Cultivating Spatial Intelligence

Geographic Information Services for the Design Community

This site provides a collection of thoughts and technical examples related to the use of geographically referenced data in place-based design. Place-based design is a collection of activities that involve participants from many communities of interest, including: residents, politicians, administrators, planners, designers, engineers, and historians. Participants in the design of places develop ideas and arguments about places by means of the following information-processing activities:

The title of this web site, Cultivating Spatial Intelligence, relates to the idea that Intelligence emerges from collections of observations that are organized systematically. In this sense, individuals can cultivate their own intelligence by learning to organize their own observations with observations (data) collected by others. When many people share common schemes for organizing information, the amount of new useful information that emerges may grow geometrically.

It should not go without saying, however, that the information that emerges from these efforts is useful for all purposes. All observations (data) are biased and incomplete. When creating new information by transforming data into graphic maps or more complicated models, we must be aware of the fitness of these transformations and portrayals to represent the real relationships that we are describing. These considerations underscore the fact that responsible participation in any discourse requires an understanding of the concepts of data quality and the techniques of cartography and spatial modeling on the part of the producers and the consumers of data-based spatial reasoning.

I hope that the discussions and tutorials provided here will enrich the discourse of place-based design by preparing more people to develop and share coherent, re-usable, information about places.

These tutorials began their development at the Harvard Graduate School of Design from 1996 to July 2013. The tutorials can still be found in the GSD Web Site at Continued development of the toturials will continue on this site.

Paul Cote