Gothenburg in blocks

Visit a full-scale recreation of Sweden’s second city

Gothenburg’s planning department has used mapping data to recreate all 10 of its districts in Minecraft, comprising 400 square kilometres of buildings, forest and roads. The aim is to get folk interested in urban development and learn from them what they want from their city.

Urban development, well, it’s maybe not the funnest-sounding thing in the world. But it’s important and all around us, and actually, it’s super interesting. It’s about working out how to use the land around us for all the things a modern society needs, from designing roads to planning art galleries, while reducing things like congestion and air pollution and ensuring everyone has a say in decisions.

Just getting to know your own city is a great start to appreciating it, which is why a competition was run over the holiday period in which presents were hidden in landmarks across the Gothenburg map to encourage exploration and familiarise players with the city around them.

You can grab the maps here, though the download link is a little unclear. Government websites! Click on the “I” icon next to any of the district names on the right and then you'll get a pop-out menu showing you the download URL for that area's map.

Governments and national agencies are getting pretty familiar with building stuff in Minecraft to get people interested in the real world. In fact, we’ve seen something of an arms race among mapping people. In 2013, the UK’s Ordnance Survey made all 220,000 square kilometres of mainland Great Britain and its surrounding islands into a 22 billion block world. Then in 2014, the plucky Danish Geodata Agency made Denmark into blocks at glorious full-scale, so you can wander by entire buildings and gaze inside their empty shells.

Not to be outdone, the Ordnance Survey then updated its UK map into a more detailed 83 billion block world in 2015, while Norway’s Kartverket also got in on the act. Later in the year, Lantmäteriet, Sweden's National Land Survey agency, did, too. And why not? With a bit of number-crunching it’s not so difficult to convert map data into Minecraft data. (Admittedly, I have no idea how to do this, but this is because I do not have an amazing maths-brain.)

It’s pretty cool to know that a huge world around you is a precise representation of the real one, but the intimate scale of the city somehow feels more immediate. Seeing landmarks you pass every day immortalised in Minecraft is special.

I haven’t been to Gothenburg before; my first impressions are that it has a lot of long buildings! And I like all the trees and the rocky bits in the centre of the city. Top marks, Gothenburg!