Painting the Vibe of the City Through Data

Lu Xinjian's "The Triumph of New York". Image via http://www.xinjianlu.com.
Lu Xinjian's "The Triumph of New York". All images via http://www.xinjianlu.com.

LOS ANGELES — Every city has a mood, a vibe. The energy is undeniably different in Los Angeles vs. San Francisco, in Boston vs. New York.  Indeed, studies have shown that something as simple as how fast people walk in a city can be correlated to seemingly unrelated factors like economic fitness and population size.

Madrid. Click to view larger.
Madrid. Click to view larger.

That’s part of what I love about Lu Xinjian’s City DNA series. Lu takes the Google Map data of a city and turns it into abstract shapes and paintings representative of the city. Indeed, as Design Boom noted, even the colors and shapes draw from the visual language of the city.  The colors in particular come from the city’s official flags.

New York’s famous grid was also captured by Piet Mondrian, whose “Broadway Boogie Woogie” (1942-43) used color to suggest the intersections and jazz-like happenstance of the city. And the squiggly lines and shapes invariably recall the iconic works of Keith Haring.

But Lu’s work, while painted on canvases, is grounded in data and branding. It reflects how most of us experience cities today, clicking and swiping through maps.  Indeed, it reminds me more of Alexander Chen’s Conductor series, which pulls data on the subway and turns it into music.

"Rome" (2010)
"Barcelona" (2010)
"London" (2009)
"Los Angeles" (2010)
"Shanghai" (2011)

(h/t Design China)

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