Rarau Mai Living City

Rarau mai Living city uses dynamic data visualisations to show who we are as Aucklanders and the places we inhabit. This experience is part of a gallery called Tāmaki Herenga Waka: Stories of Auckland, which shares the stories of New Zealand’s largest city, reflecting its people and places throughout time and space. Living City is a first for Auckland Museum, devoting the entire space of a gallery (one of four rooms in total) to data as a creative storytelling medium. Data can be about measuring things but here it is also featured as something cultural and experiential, where visitors are physically surrounded by and imaginatively immersed in data. 


Living City uses data about Tāmaki to visualise the themes of people, environments, and systems. Making Living City a room-sized experience allowed us to create this kind of environment, with large-scale floor and wall projections, a tower of 18 LED panels, a soundscape and a touchscreen, where even the light levels and sound are driven by the data. Each element plays in sequence with the other in real time. Some of the ways visitors can interact with the data is by standing on the floor projections or exploring data about their neighbourhood on the touchscreen. 


A significant part of creating Living City was identifying raw data and turning it into visualisations that resonated with our visitors and showed the connectedness of the region, as well as change over time and into the future. Geographer and data specialist Dr Chris McDowall advised on datasets, which were chosen to highlight the unique characteristics of Auckland. They show us where we live, how old we are, where we have come from, what our names are, how we move around, where we spend time, what wildlife we live alongside, how our climate is changing, and envisages the infrastructure under our feet and on the ground. It was important for the project team that the data was strengths based and didn’t marginalise or point the finger at individuals or groups.


Greg More from OOM designed the space and its elements and used the data to create highly graphic immersive moments of dynamic map-based visualisations.