The DataCloud is a relational info-space. It originated from the desire to make complex sets of urban data accessible in a spatial and visual way. The prototype represents relations between data objects in a 3d environment. It employs swarming-like techniques to show the reconfiguration and clustering of data based on search keywords and the descriptions (metadata) of the data objects.

(DataCould 2.5 interface)

The DataCloud aims at establishing new ways of reading and perceiving multi-layered sets of information. It functions as a ‘knowledge map’ that combines the possibilities of various types of media (text, image, video, sound) and metadata within the framework of a computer-generated 3d environment.

By searching inside the information space, the 3d constellation of items will fold and transform, revealing the different topologies of data ‘hidden’ in the ‘cloud’. One can use the DataCloud to browse through the archive, explore the different layers of information and reorganize them to suit personal preference and particular interest. Apart from passive viewing and navigation through the data objects, the application also provides users the opportunity to reflect and comment upon the content. As such, the DataCloud offers possibilities that go beyond a search environment; it can for instance be used as tool to support the broad based dialogue (social, urbanistic, strategic and political) that is needed in the development of complex issues like urban development.

[technical approach]

The data in the info-space is generated as a ‘cloud’ through which users can ‘fly’ and which they can reorganise as desired. The proximity of objects to one another has an associative meaning. Objects that closely relate are also located closer (forming clusters); objects that don’t relate are further away. This idea of an associative, as opposed to a hierarchical, constellation of data-objects allows the users to perceive urban relationships in unexpected ways.

Data clustering is based on the Spring-Mass-System, and according to pre-determined relevant relationships between objects. Reorganisation and loading, as well as filtering of objects are animated. This not only improves the users understanding of what is happening when performing these actions, but also gives the ‘feeling’ of the interaction with a collection of media-objects.

Technically speaking, DataCloud 2.5/2.7 is set up as a three-tier database application. The first tier is a shockwave-enabled web browser, which serves as universal client. The second tier of the application is implemented with a web server capable of generating Shockwave code. This server accesses the database and stores and retrieves information as needed. A dynamic output stream is generated based on the database result. The third tier is composed of a back-end database server. The database server stores information used by the application.

[three development versions]

The DataCloud involved both application development (concept and programming) as well as the creation of its unique content.

DataCloud 1.0, aka Datawolk Hoeksche Waard (DWHW) has been set up as a community tool to collect, discuss and browse both ‘factual’ (figures, images) and more ‘fuzzy’ data (stories, sounds) about the physical transformation of the Hoeksche Waard – an area close to Rotterdam. DataCloud-1.0 has been awarded the Dutch National Millennium Prize for projects in the combined fields of science and the arts (November 2000). The prize money has been spent developing a version  2.0.


DataCloud 2.0 made a shift from 2d to a 3d environment. Here the media-objects are represented as spatial elements (balls) arranged in a 3d ‘space’ through which the user can navigate. DataCloud 2.0 acts as an archive of observations and abstractions of the research on uncontrolled urban processes (Wild City , 1999 – 2001) in the city of Belgrade.

(Wild City, Belgrade, in DataCloud 2.0)


DataCloud 2.5/2.7 is a demonstration prototype. It focuses on advancements in the functionality and knowledge processing of the application, and on the testing of user interaction. DataCloud 2.5 investigates the shifting urban domain of the city of Rotterdam from a cinematographic point of view – by giving elements (locations, actors, actions) from which a virtual storyboard can be created. DataCloud 2.7 has been made to facilitate the TOOAUP project for Manifesta 5 in San Sebastian. The technical framework on which DataCloud is based is open-source software.

  • [team ] Piet Vollaard (ArchiNed, concept); Marc Neelen, Ana Džokić, Maartje Dros (STEALTH.unlimited, concept and content) in dialogue with BikvanderPol and Milica Topalović; Anne Nigten, Brigit Lichtenegger, Lenno Verhoog, Maarten Handstede, Enric Gili Fort, Erik Kemperman, Lobke Hulzink (V2, concept and application development)
  • [background ] DataCloud is a project by ArchiNed, STEALTH.unlimited and V2. DataCloud 1.0 has served as support for Architecture International Rotterdam (AiR) in 1998. DataCloud 2.7 has been developed on request of the Berlage Institute Rotterdam. The project has been supported by the Fund for Architecture and has been awarded by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.
  • [timeline ] autumn 1998 – june 2004
  • [publicity ] presentations at Urban Drift conference (Berlin, 2002); Public Television Service Foundation Taiwan (2002); Becoming Digital, organized by MAMA Multimedia Institute (Zagreb, 2003); 4d space conference, by One-dot-zero at ICA (London, 2003); seminar Digitaliseren en Levend geheugen, Koninlijke Academie voor Nederlandse Taal- en Letterkunde (Gent, 2003); Willem de Koning Akademie (Rotterdam, 2004), aRt&D: Research and Development in Art (V2_NAi Publishers, 2005)