Urban Change In Time

How did Vienna become what it is today?
How did it change through time?



Urban Change in Time (UCIT), for the first time, brings together and shows the extent of development in Vienna from 1870 to today, through the evolution of built environment. It lets you navigate through historical maps of Vienna from different times and different scales. The information is categorized by periods depending on the available historical maps. UCIT brings together national historical maps provided by the Austrian Federal Office of Metrology and Surveying (BEV-Bundesamt für Eich- und Vermessungswesen).

Originally, UCIT is a part of a doctoral thesis at the Vienna University of Technology, Department of Spatial Planning, Centre of Regional Planning and Regional Development, in cooperation with the Faculty of Informatics, the research group for Industrial Software (INSO). The Project is funded by the Internet Foundation of Austria – netidee under the scholarship program.

UCIT aims to create awareness of the importance of the city's past and provide a reflection for the future.


UCIT is based on raster maps in scales of 1:12.500, 1:25.000 and 1:50.000 over different map types and for the moment the timeline starts from 1870.

These historical maps are mostly paper maps and lay in archives. BEV provided these maps in digital form including georeference information.


Each map is categorized in time periods with an interval of 10 years, where possible. It doesn't neccessarily mean that when you press on 1940, it shows the maps from 1940. It displays the map group close to that year according to its categorization. It was not an easy task to group the maps into these time periods. First of all, we had to maintain the uniformity, that's why we had to keep the same map types together. Then, to avoid confusion we had to group the maps in an easy-to-understand year groups.

Not all the maps were available in digital form. Here we had to use only the available maps for the time being. If there would be other maps available in the future we would be happy to integrate them in the UCIT timeline.

What do the years display?

Year Coverage Scale Type
1870 1872-1875 1:12.500 The third military survey (1869-1887)
1900 1903-1915 1:25.000 The fourth military survey (1896-1915)
1910 1907-1910 1:75.000 National maps-Special Edition (1872-1944)
1920 1915-1916 1:75.000 National maps-Special Edition (1872-1944)
1930 1936-1937 1:75.000 National maps-Special Edition (1872-1944)
1940 1946 1:50.000 OEK50 National Maps-Provisional Edition (1945-1970)
1950 1950-1955 1:50.000 OEK50 National Maps-Provisional Edition (1945-1970)
1955 1954 1:25.000 OEK25 National Maps (1923-1959)
1960 1959-1962 1:50.000 OEK50 National Maps
1970 1972-1973 1:50.000 OEK50 National Maps
1980 1979-1981 1:50.000 OEK50 National Maps
1990 1987-1988 1:50.000 OEK50 National Maps
1995 1993-1995 1:50.000 OEK50 National Maps
2000 2000-2004 1:50.000 OEK50-UTM National Maps
2010 2007-2012 1:50.000 OEK50-UTM National Maps

making of

Today’s digital age offers high possibilities to create interesting dynamic visualizations. The main idea behind UCIT is to make the urban growth visible in a timely and user-friendly manner. In order to realize this project we needed historical data. We soon realized that such data is only available in cartographic map format. It was clear that the reproduction of the existing maps would be unrealistic; therefore using the original maps in pixel format could be the only solution. Original maps are not the best case for time representations but for the moment it is the only available solution.

All maps that cover the city of Vienna and its surrounding had to be in digital form. That meant scanned and geo-referenced paper maps. BEV provided these maps in digital form including their geo-reference information.

Due to different map types, scales, cartographic guidelines and lettering, same places appear differently from a certain time onwards, even though the place itself has not actually changed. As mentioned above the maps are categorized in time periods that have an interval of 10 years, including some exceptions such as 1870-1900, 1955 or 1995. The detailed information of the displayed map will be possible to see with a simple left click at any cursor position of interest. This feature will be implemented in the next version of the UCIT.


The maps are available as raster map images (scanned with 300 dpi). All maps come with a projection file and a world file. For example: [map.jpeg], [map.prj] and [map.jgw].

Each map piece is converted to GeoTIFF format by open source GDAL Libraries using the QGIS software program.

This process allowed us to import the data into GeoServer. GeoServer reads a variety of data formats, including GeoTIFF format and it is an easy method of connecting existing information to web-based maps like OpenLayers. OpenLayers is used to display the map data in web browsers. Pyramids of tiles are then created on the map server by WMS to increase the performance of the map display in web browsers. JavaScript is used as front-end to glue all the components together.

This layout was built using Bootstrap, inspired by Urban Layers.

Map controls (zoom in/out, overview map) are originally OpenLayers' controls.

The timeslider is created based on jQuery-UI, it allows you to move through time by clicking on the year, simply by dragging it or by using the left and right keys.



Burcu Akıncı

Burcu Akıncı

PhD candidate at the Vienna University of Technology, Department of Spatial Planning. Urban Change in Time is part of her doctoral thesis and she has been responsible for the management, design and research behind the project.

Emre Can Sönmez

Emre Can Sönmez

Master student on Media Informatics at the Vienna University of Technology. He is the software developer behind the UCIT project. All the research on technological solution has been undertaken by him and then he carried out the development and implementation.


Technische Universität Wien, Department für Raumplanung
Technische Universität Wien, INSO
Bundesamt für Eich- und Vermessungswesen

For more information about the project and its development please visit the UCIT blog.