Posts tagged cartography


What do you see when you read this island?

Flying home earlier this year, having drank too many Frescae, I was staring out the window when an island came into view. It was a bright and clear summer day and the island was well-framed in the water. What is this place? As an ardent cartogrivore, I did not recognize it.

With a few minutes until landing, I took out my iPhone and as an exercise in landscape interpretation and reading land use patterns, I began to scan it for clues: fields, roads, some boat traffic, the alignment of the roads, the location of the structures, an air strip, a dock …?

What do you see when you read this island?

Send me – via email or in the comments below – your thoughts, theories, and interpretations. The country or continent I was flying over is not important (Hint: I am not flying over the USA.). I am going to gather the responses and incorporate them in a video – tentatively titled How To Read An Island – and share the results later this fall.


What could be interpreted as a hanging piece of beef jerky or a form of abstract art…is in reality a map-making exercise.

This experiment started with the aim of exploring genuine leather as a model-making material. Genuine leather can be etched, laser-cut, folded, warped, flipped, and capable of holding at least two sets of data on each side. Challenged with the status quo (leather finished with plastic-like material), the available fabric did not meet the intended potentials, melting when exposed to a flame.

drachid_image 1

Instead, the failure opened new opportunities to explore informative representation using the material’s innate flammability and its unpredictable reshaping through heat. Testing with flame intensity, angles, distance of application, and duration of application, a number of unexpected forms emerged. The material responded differently to various parameters, ranging from a slight fabric extension, to a swollen effect, the formation of a reverse cap, to the appearance of a black mark which eventually ending in ashes. The challenge was interesting, fun, and also exciting – the lack of expectations and material performance mostly determined the end result.

Other forms of representation: two dimensional contour models of mapped proximities

Other forms of representation, image #3: two dimensional contour models of mapped proximities

Essentially, the model aimed at working through spatial information obtained from plotting the mapped paths of people traveling through the city in relation to their bathroom-visiting schedules. Activity is associated with a point in space and time, represented by coordinates. The study overlaid paths crossing with bathroom locations, with comparative data analysis based on the spatial proximity of the mapped pedestrians to bathroom locations. Isolating bathroom activity redefined spatial understanding of the city in a very confined manner!

Three dimensional representation of the same set of data shown in image #3.

Three dimensional representation of the same set of data shown in image #3.

Both the map and the model therefore go beyond the physical representation of a documented spatial reality or a phenomenon that happens in space and time, developing further into an interpretation and representation of a value or a quantitative quality related to that same phenomenon. Understanding space as a set of comparative proximities redefines our perception of the urban space itself. Cartography transcends map making into art, through the mixed process of layering, extraction, subtraction of data, applying magnitudes, overlapping trajectories, isolating attributes, etc. Material remains an equally powerful tool capable of manipulating our interpretation and perception of the same data set.