German scientists made this excruciatingly detailed simulacrum of the “global urban footprint.”

If you want a quick but lovely revelation of where the world’s urban population lives, try this animated model from German scientists showing the most built-up areas in the world.

The Global Urban Footprint model—recently featured by the always-entertaining Maps Mania—paints in inky-black the urban regions where more than half the world’s population resides. The German Remote Sensing Data Center made it with 180,000 satellite images to achieve an incredible spatial resolution of about 40 feet. (The full resolution isn’t available with the online version, as it’d probably cause computer devices to overheat and melt through the floor.)

Settlement patterns in different cities, with sides of the squares representing 22 miles. (DLR/DFD)

White is not meant to mean “devoid of all human life”; rather, the model’s creators chose the monochromatic style to emphasize the patterns of developed regions and help with the “analysis of urban structures, and hence the proportion of settled areas, the regional population distribution, and the arrangement of rural and urban areas.” (Find a detailed explanation of how they achieved this stylistic effect here.)

Head over here to play with the scrolling model, and here are a few of the higher-resolution snaps from the GUF’s gallery:

Los Angeles (DLR/DFD)
Paris (DLR/DFD)
Minneapolis (DLR/DFD)
United States (DLR/DFD)

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Design

    Is This Red, White, and Blue Elephant Worth Saving?

    Illinois politicians agree that Chicago’s Thompson Center should be replaced. Architects and preservationists beg to differ, and a new documentary presents their case.

  2. Equity

    The Story Behind the Housing Meme That Swept the Internet

    How a popular meme about neoliberal capitalism and fast-casual architecture owned itself.

  3. Life

    Venice Mayor to Tourists: Stop Whining and Pay Up

    British visitors were overcharged for lunch, the U.K. press pounced, and now everyone is mad.

  4. A Soviet map of London, labeled in Russian.
    Maps

    The Soviet Military Secretly Mapped the Entire World

    These intricate, curious maps were supposed to be destroyed. The ones that remain reveal a fascinating portrait of how the U.S.S.R. monitored the world.

  5. A toxic site in Niagara Falls, New York, seen from above.
    Environment

    The Toxic 'Blank Spots' of Niagara Falls

    The region’s “chemical genies” of the early 20th century were heralded as reaching into the future to create a more abundant life for all. Instead, they deprived future generations of their health and well-being.