18 Things All Cities Have in Common — In 1 Map
All cities have clogged traffic arteries, post-industrial pockets of hipness, and districts that hate each other's guts for no other reason than that they're across the river from each other, or on opposite sides of the tracks.
From a young age, Frank was fascinated by maps and atlases, and the stories they contained. Finding his birthplace on the map in the endpapers of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings only increased his interest in the mystery and message of maps.
While pursuing a career in journalism, Frank started a blog called Strange Maps, as a repository for the weird and wonderful cartography he found hidden in books, posing as everyday objects and (of course) floating around the Internet.
"Each map tells a story, but the stories told by your standard atlas for school or reference are limited and literal: they show only the most practical side of the world, its geography and its political divisions. Strange Maps aims to collect and comment on maps that do everything but that - maps that show the world from a different angle".
A remit that wide allows for a steady, varied diet of maps: Frank has been writing about strange maps since 2006, published a book on the subject in 2009 and joined Big Think in 2010. Readers send in new material daily, and he keeps bumping in to cartography that is delightfully obscure, amazingly beautiful, shockingly partisan, and more.
We travel the globe to marvel at the world's diversity; but we dare not ask ourselves the question that negates the time and money we spent to get there: Why does every place look so much like any other place?
All high streets and shopping malls are slightly rearranged versions of each other. Cities have rich and poor areas; big cities have financial quarters and ethnic enclaves. All cities have clogged traffic arteries, post-industrial pockets of hipness, and districts that hate each other's guts for no other reason than that they're across the river from each other, or on opposite sides of the tracks.
Much of this sameness is the result of the homogenising power of globalisation. But part of it goes deeper, and is much older. In "Big Dome," his 1999 essay on London, the writer Will Self invokes the French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, “(who) said that all world cities are constructed on an east-to-west schema, with the poor in the east and the rich in the west. Some ascribe this to the prevalent winds; the poor, as it were, being swept into the gutter. I think Claude saw it as a deeper structural phenomenon than this; humanity displaying some of the instinctive, orienting behaviour of the social insects.”
That would explain why this generic map of Every City looks so familiar — and is so funny. If you live or have lived in a big city, I bet you'll recognise most of these places. Where do they remind you of?
Many thanks to Robert Capiot for sending in this map, found here on ShortList. Map produced by Chaz Hutton. Check out a treasure trove of Chaz's (other) hilarious cartoons/infographics on his Instagram.
Strange Maps #762
Got a strange map? Let me know at email@example.com.