Andy Woodruff’s Islands of Boston


Andy Woodruff imagines Boston neighbourhoods as islands, where any unpopulated areas—commercial districts, industrial areas, highways, parks—are represented as water. “Some neighborhoods of the Boston area are actual islands, or were at one point. Others, however, can feel that way even when connected to each other by land. Water isn’t the only thing that can create a gulf between neighborhoods; sometimes it’s created by features of the urban landscape and the experience of passing through them.” [via]

Transit Explorer


Yonah Freemark’s Transit Explorer is an online map of existing, planned and under-construction transit projects in cities across North America—“fixed-guideway transit,” which means bus rapid transit, light rail and commuter rail. I’ve spotted a couple of omissions (Montreal’s commuter rail and Winnipeg’s busway don’t appear) but that might be a problem with the underlying OpenStreetMap data. [via]

Civitates Orbis Terrarum


Hyperallergic has a review of Cities of the World (Taschen, November 2015), a reprint of colour plates from Georg Braun and Franz Hogenberg’s Civitates Orbis Terrarum, which appeared in six volumes between 1572 and 1617. From Taschen: “Featuring plans, bird’s-eye views, and maps for all major cities in Europe, plus important urban centers in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, this masterwork in urban mapping gives us a comprehensive view of city life at the turn of the 17th century.” Maps from the Civitates Orbis Terrarum can also be viewed online here and here. [via] Buy at Amazon (Canada, U.K.)

Metropolis: Mapping the City

metropolisNicolas Crane reviews Jeremy Black’s Metropolis: Mapping the City (Conway, October 2015) for Geographical magazine. “The aim is to explore through time the visualisation of cities, so we start with a terracotta plan of the Mesopotamian holy city of Nippur, in what is now Iraq, then travel through Renaissance cities, New World cities, Imperial cities and mega cities. […] If you’ve ever wondered why cities work, you’ll find the answer in this beautiful book.” Buy at Amazon (Canada, U.K.)

A Geographically Accurate Tube Map

London Connections map (detail)

There is no transit map more iconic than the London Underground’s Tube map. First created by Harry Beck in the 1930s, the design has inspired countless other transit network maps that are schematic diagrams rather than geographically accurate maps. But Transport for London, which operates the Underground, also has a geographically accurate map of the network: it was strictly for internal use, but a freedom of information request has now brought it to light. It’s available here (PDF). The response has been so good that TfL now says it’ll be added to their website. CityMetric, Mapping London.

Fantasy Maps of U.S. Cities

Fantasy map of Cleveland (Stentor Danielson)
Fantasy map of Cleveland (Stentor Danielson)

For another example of using fantasy map design language to create real-world maps, here’s the work of geography professor Stentor Danielson, who draws maps of U.S. cities in the style of fantasy maps and sells them on Etsy. Boston, Cleveland (above), Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington are available. His Tumblr. Via io9.

Previously: A Fantasy Map of Great Britain; A Fantasy Map of Australia; A Fantasy Map of the U.S.

Unfathomable City

Book cover: Unfathomable City Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas, by Rebecca Solnit and Rebecca Snedeker, came out last month from University of California Press. At first glance it looks like it does for New Orleans what Solnit’s previous work, Infinite City, did for San Francisco: it’s a collection of essays and maps that, as before, displays two complementary or contrasting things on the same city map. In my review of Infinite City I suggested that not every city could sustain a project like this, though San Francisco obviously could; it seems to me that New Orleans is a natural followup.

Tube Map Live

Tube Map Live icon Andy Drizen’s Tube Map Live (iTunes), a free iOS app (native iPhone and iPad versions) that shows the real-time positions of London Underground trains on the iconic Tube map, using official data. Hypnotic visualization, but the app essentially promotes Drizen’s £1.99/$2.99 Tube Tracker: tapping on trains or stations calls up an advertising popup. Via TUAW.

The KickMap Comes to London

KickMap London screenshot

In 2007 Eddie Jabbour released the KickMap, a map of the New York subway system that tried to square the circle of various competing and controversial New York subway map designs. The KickMap later became an iOS app; I reviewed the iPad version in 2010. Now Eddie reports that he’s released a KickMap for the London Underground—not satisfied with updating Massimo Vignelli, he’s going after Harry Beck.

[W]hile the Tube Map’s updates over the decades have attempted to follow Beck’s design, a glance at the current iteration reveals that his design heirs have failed to retain his core credo of clarity and ease of use. Ongoing expansion of the Underground, the addition of the new Overground system, and essential disability access information have made most modern Tube Maps, both official and independent, overly complex and difficult to read. … [I]nstead of redesigning the entire map vocabulary as we did for KickMap NYC, we embarked on a fresh new effort to recapture Beck’s clarity and ease of use.

A regular Underground user would be able to evaluate whether the map succeeds in its goal to improve the Tube map’s clarity; I haven’t even so much as been to London, much less taken the Tube. But I’ve downloaded the app (disclosure: I received a promo code) and have played around with it a bit.

What I can say is that the map is gorgeous and scrolls fluidly (at least on an iPhone 5). In a nice touch, it adds detail like neighbourhoods and landmarks only when zoomed in, preserving a simpler, less cluttered map when zoomed out.

Those of you who’ve used the New York KickMap will find much that is familiar. While it can use your iPhone’s GPS to locate the nearest station—a nice touch on a non-geographic map—it does lack the New York app’s Directions function, which can route you between two stations on the network. Something to ask for, I think, in an update.

It costs only £0.69/$0.99 and is a universal iPhone/iPad app. iTunes link.

The Measure of Manhattan

Book cover: The Measure of Manhattan Another mapmaker is getting a book-length biography. The Measure of Manhattan, Marguerite Holloway’s biography of surveyor John Randel, Jr. (1787-1865), whose decade-long survey of the island of Manhattan was the basis for that city’s street grid, comes out in February. Via BLDGBLOG, who blurbed it: “Marguerite Holloway’s engaging survey takes us step by step through the challenges of obsolete land laws and outdated maps of an earlier metropolis, looking for—and finding—the future shape of this immeasurable city.” Buy at Amazon | publisher’s page