Cultivating Spatial Intelligence

The GSD Collection of Place-Based Information Resources

Each term the GSD reorganizes itself into studios and thesis projects focused on the study of places. These projects each gather together information, including CAD data, GIS data, site photos, scanned maps, and other documentation. Our activities add coherence to information by organizing it. In this sense, the GSD is a powerful engine of place-based intelligence. Frequently the information that we gather is an irreplaceable record of places on the cusp of transformation - a record that will be irreplaceable in the future.

The Collection

Our collection of data can be accessed by members of the GSD community on our local network. Map a drive to \\goliath\public and you will find the collection in the geo folder. The data are organized in folders named for the place. Some of these data came with documentation that explains who, why, where and when they were compiled, and what some of the different layers, files and attributes are supposed to represent. Most often the data have come into our possession without any documentation. In any case, the best thing to do is simply to browse these directories and look for files named readme.txt ot metadata.htm or simply open up the datasets in ArcGIS and just take a look. Much of what is in here is more or less self-exsplanitory. If not, then what you see is what we have!.

In some we have gone to sume effort to compile map documents that present views of data for a specific area. In this case, you may find a n ArcMap map document named something like Compilation.mxd. In some cases this sort of information may be in a folder named GSD. You will find these particularly in the Boston_Metro folder and its subfolder, Concord.


At the end of each term much of our information becomes obsolete because it is not saved in the GSD's repository of place-based information. If your studio or thesis project has collected useful place-based resources, you will be doing an important service to your colleagues and successors of you would take a moment to help us preserve it. There are several things you can do to help us cultivate the GSD's place-based intelligence.

Recognizing that your time is valuable you can assure that your data are archived and accessible by doing any of the following:

  1. Simply send an email to pbcote@gsd.harvard.edu informing me of the network location of your data. I can copy it to the collection. If this is all you have time for, that is fine. Just do it!!!
  2. Go through the collection and remove redundant datasets. Separate Source data and derived data into separate folders.
  3. For large collections of site photos, please eliminate site photos that are not particularly valuable. It is particularly beneficial to ../georeferencing/index.htm">georeference your photos and include an automatically generated map-index.
  4. For each folder place a readme file in each folder explaining the folder's contents:
    1. The source of the data
    2. The date the data were obtained and from whom.
    3. The time period represented in the data
  5. If there is any documentation describing the structure and provenance of the data please make sure it is saved with the dataset in a recognizable way.

Going forward, we would like to encourage studios and research projects to adopt a strategy of information stewardship that will make the collective intelligence of individuals, projects, and the GSD more accessible. For a sketch of our recommended strategy, see our new web page Cultivating Design Intelligence. We invite you all to participate in the development of the GSD's spatial intelligence!

Ann Whiteside, Director Frances Loeb Design Library
Paul Cote, Geographic Information Systems Specialist