Streetart Straße

Everyday when I open up a taxi or ride-share app to book a ride to work or a meeting, I have noticed one detail that sticks out on my map: there are several points near my home that are labelled “Streetart Straße”. Indeed, beautiful murals on shophouses is a common sight in the area that I live in, but why on earth are these points being highlighted to me above other actual landmarks here?

Why is it in German? And why is it that it seems that this map item has been set to show even at the highest zoom levels where most other details are filtered out? (Map zoom levels refer to how at the lowest levels, you might only see continents and broad country labels, but at the highest level, you see cities and their details. Data is selectively shown at different zoom levels, so that the map remains readable).

So I decided to google it a bit…

Contributions by Clara95 on OpenStreetMap

The answer is mundane. It appears that a (likely born 1995, female) German traveller toured through Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam and decided to create a half dozen map points of Street art, fast food, pizza places, and bus stops on Openstreetmap.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Not gonna lie when I remembered that OSM was editable that my response to seeing this (and it being that I’ve lived here for years and still haven’t left my mark on Openstreetmap unlike a traveller through these parts…) it immediately led me to this… reactivating my account…

I’ll report back when I’ve finally managed to make a positive or interesting dent in the REAL MAP OF THE WORLD…

* Oh but also not this kind of dent. I found this when browsing in editor view. Por… whoever you are, er… we don’t need to know your exact house unit!!!

Tilemill – Conditional Label Placement, Pseudo 3D Building Effects, and Polygon Patterns

Tilemill is an excellent tool for map design and development, which really provides ease of use through CartoCSS. For me, I think it is very accessible for designers/artists who might not have a clue about arc/gis but just want to design a map decently. Today I’m finalising the maps for my Paris Postdated project so I sat down to figure out a few things…

Conditional Label Placements

Microsoft Excel

I read a guide suggesting this method, which works. The funny thing is that I have not gotten it to properly “not overlap” in the past, and by setting it to “text-allow-overlap:false;” this usually results in NO LABELS at all. And in the end, sometimes I just want ONE or TWO labels to be done in another direction.


Solution: Created a new column called dir, and when dir = 1 it will be aligned to NW instead of NE.

Pseudo 3D Effects


Pseudo 3D effects can be gotten for buildings as well. If my data had building heights (which sadly it does not) then I could multiply my height value by the actual height of the building! In other words, instead of this:

#building { building-height:5; }

you could actually have this (where “height” is the field in for your building height):

#building { building-height:[height]*5; }

Basically, values drawn onto the maps can be derived directly from attributes in one’s data source. So there is some room to be inventive in how you map out the values. Seems to work for a number of fields such as marker-width and marker-height and building-height. Probably works for directions/orientation of labels if your data has that…

Polygon Patterns

Another way in which to add texture to the maps is overlaying a pattern file over polygons. You can make your own, or alternatively Subtle Patterns has a whole bunch of useful patterns which are very suitable for overlaying onto your maps.

Screen Shot 2013-09-01 at 8.06.00 PM.png

There is a list of Compositing Operations (comp-op) available, including plus, minus, color-dodge, color-burn, invert, etc. You can use this to composite the pattern layer over the original colours selected, so the colours can be still fine-tuned live, along the way….

Map {

In addition to that, there is also polygon-gamma (which you can set to around 0.5-1 and which will help make polygons sit together more seamlessly) and polygon-pattern-alignment, which can be local or global. Local means its just for that polygon, global mean its aligned to the overall metatile instead of each of the individual polygons. Here is an example of Singapore with some patterns…

Screen Shot 2013-09-01 at 8.11.04 PM.png

Well that was bit tiny. Also, these are only very simple, design-related operations. I’m having more difficulties figuring out how to use PostgreSQL and PostGIS to clean up some stuff, but I thought I’d at least document the easy parts first!…

A Map of all the S.A.M locations in Singapore

Screen Shot 2013-05-25 at 2.30.19 PM.png

I was trying to find a map to see all the S.A.M (Self-service Automated Machines) locations in Singapore but for some reason all the information from Singpost could only be found in the form of a flattened PDF which was generated from a XLS file and a very limited map searching function. I could not simply “see” all the locations of the S.A.M at once.

Screen Shot 2013-05-25 at 3.59.19 AM.png
GRRRR! Why only allow one to see a few spots in one area at a time?
And whose idea was it to distribute it as a flattened PDF?
So I attempted to spend one pomodoro rectifying this by making the quickest possible map of all the locations.

Screen Shot 2013-05-24 at 6.23.23 PM.png

Copied the ridiculous PDF table over to Google Docs using Adobe Acrobat Pro’s “copy as table” function (if you do not specifically select “copy as table”, it will copy it over as data on a single field, causing pain and agony to anyone hoping to use the information in a useful manner.) After more than one pomodoro of hair-pulling, I cleaned up the data and used a “batch geocode” script to get the lat/lon of each point. Dropped it into cartodb and DONE! A map showing ALL the S.A.M locations in Singapore at once. Couldn’t even be bothered to change the map from its default mapbox styling. Never been easier. Anyone could make a map like this.

So, now we know… there is even a S.A.M in Sentosa?

See also:

S.A.M Locations spreadsheet on Google Docs (cleaned up version)
S.A.M Locations JSON for the above data

Maps without Buildings (2011-2013)

Maps With/out Buildings is a hand-illustrated study of place, the map-making process and natural geogrpahical features as they are commonly represented in topographic maps. I have been working on an ongoing collection of “maps” of my dreams since around 2009. However, along the way I realized that all of my dreams had buildings in them, such that all the “dream maps” that I used to draw upon waking were technically more like dream building plans than maps of places. I wondered why it was that I didn’t have dreams without buildings in them. So I became interested in exploring the process of making maps which did not have urban features in them. By studying the landscapes I encounter in my travels, and by trying to visualise landscapes devoid of buildings, one day I hope to have dreams without buildings in them.


Maps without Buildings (2011-Present)


Ellipsis (2013, London)


Lichen Mountain (2011, Cornwall)


Le Petit Arbre (2012, Paris)


Gepenstermauer (2011, Berlin)


Lake of Dreams (2011, London)

The texts are integral to the pieces. One of the accompanying texts was generated by running the contents of this long-running blog through a markov text generator, automatically producing a text which sounds like Debbie. More on that in another post!…

The work is being shown at “”, an exhibition curated by Kent Chan and Silke Schmickl, at Institute of Contemporary Art Singapore (Lasalle ICAS Gallery 1). Featuring the works of Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Raqs Media Collective, Uriel Orlow, Alexander Schellow, Charles Lim, Romain Kronenberg & Benjamin Graindorge, Marylène Negro, Tan Pin Pin, Daniel Hui, Masayo Kajimura, Massimilian & Nina Breeder, and Debbie Ding. Show’s on from now until 12 May.

See also:

Photos from Opening Night –



More Photo Documentation of, the exhibition.

A Brief Account of Recent things: Sub-Mullae 2012, The Patriotic Cabby, and the Geology of Singapore

From left to right: Khai, Heewoo, Annabelle, and Mulim

This week is the start of the first phase of a collaboration between me and Korean artist Jeong Heewoo. Heewoo is a meticulous artist who also works with mapping and I’m excited to be showing her around and working with her! We are working from the The Substation Random Room where we have a kind of open studio from around 11 to 6pm each day (when we are in, if we are not in, then it means we are outside seeing things).

The only problem is that my schedule has also suddenly exploded! It has become ridiculously hectic this week, along with my usual overwhelming commercial design work, preparation for talks and abstracts and journals, and on top of that: my Postcode Postcard receiving a lot of good but unexpected attention, including being mentioned in a presentation at the World Cities Summit Expo Forum 2012, and fielding some interviews. Despite the superbusyness, I find that it has been very fruitful to have worked on that project as I have met many amazing people working in data visualisation / data mining / programming as a result of participating in that data hackathon… and I am always keen to meet more people who are interested in this area or actually work in this area.

I have posted some things about the last few days: our trip to the WCS Summit, going to the Marina Bay City Gallery, and going to the URA Resource Centre & City Gallery.

Here are links to our new blog and wiki for the Sub-mullae project:



Patriotic Cabby


I was taking a Taxi back home one day when I met a cab driver who was fiercely patriotic and he told me of his secret plan to buy 10000 singapore flags and to festoon his entire HDB block with them, overnight, in order to remind Singaporeans that they should love Singapore and not behave ungraciously. “I will hang a Singapore flag from every single ledge! i will plant one flag in their pots of plants! I will put one flag in every single pot of plant that I have! I will also get some bunting and go around the estate with the Singapore flag! When everyone wakes up they will be shocked! But then, I will be quiet and not let anyone know it was me.” I hope he gets to do it! He even had a design that he had made by himself – he let me take a picture of this design that he had also pasted on his own taxi. I love the idea and I hope he manages to accomplish it, whereever he might be right now…


I was reading a book by the Public Works Department about the geology of Singapore and it tabulates all the geological faults in Singapore (no matter how tiny and almost non-existent).

Few faults are actually exposed in Singapore, and the only ones that can be dated are the Murai Fault, Nanyang Fault, and Pasir Laba Faults which are thrust faults with other associated tear faults around them. Basically if Singapore was a big slab of rock, what happened was that there was probably some horizontal stress from the south-west and this mass of material kinda over-rode on top of the usually north-west trending sediments that were from the older Triassic period. A fault means there was either a thrust fault or tear fault where the rock was compressed/pushed together or pulled apart by the plate tectonics. I find this mindboggling since we aren’t used to thinking of the very creation of the land of Singapore, tracing it all the way back to a period where dinosaurs might have even existed. To think that Singapore was here all along, this silly little spot of an island in the world!

So basically if we had to make a list of geological faults in singapore, they would be: Murai Fault, Pasir Laba Fault, Nanyang Fault, Henderson Road Fault, Tanjong Lokos Fault, Pepys Road Fault, Nee Soon Fault, Seletar Fault. Did i miss out anything?


I recently found a road detail guide released by the LTA which is like a detailed design guide to everything to do with road construction and road signage. Yes, they have a detailed guide for that.


I read a ESRI magazine which publishes a selection of outstanding GIS projects each month, from . I have been trying to teach myself about GIS and bought a number of books to learn more about how to get started with ArcGIS (in some brief flashes of madness i even think that I might do a surveyor course here, because I enjoy the idea of doing meaningful urban spatial analysis so much. (I often think I am slowly shifting towards wanting to do my Masters in something like Advanced Spatial Analysis as a starting point to a further PhD in this area, so that I can combine my love for data visualization with my interest in urban built environments, architecture, and geography…)

Sungei Road Chairs




In the morning and afternoon, these chairs are used by people at the market stalls, and in the evening and night, they are often left on the fence for people to use, where people sit late into the night to talk; and where casual passerbys, homeless people, or lost travellers sometimes stop to borrow them for a while. Although the shophouses have been burnt down, the land has been fenced up to keep people off it, and the market is slowly being edged out by the construction work, the community still persists and keeps camp on Sungei Road.

Istana Woodneuk

We went in search of Istana Tyersall yesterday, having vaguely heard about it. Knowing it was somewhere close to the Botanic Gardens, we launched off into an enthusiastic hike into the thick jungle. As we climbed up the hill, where the grass had not be cut in years, we were literally just clawing our way through endless heaps of damp wet grass. Philipp literally had to help push me up the hill along some parts as I am admittedly quite poor at hiking or climbing…


After crawling up a hill and madly beating through all the tall grasses for what seemed like ages, we saw the building in the distant clearing.


The second storey of this once imposing house was completely gutted by a fire. Ironically, many “visitors” have left their mark on the second floor using the “charcoal” of the burnt building to write their names and the dates on which they visited. Some of the graffiti even dates back to 1998.

Front of the palace


Electrical lines splayed out almost animatedly after having been cut out from the building years ago


The doors are all gone but we found them stored in the kitchen.




As I was walking on the second floor, which had an impressive view of the area, I suddenly decided to seriously google for Tyersall FOR THE FIRST TIME and on my phone, i read a page on the Asia Paranormal Investigators website that explained that the original Tyersall building no longer exists, and that the nearby Woodneuk house is commonly mistaken for Tyersall. (I asked Philipp later and it turns out neither of us had really googled or searched for much information about Tyersall before being seized by the idea of going on this adventure, but happily so because we might not gone all foolhardy into the jungle otherwise and discovered this other building instead…)

It looks like that the National Archives received a batch of mislabeled photos (all dated 01/07/1986) that wrongly identifies Istana Woodneuk as Istana Tyersall. The Istana Tyersall no longer exists at all. screen capture 2012-4-30-8-19-43.png
This is the mislabeled photograph. Credits to NAS. screen capture 2012-4-30-8-21-46.png

This is the correct image of Istana Tyersall. Credits to NAS.

Screen shot 2012-04-30 at AM 08

This is the building plan of Istana Tyersall. Credits to NAS.

As you can see, this is the plan for the Istana Tyersall and not the Istana Woodneuk which we had found. I think we were off the map somehow as well (but in any case, the actual Tyersall is said not to exist anymore – but this is an exploration for another day!)

The burnt second floor and a blue roof tile

(For more photos, i’ve posted them up on my flickr)

The BBC Shipping Forecast – Zone map

This is the map of the Shipping Forecast. I don’t even live in the UK but often I do listen to the Shipping Forecast because I will tune in to listen to them play “Sailing By” before they do the Shipping Forecast.

Why do I listen to BBC so much? Because Singapore radio is utter bullshit that’s why. All of Singapore’s radio is completely void of informative or educational programming and I despise it. I mean, look at BBC 4; where else can I tune in and accidentally discover a half-hour special analysing TS Eliot’s The Wasteland for seemingly no reason at all. Granted, maybe not everyone wants to listen to that, but I myself enjoy the constant, passive absorption of information.

Somedays, I will even listen to Farming Today, although I haven’t a single clue about farming. You name it, I’ve listened to it all. I’m Sorry I’ll Read that Again, On The Hour, And Now In Colour, Navy Lark, Dad’s Army, Men from the Ministry, Hancock’s Half Hour, Old Harry’s Game, Milton Jones, Forty Nights in the Wildebeest, All Gas and Gaiters, Flywheel, Just a Minute, Desert Island Discs, Big Fun Show, Adam and Joe, The Now Show, Hudson and Pepperdine, The Seventh Hour, The Museum of Everything, Woman’s Hour, that thing with Laurie Anderson innit, Mistajam on 1XTRA, Documentaries about food in fukushima, farmers sanding the teeth of alpacas with anglegrinders, stories on internet accessibility for blind people, the formation of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, long debates about Ofsted or Ofcom, whatever happened to terry nutkins’s missing fingers, etc. Anything: I will give it a listen. Yes I am now so full of English pub trivia now, just you wait and see.

But, after years of not understanding what the words meant on the shipping forecast (but becoming strangely familiar with the words “forth tyne dogger”) – today I have finally looked at the Weather map issued by the Met Office, which is on the BBC website. Now I finally know what they mean by “squally showers over Viking North Utsire South Utsire Forties Cromarty Forth Tyne Dogger…”


UK shipping forecast zones (Another map from Wikimedia Commons)

List of zones:

North Utsire
South Utsire
German Bight
Irish Sea
Fair Isle
Southeast Iceland