This is density (EN)

Looking at Saint Petersburg, Russia through its commercial & social service density (in 3D!).

Daniel Gorokhov
4 min readFeb 14, 2019


This was born out of my previous work for MLA+ research project. They explored Saint Petersburg in terms of building densification and needed to see local centers all over the city. I’ve offered to download all relevant services and make a (flat) hex grid density map.

Half a year after — I came back to this data with newfound skill of doing 3D extrusion visualizations and existing knowledge of The Pudding’s «Human Terrain». What I’ve came up with you can see below.

Go ahead and explore the map (click below)!

If you’re using desktop computer — right-click+swipe up to see 3d mode in full swing, if you’re on mobile or tablet — swipe up with 2 fingers on map to do the same. UPD: Apparently, the 3D is not working on mobile :/

The visual perception is quite simple: light and low hex-towers represent less services, dark and high hex-skyscrapers — more services. Each hexagon is approximately 150 by 150 meters.

Right click to open the map in new tab.

Further into this post I’ll describe some curious insight I’ve gained with this visual research.

In a way it’s an homage to The Pudding’s work, but with a bit more relevant data on city scale, though without year-to-year comparison.

I should note, that this is not a final product but merely an MVP. I sure want to make a legend and some neat toggles and switches, and animation, but my js skills suck just yet. Hang in there, I’ll do it soon.

Back to contents of the map. Main insights for me:

Hospital complex is inside the violet hexagon
  1. Medical centers (hospitals) are local centers. If you see a very dense (high and dark) extrusion far from the center, chances are — half of them are hospitals. Technically, the density on the map in hospital locations comes from each hospital department being a separate service. The curiois thing, though, is that people here don’t view them as local centers, because apart from the main function (medical) there’s nothing there. And it’s a big issue. You gotta have complimentary infrastructure around hospitals: food and cofee, gift shop, flowers, maybe even a daycare (hour-care?) for children. There are no playgrounds for kids of any age, too. What are these places? They look like factories function-wise, as they are absolutely monofuncional.
  2. Malls are local centers. This not an insight, but a sad truth for me, as an urban designer. Our streets are functionally dense only in the heart of the city and loose on services when you go further towards outskirts. And malls make this contrast stand out even more.
  3. There’s this phenomenon of grey belt (industrial belt) in Saint Petersburg which is very much visible in terms of services. It separates the center-ish parts of the city with «sleeping districts», and the latter are more active service-wise then grey belt. The grey belt is more or less dead servise-wise, even without considering time as a parameter of services.
Grey belt of Saint Petersburg is visible here by voids in service density, south and east/north-east of the center

4. Metro stations are dense service-wise, but not always the biggest local centers in terms of services. Below on the right you can see a local center formed around metro station and on the left — in a big residential complex. The one on the left one is denser:

5. Distributed density of buildings creates distributed density of services. This is not magic, too: dense low/mid-rise blocks of buildings have lots of commercial spaces on first floors and services are distributed evenly. Also, high-density areas create more high density areas. Apparently, it’s contagious :D

Dense historic center of Saint Petersburg shows maximum service density

Further from the city center though, you can see a more granular density:

Prospect Veteranov neighbourhood shows lack of service density, paired with peaks of density in malls

Okay, this is about it from me this time, but I will come back to this later. Also, I have plans for Population density follow-up to this, so spread the word!

If you’ve enjoyed this and like my work, support me via or and I’ll make the next dataviz/analysis series sooner and even better!

Happy exploring!



Daniel Gorokhov

GIS expert at | GIS, urban research and dataviz about cities at