February 15 2013

Visualizing Our Shared Urban Ecology Through the Welikia Project

Welikia Project New YorkOn the surface, the iconic 200-year-old urban grid of New York City’s Manhattan Island towers over the surrounding hinterland. John Randel Jr., who surveyed & engineered the future of NYC urban growth from 1818-1820, used hand drawn maps that effectively mapped out today’s modern metropolis. But New York City, like all cities, also carries a complex and abundant biological heritage, which in many cases has been virtually forgotten by current urban dwellers.

In 2009, Landscape Ecologist Eric Sanderson presented an alternative version of NYC urban history in a TED talk, entitled “Pictures of New York – Before the City,” which provided a never before glimpse into what Manhattan might have looked like when Henry Hudson & his crew sailed towards it on September 12, 1609.

Welikia Project New YorkThe Welikia Project, formally The Mannahatta Project, is an interactive map that adds a 400-year-old visual overlay of the former landscape ecology of New York City and surrounding boroughs. The name Welikia means “my good home” and was spoken by the Lenape people who used to inhabit the island. The science of the project uses georeferenced historical data and field samples collected over several years, which together create a multi-layered map of the Muir Web or ecological community in question.

The rapidly expanding ecological lexicon of Welikia, which is still working to generate new data well into 2013, creates an entirely new dialogue for understanding the shared ecology between cities. It forces us, however difficult; to reconsider the impermanence of architecture and urban planning alongside the equally important fragility of the environment that neighbors every corner of our modern infrastructure. In many ways, the protection of “natural systems” continues to create new opportunities for using Geographic Information Systems to enhance the study of landscape ecology and ways that it can be added to classrooms in and outside of New York City.

How could Welikia Project inspire new ways to shape a shared consciousness surrounding our relationship to local landscape ecology?

How is this being done in your city? Please, share your thoughts.

Credits: Data and images linked to sources.

Geoff Bliss

Geoff Bliss grew up in Woodstock, New York and will soon graduate from the Master of Community Planning program at the University of Cincinnati with a focus in Physical Planning. He holds a B.S. in Applied Arts & Science from the Rochester Institute of Technology where he studied Political Science & Archeology. With broad interests in Urban Planning, Geoff is interested finding relationships between Sustainable Development, Urban Archeology, Public Art, and DIY Urbanism. As a Grid blogger, Geoff reported on a wide range of Urban Planning & Urban Design topics in New York City and Cincinnati, OH.

Twitter - Facebook - More Posts

This entry was posted on Friday, February 15th, 2013 at 9:50 am and is filed under Community/Economic Development, Education and Careers, Environment, Environmental Design, Government/Politics, History/Preservation, Infrastructure, Land Use, Landscape Architecture, Social/Demographics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


2 Responses to “Visualizing Our Shared Urban Ecology Through the Welikia Project”

  1. Robert Bliss Says:


    I read your article and I think it is important to look back at how cities were laid out in the past to help those building for the future.

    Bob Bliss

  2. Geoff Bliss Says:

    Thank you. I’m hoping that other institutions and urban research centers cities can mirror the same concept devised by Sanderson and his colleagues to help visualize our urban history in other cities.

Leave a Reply

− seven = 2


Follow US