The Behavioral City: Exposure

Arch. Rebbecca Sternberg, Arch. Keren Avni
Location: The City Planning Lounge

Behavioral City is an innovative methodology that studies individuals’ urban activity patterns to reveal the relationship between human dynamics and urban attributes. The behavioral mapping opens a window to responsive urbanism that reacts to the users and the city - a living index of events. Urban planners leverage this approach to trace information, analyze situations, and identify trends and links between public resources and services. The installation featured in the City Planning Lounge focuses on life during Covid-19 as an extraordinary example of the significant behavioral changes that took place in the city. patterns of behavior


reveal the tension between our need for social interactions and the physical distance and ban on public gathering imposed by the pandemic. The Behavioral City: Exposure invites visitors to explore their activities in the city during the pandemic across a new map, drawn using personal Corona Diaries set against the backdrop of collective urban phenomena and trends. The mapping work was done during the urban salons workshop of the planning department in collaboration with the strategic planning unit in the Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality, in order to identify and reverse the development change processes that occur in real time and respond to them.

Curators, installation design: Rebecca Sternberg, Keren Avni / Megama

Exposure Map

In January 2020, the Planning and Strategy Departments of the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality held the Behavioral City workshop as part of the Urban Salons, promoting urban innovation in housing, work, public space, and the community. During the workshop, planning and strategy teams identified and mapped urban behaviors and functions, which would support innovative planning scenarios. Two weeks after the beginning of the workshop, Covid-19 broke out in Israel, and the city that never sleeps suddenly stopped. There have been dramatic changes in everyday life: traffic, consumption, housing, work, and so on.

A report by Google, which analyzes community mobility data during the Covid-19 pandemic,shows behavioral changes in the city: a decline in traffic, trade, retail, leisure, and public transportation, versus increased movement in residential areas and parks (except during the 100-meter lockdown period). The cumulative data generated by this report reveals comparative information worldwide, without specific spatial visibility. 

After the outbreak, the workshop’s research focused on spatial observation and mapping unique phenomena, emphasizing the dramatic behavioral change during this time.־־One result was a database of calls to the municipal 106 hotline, a valid seismograph for distress or urban-geographical state of mind. The analysis revealed several dominant topics: requests for help obtaining food and medicine, seeking information about health guidelines in public spaces, and reports about violations of Covid-19 regulations. These types of calls were not typical before the pandemic. Furthermore, geographical mapping revealed unexpected patterns, including requests for food from affluent communities or requests for information from across the city.

The map documents three timelines:

Pre Covid-19

The map of the city before the outbreak shows the municipal districts and their population’s socioeconomic status alongside publicly accessible areas, both public and private. Socioeconomic references as a measure of social inequality and open spaces as access to urban services are standard when analyzing urban dynamics. These will later change their function, as can be seen in the third section. We traced and cross-referenced various data sources and found a significantly different attitude toward trees in public versus private spaces. There are about 256,000 trees in Tel Aviv-Yafo, 110,000 of which are located in private properties. The municipal GIS map’s layer of trees includes no reference to the latter. We realized that these “private” trees had a tremendous effect on the quality of life during this period. When movement is restricted, any tree close enough to one’s home becomes a “green space.” 

During the Passover Lockdown

We decided to focus on the period after Purim, the two weeks between March 19 and April 2, 2020, when infection rates were at their highest, leaving their mark on our collective consciousness. This map presents a cross-reference of the three most common reasons to contact the 106 municipal hotline with other types of data, presenting a distinct behavioral change in the city.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Presenting the new world of commerce (the purple label) next to daily Covid-19 figures, focusing on demographics. People over 60 become a new reference group.

Morbidity points

Self-reported cases

Reports of violations of Covid-19 Regulations

Requests for information

Requests for food and help

Using interactive mapping tools, the Exposure Map compiles municipal databases (GIS layers), calls to the municipal hotline,p; figures from the Ministry of Health, the CBS, and other public institutions; and data generated by nonprofit and academic organizations (MIT’s Treepedia, The ability to cross-reference all data sets creates a new type of behavioral mapping that allows contemporary planning and policymakers to see and respond to current events.

The Exposure Map is one aspect of several behavioral issues discussed in the municipality’s housing, work, public space, and community workshop, with Covid-19 serving as an extreme test case for behavioral change.  The New Normal is here to stay, and these tools provide the necessary foundation for urban response. 

Photos: Tomer Applebaum, press photographer

Mapbox programming: Maya Sternberg

Web Programming: Sotiris and Logianis

The mapping work and the conceptual content

were done in collaboration with the Engineering

Administration, the City Planning Department

and the Strategic Planning Unit, Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality.

Special thanks to Architect Gila Ginsberg-Hebron, 

Central Planning Division.

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