Tatiana Plakhova Sees the Future with The Wall Street Journal
Cities are giant data centers. As hundreds of thousands of residents scurry around, they form neighborhoods and cultures and, eventually, needs all around them. As messy as people are, data is a little neater and opens windows into how to solve particular issues. By tracking the geography of crime, accidents, traffic, and even illnesses, officials can determine how to better allocate resources in more effective ways. Information has been used this way for decades, but just recently modern civic analytics has shifted making the information more accessible and more actionable. On Monday, April 17, The Wall Street Journal published a Journal Report on the “Future of Cities” and invited Tatiana Plakhova to illustrate the front page. Tatiana is best known for her ability to blend the biological with the mechanical, bringing math and digital sciences into the natural world. We’re most used to seeing her work with heavenly bodies, but as civic analytics develops and these data help us understand the behavior of city residents, we see that same convergence of the mathematic and the natural.
Tatiana’s illustration for The Wall Street Journal imagines a city scape of the future, not too different from the skylines we’re already see every day, but with sharper angles and glassier towers. These are the buildings where human beings live and work and breathe and laugh and eat and commute. Every skyline is the macro-shadow of the people who live in it. Every street is merely a pathway for human behavior, and Tatiana has given us those pathways with parabolic linear overlays (some even include data points) and fractal ripples. At the scale where a skyscraper fits behind your thumb it’s hard to see the people making the cities run, but Tatiana shows us both. The information implied through her schematics show the behavior in concert with her detailed buildings. She shows us a smart city, a city that’s flowing, understanding itself, developing. She shows us a city of the future.