The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


The heuristics of mapping urban environmental change

Mapping is not only a tool to investigate and capture place-making practices but is itself a means to produce spaces and social relations.

The heuristics of mapping urban environmental change

20 January 2014


Mapping is not only a tool to investigate and capture place-making practices but is itself a means to produce spaces and social relations. Hence, as maps and territories co-construct one another, we ask to what extent can mapping, as a political tool, be a means to contest and re-shape the unjust distribution of resources and opportunities in cities? How can mapping be appropriated by ordinary citizens in their place-making practices? What are the lessons and practical applications that can be drawn from its use in various disciplines?

This research seeks to refine the conceptual and methodological approach vis a vis mapping and develop a heuristic path through an interdisciplinary dialogue. It first sparks of with a literature review on contemporary theories and uses of mapping for place-making. It is then followed by the production of a discussion paper, enriched by a series of workshops with scholars working in the field from UCL, the Politecnico di Milano and the Megawra (Built Environment Collective).

Project team

Dr Adriana Allen 
Senior Lecturer
Director of MSc Environment and Sustainable Development
Email: a.allen@ucl.ac.uk

Dr Alexandre Apsan Frediani
Lecturer in Community-Led Development in the Global South.
Email: a.frediani@ucl.ac.uk

Rita Lambert
Teaching Fellow
Email: rita.lambert.09@ucl.ac.uk

Partnering Mappers

Dialogues on the move

Action Learning Alliance

UCL Mappers

Prof Murray Fraser 
The Barlett School of Architecture, Faculty of the Built Environment, UCL
Prof Muki Haklay
Department of Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Engineering, UCL
Dr Andrew Hudson-Smith
Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, Faculty of the Built Environment, UCL
Prof Jennifer Robinson
Department of Geography, UCL
Dr Michael Stewart
Department of Anthropology, UCL

Mapping Matters

Mapping matters to many people. Below you can see information about forthcoming mapping events around the world, and short debriefs of events that have recently taken place. For more personal interpretations of the significance of mapping, please visit our Viewpoints page to watch some of the videos submitted by different people in our network. 

If you wish to share your own video testimonies, or information about any events, projects or publications related to critical reflections and innovative mapping experiences, please contact: Prof Adriana Allen at a.allen@ucl.ac.uk

Kids in India Are Sparking Urban Planning Changes by Mapping Slums

A new project aims to give young Indians a voice in the city-development process. Learn more about the project.

The Missing Maps Project

Despite massive advances in cartographic technology over the past decade, a huge number of large cities around the world remain digitally uncharted territories. This project aims to solve this by crowdsourcing digital maps of the entire globe, beginning with the most vulnerable places in the developing world. The organization is using OpenStreetMap as their platform, a freely available online map that anyone can edit and improve—much like a Wikipedia of maps.

The Missing Maps Project is a collaboration between the American and British Red Cross, Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, and Doctors Without Borders. 

Visit the website to learn more.



Tatiana Ome: www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTYbRILOiZw

Orlando Navazo: www.youtube.com/watch?v=YpFcKP06hP4

Jose and Leonardo: www.youtube.com/watch?v=6qUwO0O6fuc

Carlos Del Cairo Hurtado: www.youtube.com/watch?v=_g-If2qwjTA

Hector Alvarez: www.youtube.com/watch?v=7fepcQA9aIk

Sonia Maria: www.youtube.com/watch?v=lXJkVdh8faM

Pedro Arantes: www.youtube.com/watch?v=FkiiAKlsQP4

Ricardo Moretti: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ye1lPcvmmAs

Antonio and Sonia: www.youtube.com/watch?v=_98FZp_ufMA

Julia Moretti: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Su7sAIAfC6c