urban adventures to (re)present our habitat

Urban Earth Explained

An Introduction to Urban Earth

Daniel Raven-Ellison, The Geography Collective

Welcome to Urban Earth, a collaborative project to explore and (re)present our habitat. The purpose of this website is to bring together people who are interested in joining urban adventures and sharing their experiences. I hope that you will use this space to plan explorations and share them with other members of the community. 

What makes Urban Earth different to many other projects of its kind is the nature of the routes. Unlike tourists hunting down highlighted honeypot destinations in their guidebooks or a flâneur drifting though the city, Urban Earth routes are planned to (re)present geographical patterns that are revealed in maps. The walks attempt to reflect social inequalities and cultural landscapes by exploring valleys of violence, peaks of peace, lands of depression, remote urban places and much more.

Since the start of the project people have organised and enjoyed Urban Earth (style) walks around the world. One of the most impressive as run by my good friends Anna Kydd and Étienne Von Bertrab in Guadalajara, Mexico. For them the walk was deeply political. Their website Infotectura described the purpose of the walk as seeking to "observe and translate urban conditions into products, recommendations, proposals and projects that generate reflection on the public realm and urban environments. The event consist(ed) of walking the entire city from end to end covering peri-urban and central settlements over a period of two days to identify its conflicts, growth patterns and social fabric". Over 100 people aged 9 to 90 took part in this activist walk. Other walks have taken place in Senegal, São Paulo and the Port of Spain.  

I like to make a distinction between two types of Urban Earth walks. A true Urban Earth walk will attempt to explore and (re)present a balanced view of an urban area. This is in contrast to an Urban Story walk, which  intentionally follow themed routes. These have included antisocial, unhealthy, depressing, violent and other walks.

You can use this website to join or organise Urban Earth explorations. You'll see that the website is split into three sections or chapters. In EXPLORE you can find and post EVENTS, join GROUPS that are organising events and see the MEMBERS of the website. The EXPERIENCE area is our forum; a space to ask questions, share what you know and develop your expertise. Finally the EXPRESS pages are all about expressing, sharing and (re)presenting your explorations. You can do this by writing blog posts and sharing photos or videos.

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"To mark Earth's shift to majority urban dwelling, the Urban Earth project was started in 2008 with the aim of (re)presenting our habitat by walking across some of Earth's biggest urban areas, to explore their spatial realities for the people who live there and challenge dominant media discourses regarding the places in which most of us now live." Kye Askins of The Geography Collective in Ecological Urbanism by Mohsen Mostafavi with Gareth Doherty

"Urban Earth is a killer project. It's about walking across an entire urban area. The length of the walk represents the size of the urban footprint and the route reflects levels of deprivation. Where the 20 per cent most deprived people in the city occupy just 5 per cent of the land, roughly 5 per cent of the walk will be through these areas. The route is systematic and unbiased in an attempt to reveal a slice of real life. Over the course of the walk one person takes a photograph every eight paces so that, when put together, a stop-motion film is created, revealing an alternative view of the city somewhere between a photo, film and map."King Adz in Steet Knowledge

The Urban Earth films have been watch over 35,000 times online and have been downloaded and made available through a range of services. All of the films and pictures are under a Creative Commons license for non-commercial use. For a reason that continues to escape me the films are a little jolted when played back on YouTube and until recently they were only available on Blip. 

For a more fluid viewing you can download some of the films from here and from these links. Right click and save: Mexico CityMumbaiLondonBristolTyneside and Manchester. Otherwise, here is a selection of Urban Earth films. Versions by other people can be found in the videos section of this site.

Mexico City



Bristol/Manchester/Tyneside Mash-Up

Salisbury's Ecological Footprint

Coming soon(ish).. The West Yorkshire Urban Area & Portland, Oregon

The films and photographs have been used in a wide range of places including:

Urban Earth in Street Culture

  • Featured in Street Knowledge by King Adz.
  • Feature article, Writing the Earth, in the Explore edition of Susology Magazine.
  • Films used by VJ Freedom in the Dance Village at Glastonbury festival.
  • Screenings at The Secret Garden Party festival in England.

Urban Earth for Schools

  • Ideas on using Urban Earth in schools by The Geographical Association
  • (Re)presenting places, people and lives - using digital media, a chapter by Daniel Raven-Ellison in Living Geography.
  • Opportunities for using Urban Earth style walks in Teaching Geography by John Halocha
  • Spotlight on Urban Earth by Kye Askins and Daniel Raven-Ellison in Geography.

Urban Earth for Universities

Credits so far...

Organised by Daniel Raven-Ellison

Urban Earth Mapping by Kay Kitazawa

Urban Story Mapping by Peter Boyce

Participants involved with the walks and films above include Daniel, Menah, Seb, Anna, Etienne, Marilin, Negro, Omar, Nicole, Dipti, Gita, Navaneet, Sharada, Babu, Maitrayee, Amrita, Sonali, Sushant, Sainath, Manjeet, Rajesh, Ashish, Pritika, Seema, David, Kay, David, Eve, Mauro, Samia, Matt, Ben, Chris, Aled, Phil, Sheena-Anne, Anna, Izzy, Vicky, Richard, Andy, Marie, Liam, Jane, Iris, Pete, Richard, Dick and Larch.

Facilitated by

The Geography Collective

Sponsored by


Virgin Unite

Supported by

The Geographical Association

Urban Age

University of Mumbai

City Farmers


For more information, to request use of the photographs or to sponsor a walk please contact daniel@thegeographycollective.co.uk.

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