Colouring London – Demonstrating the Power of Crowdsourcing and Visualisation - 05/11/2019


Colouring London is a crowdsourcing initiative created by UCL's Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA) and supported by Ordnance Survey, Historic England and the Mayor of London. The project will create a coloured map which can be interrogated to provide details of a building. Colour is important for  visualising the data categories and expressing the richness and diversity of the urban environment. The project has started in London but can be transferred to other cities.

Colouring London was launched at an event held at the RICS headquarters in London and brought together partners and local organisations such as Better Archway  Forum,  Museum of London Archaeology,  Somers Town Neighbourhood Forum, Somers Town History Club, schools and local authorities. The website Colouring London allows anyone to add information about buildings. Data is also gathered from existing datasets by collecting information from groups which have an archive of historic information, and also by a computational approach, allowing existing attribute data to be used to estimate building characteristics, which can later be verified. 

The attributes used for buildings are location, land use, type, age, size and shape, construction, streetscape, team, sustainability, community, planning and a category which asks contributors their opinion on whether they like the building and whether it contributes to the city.

Age of buildings in Bloomsbury, London.
Age of buildings in Bloomsbury, London.

The aim of the project is to bring together as much information as possible to aid research and improve decision-making. Decisions such as whether a building is worth keeping or repairing and whether it contributes to the general quality of the city.  The data will also allow analysis of the city in relation to size, age and use, and energy efficiency.  Furthermore, it will allow analysis of the local environment - issues such as the availability of open space, risk from pollution or flooding.

There is also the question of accuracy and reliability. The base map comes from Ordnance Survey MasterMap polygons and building footprints. If polygons are not subdivided, age can only be recorded for the single polygon. In the case of 'Use', multiple uses can be selected and entered. It will also be possible to record the number of self-contained units within the building. The website notes that the project is following the examples of Wikipedia and Open Street Map. Colouring London is a self-moderating platform that offers  any logged-in user the opportunity to edit any data entry.  A record of all edits is available under 'Edit histories'. If a user does not agree with a change that has been made, they can edit the entry. The platform also requires sources and will in future include a verification button.

Colouring London demonstrates a number of issues relating to the collection and use of geospatial data. It shows the value of crowdsourcing and how local communities can become involved in processes such as planning and appreciation of the local environment through the study of spatial data. A key component of this is the way in which the data is presented and visualised. The use of colour adds vibrancy and attractiveness to the data which is enhanced if it is used interactively.

Crowdsourcing for Colouring London on a mobile phone.
Crowdsourcing for Colouring London on a mobile phone.

Last updated: 13/11/2019