The Atlas of Gentrification is “a collection of data visualisations, graphs and maps which respond to the phenomenon and related issues, such a segregation and income inequality,” Scherabon says. With this project, nearly a year in the making, graphic designer Scherabon hopes to lift the veil on gentrification, an issue which he says often gets caricatured as merely being about the migration of hipsters.
Though based in London, Scherabon found inspiration for the project in the Unites States. When traveling through cities such as Chicago and San Francisco he observed the varying impact of gentrification on different urban environments. He decided to study the phenomenon further and picked Chicago, San Francisco, New York City, Boston, Portland Oregon, Los Angeles, Detroit, London and Glasgow to be the subjects of investigation.
These cities were chosen because they each have a different issue at the core of their gentrification stories, he says; while it’s sky rocketing rents in London, it’s racial segregation in Chicago, forced evictions in San Francisco and so on. These issues make the movement, displacement and replacement of people in each city uniquely nuanced.
To understand these nuances, Scherabon turned to empirical data. Apart from some primary research he conducted in Glasgow, most of the data he used for the Atlas is freely available open source information from government bodies and independent researchers. Then came the process of interpreting the data and presenting it visually – in graphics that simplify and dramatise the empirical. “What really matters to me is that I get people to engage with the information” he says, “and sometimes an abstract approach is more engaging than a literal one.”
In analyzing the data Scherabon reached some unexpected conclusions. A lot of the data sets hadn’t been combined, compared and juxtaposed in this way before. For instance, in Los Angeles his graphics reveal how in certain neighbourhoods gang membership decreased with increasing rents. Another sunburst diagram (pictured below) shows the correlation between political changes and the UK housing market. “At about 4 o’clock on the diagram there is a visible gap in the grey lines. This is exactly when Margaret Thatcher came into office.”
While this version of the Atlas is now complete and awaiting a publisher, the project isn’t quite over. “At the moment it only comprehends a fraction of topics and a few key cities”, says Scherabon, “I might possibly look at further editions with new cities that I haven’t explored so far.”