Mapped: Every Building in the United States

Using data from Microsoft, the New York Times has published an online map showing the placement of every building in the country, in a simple black and white format.

1 minute read

October 12, 2018, 2:00 PM PDT

By Philip Rojc @PhilipRojc


Platforms like Google Maps and Apple Maps may already have every building mapped, in a sense, but this new resource from The New York Times makes it far easier to discern patterns of development, density, and street layout. The key is a black and white format that shows the footprint of every building along with some minimal labeling of neighborhoods and streets.

The Times drew these images from a Microsoft database released to the public this year, with supplemental data from some state and local governments. Tim Wallace, Derek Watkins, and John Schwartz write, "The company's computer engineers trained a neural network to analyze satellite imagery and then to trace the shapes of buildings across the country. Such information has been available before in some places, but this is the first comprehensive database covering the entire United States."

They go on, "Classic maps answer questions like: How do I get from Point A to Point B? These data images, instead, evoke questions — sometimes, simply: What's that?" The piece highlights several developmental patterns that demonstrate the diversity and historical roots of America's built environment.

Friday, October 12, 2018 in The New York Times

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