Posts tagged ‘mapping’

July 9, 2020

Community Development with Architecture and Mapping

My blog has become home to many different lists because I find it is a convenient way to keep track of different things I want to remember and I like that I can constantly update them and other people can benefit from them. This list includes organizations, events, and resources that I have discovered related to community development with architecture and mapping. I have divided it into categories of Affordable and Sustainable Architecture, Focus on Earthen Architecture, Community Mapping and Upgrading, Engineering for Global Development, Events, and Online Resources. If there is a asterisk symbol beside it, it means I have experience with the organization, tool, or event, so that if you would like to know more about my experience, you can get in touch!

Affordable and Sustainable Architecture

Focus on Earthen Architecture

Community Mapping and Upgrading

  • Common Thread Global  – project assessment tool
  • *KoboToolBox – data collection – land rights – community engagement
  • Kounkuey Design Initiative – USA – Kenya – Sweden – global – multidisciplinary – community engagement and upgrading
  • mHS City Lab – India – community engagement and upgrading
  • *OpenDataKit – data collection – land rights – community engagement
  • *OpenStreetMap – global – open source vector map
  • *QGIS – open source GIS software – land rights
  • SDI (Know Your City) – community mapping and upgrading
  • Social Tenure Domain Model – plugin for QGIS – land rights
  • Spatial Collective – Kenya – data collection – community engagement – advocacy
  • UN Habitat – global – promotion – training – community upgrading – leadership development
  • Ushahidi – global – crowdsourced mapping and reporting

Engineering for Global Development


Online Resources

October 1, 2017

More about my E4C experience

From May until September I worked as a part-time research fellow for Engineering for Change. It was a busy season because I did the work in addition to my regular job and so was putting in 50-60 hour workweeks. Despite the hard work I am glad that I had this experience. The E4C work was different and interesting, and so broke up my workweek with a new and exciting challenge. I enjoyed learning about various poverty alleviating products and building methods being implemented around the world. I think the most interesting ones I researched were earth bag construction, HyPar thin shell concrete roofs, earthen floors, compressed earth blocks, and modular roof panels for slum house upgrading. Over the course of the fellowship I researched 34 products, filling out or cleaning up a report for each one, that will eventually be added to E4C’s growing Solutions Library. My job also involved contacting and interviewing designers and manufacturers of the products if we could not find enough information online. Although many people didn’t respond to my inquiries, many surprisingly did. I learned that it never hurts to send a reminder or make a phone call because people may want to contribute but just might have busy schedules. I also prepared a trend analysis for alternative building materials for which I interviewed expert practitioners working with a selection of materials that included earth building, bamboo, compressed earth blocks, earth bags, and the reuse of industrial waste. It was inspiring to see what people are working on around the world to solve the problem of affordable quality housing.

The final contribution I made was writing two articles for the E4C media platform, one of which is published and the other coming soon. The first one is called Easing Land Conflict in DRC: An Introduction to Open Source Mapping Tools. It was great to have an avenue to share some of my mapping research experience with a broader community. On September 15th E4C held a closing design charette where all of the fellows contributed feedback both from the experience of the fellowship and thoughts on ways to improve the Solutions Library as a whole. All of my encounters with the other research fellows beyond the kick-off session were on weekly Google Hangout video calls. The other fellows are equally passionate about global development from their respective experience, and I hope I will be able to stay in touch with them. I will get one last opportunity to connect with more people within the E4C network at an upcoming event called Impact Engineered which will celebrate and promote the work being done in the domain of engineering for global development. Research Fellows who live nearby were invited to attend and I am glad that Toronto isn’t so far from New York! It has been strange to be done with the fellowship because my week is no longer broken up by a different type of work. I have moved onto my next task which is to study for my final exams for licensure as an architect that I will be taking next month! It also feels strange to be coming to the culmination of ten years of combined study and work! It is an exciting time and I am thankful to God for bringing me to this point.

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November 12, 2016

Back to Beni

The drive to Beni was smooth and I enjoyed traveling in the company of Jessica and Mary. My short stay in Beni was heavier emotionally than my more care-free time in Uganda.  The day previous to our departure I received a text from Othy saying that there was panic in Beni. Several hours later he texted me that it was a false alarm. Word was that two soldiers who were out of uniform were drinking and took a few shots into the air, causing people to flee in fear that there was an attack underway. Even though it did not turn out to be an attack, we learned upon our arrival that in the chaos several people died and children were misplaced. It broke my heart to hear of such a needless event. It all comes from the deep fear that people feel by not having any form of protection by the government or the UN. I can’t even imagine not feeling safe in my home or neighbourhood. Nevertheless, life goes on in Beni. When I was there things felt pretty normal. I only felt the tension, frustration, and sadness when I started talking to people. I think that everybody by now has lost a friend or loved one in the events of the last two years.

We arrived in Beni in the late afternoon, and since we had no desire to cook, Mary and Jessica decided to take me to Ishango, a new restaurant/bar establishment developed and designed by our mutual friend Leon. The place has a great atmosphere! The program surrounds an open courtyard with picnic tables and bright pillows. There is also a Cafe Kivu tucked in the corner with a nice work/study area. We sat in the courtyard and enjoyed a delicious pizza! The following day I headed to UCBC to begin consulting on their two mapping projects that are underway: Sharing The Land (STL) and Agribusiness. Mary and Jessica just recently purchased a vehicle and so we were able to drive to the school. I should mention that Beni has recently introduced several sets of speed bumps on the one paved road in the city… or perhaps I should say “speed ruts” because most of them are indents in the road instead of bumps. The contractors must have gotten carried away because the indents are so big that they are dangerous! Mary informed us that there had already been a few accidents, particularly for moto drivers. So you can guess that we drove very cautiously whenever we were on the main road! Mostly we laughed about it because it isn’t the first interesting urban initiative that has been implimented in Beni (the last being helmets). On the way to the school I was introduced to Matt who carpooled with us. He is staff with EMI and is managing the construction on the community center that has made significant progress. I found out that IRI was temporarily occupying one of four finished classrooms and that is where I spent most of my week. I met Kyle who is the director of IRI and was reunited with Serge and Juhudi who were involved as volunteers back when the BeniAtlas project was launched. It felt good to be there again and I jumped right into learning where the projects were at and planning out what I could offer with my time for that week. The week passed far too quickly but I managed to consult at several meetings, refined and updated a tool catelogue, created a procedures document, and developed the BeniAtlas website further.




Beni’s speed ruts…


Completed classrooms

On the Tuesday evening Jon and Kate invited all of the international staff over for a dinner of Congo-style tacos. Our gathering was the day after the first debate and so we watched some of it on Mary’s small phone because no one else was able to connect! It was interesting to hear their views on the American election (they were for Hillary… if they haaaad to choose one…). The debate was bizzare to say the least. Hillary was stiff but at least she knew her facts. Trump was like a child and all that came out of his mouth was broad generalizations. After the first half hour we had already had enough and knew that the rest would be very much the same! On Thursday Othy returned and we had two nice evenings, one spent with Mary and Jessica over dinner at their home, and the other at the Albertine with Jessica and Matt. Jessica and I realized it was one week until Canadian thanksgiving and we recalled that we had celebrated Canadian thanksgiving at the Albertine two years ago. We therefore attempted to recreate the photo that we took last time so that we could share it with Lauren! The next morning Othy and I headed off to Butembo!


Sunset on the drive to Jon and Kate’s


Canadian Thanksgiving… Albertine style!


October 22, 2015

RGS Annual International Conference 2015

This post is coming a bit late, but it continues to describe my time in the UK for the conference this past September!

The conference began full swing the following day. I was slightly distracted thinking about my own presentation that I would be giving later that afternoon. One interesting session that I went to was called “World Game”. I knew it would interest me because I was inspired in my thesis research by the work of architect and theorist Buckminster Fuller who came up with the concept of the World Game. Fuller proposed the idea of a game that could simulate events in real time and therefore drive political decision-making and bring about global action. The World Game session at the conference was lead by Anthony Hodgson who is the founder of Decision Integrity, a company that facilitates complex decision-making by applying strategies of holistic thinking, system mapping, and participatory group activities. His game is inspired by tribal “wisdom councils” where elders responsible for specific aspects of a community meet with the chief and he listens to them one by one. The attendees for the session were divided into twelve different world issues such as governance, health, and habitat (I represented trade), and we were provided with assigned “indicators” giving key information for each. We were then placed into groups of four and played out several scenarios for which we had to identify the problems for each issue and come up with creative solutions that benefited all four issues. It was an interesting way to incite creative problem solving and discussion. Here is a similar version of the game that was applied to the city of Glascow. Because there were many people at this session who were interested in system mapping, I discovered that there is a program called Powersim that maps/diagrams complex, non-linear decision paths so that companies can understand the ramifications/big picture before proceeding with a project. The program reminds me of Grasshopper (algorithmic modeling for Rhinosceros) except that is is for general decision paths and equations instead of equations that manipulate digital 3D geometries. It’s the same general idea that you can simulate the path before actually going ahead and “baking” the best recipe. Mapping will definitely begin to use more complex simulation models as we use it to monitor resources and make future proposals/predictions for our growing cities.

World Game


I had my presentation later that afternoon and it went very well! The panel was called GIS and the Anthropocene, Educational Perspectives. Our presentation was called “BeniAtlas: A platform for learning about the city” and it outlined the methodologies that IRI is using in the development of their mapping program, and introduced the Sharing the Land project that has developed from the initial research. Othy and Archip were able to listen in over Skype. After the presentation there was a reception and I talked for a while with the other people from our panel and received really great feedback. I had to leave early though to meet Alice who would be my couch surfing host for the next three nights. She and her boyfriend and another friend picked me up from the Imperial Pub near the university. At her apartment we had home-made ramen and watched Tales from Earthsea, a Studio Ghibli film. I slept on the couch in Alice’s living room and had the company of her three cats!

June 30, 2015

Thesis Defence!

Ready to begin The day finally arrived for me to defend my thesis! I defended on Wednesday June 3rd at 10am. My parents, some good friends from Maranatha, and a few friends from school came and watched. In the gallery I set up a mini exhibition of four posters with a table of coffee and snacks from Monigram. I presented for half an hour and then sat down and answered questions posed to me by a panel of critics that included my supervisor, two committee members, and external reader. I was very nervous for the presentation and it threw me off that I couldn’t see the audience. I finally felt like myself again when I sat down for questions. I feel like the presentation could have been better, but this was a learning experience and I’m sure I will improve with practice! Afterwards the panel left to deliberate and came back to announce that my thesis was accepted with only a few small revisions. My thesis document is now available for download from UWSpace. I will also have a link to a video of my presentation up shortly! Presenting The panel

June 30, 2015

Thesis Posters

Poster 1



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March 30, 2015

Music and Pattern

Since I don’t have time to write posts (final thesis crunch), I will just have to refer to other inspiring work. Here is another great video from Vihart, Mathemusician. I found it really opened my mind to how it is possible to experiment with music and how it can even be associated with spatial patterns. Music is another type of mapping.

March 18, 2015

Paper Towns

Here is a clip from John Green (vlogbrothers) talking about where the term “paper towns” comes from. It actually relates to the practice of mapping and how the map often informs the space instead of the other way around.

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December 9, 2014

Visiting Researchers

If we can’t go to them, then they’ll just have to come to us. This was our solution to best use the time that I have left before I head back to Canada in mid-December. I was supposed to be a visiting researcher to UCBC in Beni, but instead we brought Congolese visiting researchers to Uganda! Last week two of our colleagues Othy and Archip came and joined the international staff in Kampala for two weeks of GIS training. Both are alumni of UCBC; Othy is a professor with a degree in Computer Engineering and Archip is a researcher at the Integrated Research Institute (IRI) with a degree in Communications. It has been such a blessing to have them here! They are a piece of Beni and have an incredible joy, energy, and hope for Congo that is contagious!

Every day the work has been intense because we have been making up for lost time. The first three days were a review of OpenStreetMap, OSMAnd, JOSM Editor, Garmin Devices, ODK Collect, QGIS, and how to build custom surveys. Next we jumped into training on how to fly the quadrocopter drone that the IRI purchased to use for developing maps from aerial photography. We taught ourselves how to manually fly the copter but also to automate take off and landing and set a preprogrammed path for it to follow. We are now in week two and are diving more into QGIS to continue developing the base map, and working together to develop the UCBC, IRI, and BeniAtlas websites. There is great and exciting work happening here and I feel privileged to be a part of it! I am sad that I don’t get to be there to see these projects through, but am looking forward to keeping in touch and working with the team remotely. These two weeks of training have been a great conclusion to my time here.



Calibrating the drone

Calibrating the drone

Curious spectators

Curious spectators



Flying the Drone

Test Flight

October 27, 2014

Around Beni

Here are some photos of points of interest that the team discovered around Beni.IMG_0228




Water reservoirsIMG_0301







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