How This Open-Source Mapping Software Offers an Insane Level of Detail

An interpretation of light, time and infrastructure that would stir Borges.

Using a novel piece of mapping software called Tangram, artists and 3D programmers have come up with a new way to render the passage of time, the movement of people and light, heck, the whole human experience in — where else? — Manhattan.

Tangram takes its name from an ancient Chinese game that involved combining small bits of paper to form a large shape. Mapzen boasts that it offers “ludicrous levels of control over your map design.”

From the Mapzen project’s website, the software is an “open source mapping lab, building and supporting open data and software” that lets users take data from places like and render their own images.

The approach is modeled on the art of Ryoji Ikeda, a “sound artist” whose display, the Transfinite, at the Park Street Armory in New York, is a massive-scale depiction of light, data, and movement.

It’s an eye-popping demonstration of the visualization of data — though not for the faint of heart, or the jittery of brain — and it’s also another way open-source programmers are enabling creative and unique ways to render the world and mankind’s effect on it.

The door to the software is open. Why don’t you step in?

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