Knowlton School of Architecture (2005-2009) (Evan)

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    KSA Japan 2013: The Maps.

    Evan Chakroff
    Nov 14, '13 7:58 PM EST

    In December, several OSU professors and I will be leading a group of 30 students on a two-week architecture tour of Japan. With over 400 buildings on our "master list" and over 150 assigned as student research, we would obviously need some maps.

    On similar tours in previous years, we've used Google maps to locate buildings and plan out our daily itineraries in advance, but we had nothing but printed copies once we were out on tour. In China last year, we discovered the benefits of bringing a working cellular-enabled iPad on tour... with live navigation we were able to move more efficiently and reroute on the fly if we encountered traffic jams, road closures, or if certain buildings took more or less time to see than we had planned. (This may be fairly obvious... but of the 6+ tours of this kind I've done - as student or guide - last year was the first time I brought an internet- and GPS-enabled device on the trip.)

    In planning the trip this year, I culled GPS locations from a number of sources (World Architecture Map was good, but Botund Bognar's excellent Japan Architectural Guide was indispensable) and added each point of interest to a massive spreadsheet.

    While it's now possible to upload Excel spreadsheets directly to Google Maps, a few months ago the process was more involved: we'd have to export to a CSV file, convert to KML, make a few minor corrections in a text editor, then upload, a fairly involved process. Even then, Google Maps would paginate the results, and show only 100 dots per page, making it impossible to see the complete set of buildings and plot the best path through the country.

    We needed an alternative. After some hours of searching, I came across Leaflet, "An Open-Source JavaScript Library for Mobile-Friendly Interactive Maps"  - it sounded perfect. Luckily, getting the basics set up was easy and I was quickly able to find a workflow that would take me from my Excel spreadsheet to a mobile-friendly, location aware map with just one copy-n-paste operation. I was also able to create a 'print version' of each city, using the same setup, streamlining the process considerably.

    So, for those interested, here are the online maps we'll be using for daily navigation in Japan. On the full-japan map, the dots are color coded based on my arbitrary ratings, and on the city maps (in fact, the same full country-map, just with default zoom and location adjusted) the dots are numbered to correspond with our printed map keys. The "arrow" navigation icon will zoom to your current location.

    (Unfortunately, I haven't yet figured out how to add menus, or a clickable list of buildings in the area. It may be simple, given how extensible Leaflet seems, so if anyone knows a way I'd love to hear it!)


    So, in the spirit of share & share-alike, here are the online maps I developed for the trip. Please take a look and let me know what you think - especially if you're able to use these for a tour of your own, I'd love to hear about it. Enjoy:

    Japan by Color Rating


    1. Central Japan

    2a. greater tokyo

    2b. central tokyo

    2c. ginza, tokyo

    2d. shibuya & roppongi, tokyo

    2e. ueno & asakusa, tokyo

    3a. greater nagoya

    3b. central nagoya

    4a. greater osaka & nara

    4b. central osaka

    4c. central nara

    5. takamatsu

    6. hiroshima

    7a. greater kyoto

    7b. central kyoto

    8. kanazawa


    And finally, here is a preview of the final print layout, which we will include in the student handbook (to be covered in a future post): KSA Japan 2013: Map Pages (on Issuu).


    • how many work/hours did all that take you/students/faculty (or was it a one-man show), print/digital combined?

      Nov 18, 13 8:14 pm  · 

      The master building list - compiled from a bunch of different sources online and off - has been a work-in progress for a few years (we started thinking about a Japan tour in 2011). "Curating" the list was a 3 person job, which often involved merging duplicate entries (lots of alternative building name translations), and double-checking GPS coordinates and addresses we'd found in the guidebooks or on Google maps. Students helped verify the street addresses for each of their five assigned buildings. 

      Getting the workflow from Excel-to-Leaflet worked out was a one-man job, an after-work activity for me for a couple months, plus a few focused weekends. Formatting the print versions was a matter of setting the right zoom levels and crop boxes, which took another few weeks of after-hours effort (and is still not really perfect...)

      Really hard to say how many hours of work this all represents.... especially because we never really considered the maps in isolation - they were developed alongside our detailed itinerary and student guidebook (to be covered in the next post). 

      Nov 18, 13 9:21 pm  · 

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