MacArthur Foundation grant fuels computational city research

A new Chicago-based research center using advanced computational methods to understand the rapid growth of cities will receive a $500,000 grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The funds help launch the Urban Center for Computation and Data (UrbanCCD), an initiative of the Computation Institute (CI) dedicated to data-driven urban research, planning and design.

UrbanCCD, announced in December 2012, unites scientists from the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory with educators, architects and government officials to capitalize upon the growing availability of city datasets and the emergence of urban sensor networks. The interdisciplinary collaboration will analyze and integrate those data sources and build complex computer models that can anticipate the impact of policy decisions, investments, urban development or other interventions on a city and its residents.

“The rate and scale of city expansion driven by accelerating global urbanization is outpacing the ability of cities and urban designers to adapt and plan in key areas such as energy, transportation, services and the environment,” said UrbanCCD Director Charlie Catlett, CI Senior Fellow and Senior Computer Scientist at Argonne. “But with the data and computational resources now available, we can understand the complexity of cities at an unprecedented scale, testing and validating different interventions to transform how cities function worldwide."

The MacArthur grant will support the launch of UrbanCCD, including the hiring of core personnel and the production of seminal activities to create a new template for how cities and city stakeholders access and use data effectively. The funding joins a $600,000 grant awarded by the National Science Foundation to establish an Urban Sciences Research Coordination Network (USRCN), a partnership of social, economic, health and computational scientists that will develop a roadmap for data-driven urban sciences.

The initial USRCN team includes representatives from CI, UChicago, Argonne, the University of Chicago Medical Center, Chapin Hall, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the City of Chicago and the Chicago-based international architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. The USRCN will officially kick off with an organizational workshop in Chicago on Feb.. 15.

For more information about the Urban Center for Computation and Data, visit