Excavating a 2002 piece – wegzeit

Jun 24, 2015

An old project, part of my thesis in architecture 2002: an early web-3d visualization project introducing different cartogram techniques and methods of urban time-space representation using real-time traffic information. Since the technology used then does no longer work (Virtools), I tried to salvage what still worked for the video.


The work investigates how non-linear space, i.e. space structured by relative units, can be used in architecture using virtual environments. The method is based on the concept of relative space used in human geography and analytical cartography. The example of Los Angeles provides a dynamic view of the city and its states of movement. A view that differs substantially from usual architectural representations. In the course of the work, six prototypical models for the representation of relative spaces were developed, each of which emphasizes different properties of the underlying relative space. The proposed models are implemented as dynamic virtual environments that change their shape and extent depending on the local size of the thematic parameter under consideration and on the chosen reference point.

From the Vectors Journal introduction:

“When you ask someone in Los Angeles how far it is from the beach to downtown, he or she will answer with the number of minutes it generally takes to traverse the distance rather than noting the number of miles. This system of defining and representing distance has recently been codified for use on the California Department of Transportation’s large LED “Freeway Condition” signs, which offer up-to-the-minute projections of estimated drive times: “8 minutes to downtown;” “22 minutes to 605 freeway,” and so on. Intrigued by the shift from the absolute units of distance traditionally used to describe space to the relative space of approximate drive times, Dietmar Offenhuber undertook an investigation of other examples in which data about the city is visualized in relative terms. The result of his work is Wegzeit, which uses six 3-D mapping paradigms – or cartograms – to visualize the city according to a range of conditions and interests.”

Feature in vectors online journal 2005
Link of the original 2002 project
pdf of thesis (in german)
Siggraph 2002 short paper