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Density Atlas: Measuring Urban Density

Density lead feat

Image courtesy Tunney Lee.

Tunney Lee AIA—a professor in the department of Urban Studies and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology School of Architecture + Planning—along with students and alumni members, has developed the Density Atlas, an online resource that compares urban developments using a standard scale and measurement system. A planning and development tool, it allows planners, architects, developers, and students to understand the implications of population, building footprints, and urban design in residential densities across the world.

As a lead-up to its release in the fall of 2015, this mini-exhibition illustrates the context of the density debate, the implications for planning and design, the different measurements for urban density, and presents case studies from Boston and abroad. The online resource will showcase more than 100 examples of what density can look like, helping to inform decisions regarding our built environment.

Today 54 percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas, a proportion that is expected to increase to 60 percent by 2030.

In this context of exponential urban growth, American cities are experiencing a revival of their centers, and the country’s quintessential suburbs are morphing into potential walkable downtowns and lively neighborhoods. The ongoing discussion about the pros and cons of increasing urban density challenges conventional definitions and highlights the nuances of urban design and social elements that contribute to a neighborhood’s desirability. While residents and policymakers continue to debate this issue, planners and architects work to accommodate these changes.

Opening reception
This exhibition will open with a reception on Thursday, May 28 at 6:00 pm, where Professor Lee will offer a short introduction to the Density Atlas project and the development of the exhibit.