inhabitants have been comprehended in moments of technological change has always been deeply political. Representations of the urban have been sites of contestation and violence, but have also enabled spaces of resistance and delight. Our cities have been built and transformed through conflict, and the struggle is as much informational and representational as it is physical and bodily. Today, the generation and deployment of data is at the forefront of projects to reshape our cities, for better and for worse. As a consequence, responding to urban change demands critical literacy in technology, and particularly data technologies. The conference addresses itself to the deep ambivalence of interventions in the urban, as it explores the ways that knowledge regimes have impacted the built world. In this sense, it seeks to catalyze more robust, creative, and far-reaching ways to think about the relationship between the urban and the information systems that enable, engage and express the city.

Free and open to the public with registration, RSVP here

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Points Unknown: Cartographic Narratives
In this course students will explore new forms of site analysis through pairing geospatial analysis, mapping, and storytelling.
Course Description

Society is increasingly dependent on data and computation, a dependence that often evolves invisibly, without any critical assessment or accountability. In New York City, with its mandate to make data public, students have an opportunity to learn how to question data through journalistic lines of inquiry: What data are made public? What do they say about life in the city? How are neighborhoods rendered in data and what are the consequences of those representations? What undiscovered stories can be found in the data?

The architectural design process is coming to rely increasingly on complex, large, spatial datasets for urban analysis. Literacy with spatial data analysis, mapping and storytelling have yet to become an integral part of the design process. In pairing spatial training with journalistic approaches, this course will serve as the missing “integrator” of data and the real world.  

Points Unknown: Cartographic Narratives will focus on rethinking how we characterize a place, an important first step for architectural design, traditionally represented by a basic site plan. In this course, students will explore new forms of site analysis. Through pairing the processes of architecture and some of the skills of journalism, this course will explore four sites in the New York City/Hudson Valley Region—from the proposed redesign of Penn Station to the completion of the Third Water Tunnel.

Students will work in groups under the direction of an editor to explore a select site, spending the semester researching and constructing a geospatial narrative. Students will learn how to investigate their identified site and will select a particular issue to address. Students will research the site, conduct interviews, perform exploratory data analysis, and learn various geospatial visualization techniques to produce a comprehensive narrative.

The final output will come in the form of a presentation that successfully highlights an identified problem of the site, posits evidence through novel implementations of data, and provides a comprehensive narrative through geospatial representations. In addition, the research will surface recommendations for site intervention.

Points Unknown—designed jointly by faculty at the Graduate School of Journalism and the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation—is funded by Collaboratory, a new university-wide program led by the Data Science Institute and Columbia Entrepreneurship to catalyze interdisciplinary curricular collaboration.

Call for Applications: Mellon Associate Research Scholars

The Center for Spatial Research is pleased to announce a call for applications for Associate Research Scholars for the 2018-2019 academic year as part of the Andrew W Mellon Foundation funded initiative in Architecture, Urbanism and the Humanities.

We invite applications from candidates whose intellectual interests are situated within the broad urban humanities, who have strong digital, visual, and multidisciplinary research practices, and are enthusiastic about collaborative working environments. The appointment is one year, with the possibility of a second year depending on funding.

Two Associate Research Scholars will be appointed: one position is open to candidates with training in the design disciplines, and one is open to candidates with training in a field(s) of the humanities. 

Successful candidates must have experience and interest in using qualitative as well as quantitative data to open up new questions in the urban humanities. The incumbents will contribute to projects underway at CSR, work on independent research on a topic(s) proposed by the incumbent, as well as contribute to the design and teaching of the Center’s workshop and seminar courses.

For further information and to apply for the position for candidates from fields in the humanities please visit:

For further information and to apply for the position for candidates from the design fields please visit:

You will be asked to submit a 1-2 page letter of interest, 2 page proposal for the project(s) you would hope to complete at the Center, CV, and portfolio which demonstrates your work and research focus.

Review of applications will begin immediately.

Columbia University is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.

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Apply for Summer 2018 Course for Faculty: Mapping for the Urban Humanities

With the Dean of Humanities we are pleased to invite interested Columbia University faculty and doctoral candidates to participate in Mapping for the Urban Humanities: A Summer Institute.

Mapping for the Urban Humanities is a two-week skills-building workshop in critical cartography, supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. It is designed to expand the disciplinary locations within which spatial knowledge in the urban humanities is produced and interpreted. Workshop participants will learn key skills in mapping, data collection, and data visualization that they can incorporate into their research and teaching. Space is limited. Interested faculty and doctoral candidates are encouraged to apply by January 26, 2018.

The Summer 2018 session will be held from 1:00-5:30pm, May 21-June 1, 2018 with an optional third week practicum from June 4-8. No class will be held on Memorial Day, May 28. 

Eligibility: This course is open to faculty, research scholars and doctoral candidates from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, and Barnard College. 

If you have questions about your eligibility or about whether your course or research project is a good fit for the institute, please do not hesitate to reach out to Dare Brawley ( at the Center for Spatial Research. 

How to Apply: Interested faculty and doctoral candidates should apply by sending the following materials to by January 26, 2018.

  • 1-2 page statement that describes your interest in taking the institute, and includes a description of the course or research topic you hope to workshop during the summer intensive. 
  • CV 

More information about the course, including materials from prior iterations of the institute, is available here.

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Launch of Points Unknown

Points Unknown, a new collaboration between the Center for Spatial Research, Brown Institute and Faculty from the Journalism School, launched a five-week course module this week for students at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

Points Unknown aims to bridge practices of journalism, data science, urbanism and cartography to develop new reporting practices among Columbia’s journalism students and new modes of design practice for GSAPP students. During the 2017-2018 academic year the collaboration will result in three five-week module courses for Journalism School students as well as a semester-long course for GSAPP students (to be taught in Spring 2018). The Points Unknown curriculum is designed by CSR Researchers Juan Francisco Saldarriaga and Grga Basic, with Marguerite Holloway and Michael Krisch of the Journalism School and the Brown Institute, respectively.

More details about the course as well as resources for mapping in storytelling can be found at

Points Unknown is generously funded by the Collaboratory Fellows Fund, a new university-wide program that seeks to promote new cross disciplinary collaborations that support data literacy for students across the University. 

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Center For Spatial Research Awarded Collaboratory Fellows Grant

The Center for Spatial Research is pleased to announce our selection with the Brown Institute as inaugural recipients of Columbia University’s Collaboratory Fellows Grant for Points Unknown: New frameworks for investigation and creative expression through mapping.

Aimed at advancing education that combines data science or computational expertise with domain expertise, the Collaboratory Fellows Grant is intended to support pairs of instructors (one with data science or computational expertise and the other with domain expertise) to develop and co-teach new educational offerings that can help fulfill the data literacy requirements of a discipline, specific cohort of students, or domain.

Points Unknown will offer journalism students formal training in GIS and web-based mapping, both as a product in stories and as an important tool for reporting. Concurrently, the program will provide GSAPP students an introduction to spatial data analysis through the lens of journalism, helping them use investigative methods that can be integrated into a design process.

Jointly founded by the Data Science Institute and Columbia Entrepreneurship, The Collaboratory@Columbia is a university-wide program that seeks to provide the resources and tools required to ensure that all Columbia University students receive the education and training that they need to lead in today’s data-rich world.

More on the Collaboratory Fellows Fund is available here

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Apply for Fall 2017 Student Positions

The Center for Spatial Research is seeking student assistants for the Fall 2017 semester.

Students will be responsible for data analysis, visualization, map design, and will support research on projects dealing with our current research focus: conflict urbanism. Students will work extensively with spatial data including mining and analyzing data, processing and collecting data, and/or visualizing data in compelling and innovative ways. Working in close collaboration with principal investigators, students will produce work for inclusion in papers, multi-media projects, and exhibitions.

Candidates must have experience with GIS and Adobe Creative Suite. In addition, please let us know if you have experience with any of the following tools: Processing, Python, D3, R, APIs, Microsoft Access, SQL, Stata/SPSS, HTML, CSS, and Javascript.

We are seeking candidates who have experience with computational tools but are also eager to acquire additional skills through the course of their work with us. CSR researchers will mentor successful candidates and match them with projects which help them build additional fluencies with computational methods.

Positions are 10-20 hours per week. Hours are negotiated on a per-student basis. All positions are $15/hour. Please note positions are only available for continuing GSAPP students.

Please send a letter of interest, CV, and relevant work examples to For further information please visit

Applications due September 15, 2017, materials will be reviewed in the order there are received. 

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Mapping for Architecture, Urbanism and the Humanities 
This course provides an introduction to critical mapping theory and geographic information systems tools.

We are in the midst of a technological revolution, resulting in seemingly endless amounts of data and the computing technologies to analyze it. From motion sensing to location tracking to GIS, much of this data is spatial, resulting in the ability to represent and understand the world and our relationship to in in new and previously impossibly ways. In response, our relationship to the spaces we inhabit and those that we don't has shifted: we are challenged to make sense of spaces we have never visited, and deeply analyze those that we frequent.

This course provides an introduction to critical mapping theory and geographic information systems tools. Of particular interest to Humanities students, we will address both historical and contemporary questions of space and mapping. Through the use of open-source GIS software (qGIS) and open data (OpenStreetMap) students will learn how to critically use mapping tools and geographic data for spatial analysis and representation. In addition to using existing data, students will also be able to create or bring their own sets of data and questions from other courses and will be able to work with these in our class.

Using a hybrid flipped-classroom/seminar approach, students will work through web tutorials and hands-on in-class exercises to gain a better understanding of how these tools and data can be leveraged to analyze, represent and study past or present urban phenomena.