AKDC debuts new tool: Layer Cake

A new 3-axes data visualization tool

The Aga Khan Documentation Center at MIT has released its prototype of Layer Cake, a 3-axes mapping tool that enables users to build maps layering narrative, time, and space simultaneously. Envisioned by AKDC Program Head Sharon C. Smith, Ph.D. the tool has become a reality thanks to the programming expertise of James Yamada (Master’s in Design Studies, Harvard GSD).

Ali Asgar Alibhai (Ph.D. candidate, Harvard NELC) provided the content for the pilot project by analyzing textual sources of Ibn Jubayr’s 12th-century pilgrimage from Spain to Mecca. The resulting map documents Ibn Jubayr’s travels temporally, geographically, and with accompanying descriptions of the cities and sites he visited. Images and information about those cities and sites is linked to Archnet — AKDC’s globally accessible intellectual resource focused on architecture, urbanism, environmental and landscape design, visual culture, and conservation issues related to the Muslim world — to provide more context.

While Yamada, Alibhai, and Smith continue to develop the tool and refine the interface, we welcome users to view Ibn Jubayr’s travels in Layer Cake and provide feedback for this test case. Please send questions, comments, and suggestions to the project PI, Sharon C. Smith.