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Tag "landscape"

The landscape is many things and indeed a big topic in architecture and art at the moment. Far from the sustainable and eco discussion, landscape has become a more approachable term taking over from a very technical system sort of term. It essentially means the same – things working in interconnected ways – and are not entirely to be framed in one single way.

From early Dutch landscape painters quite literally bring the view of the surrounding nature into the house it has evolved to a very intellectual construction of everything that surrounds us. Artists ha a hand in the terms development from the beginning and still do chiefly influence the direction its interpretation develops.

Image taken from Zimoun / 435 prepared dc-motors, 2030 cardboard boxes 35x35x35cm. Zimoun 2017. Installation view: Godsbanen, Aarhus, Denmark. Curated by Marie Koldkjær Højlund and Morten Riis.

Landscape is however not less technical than its predecessorial term and in the work of the Swiss artist Zimoun this is fascinatingly illustrated and heightened. I stumbled on this via inverses. The mesmerising work develops a multitude of landscapes from object to technology, flows and not least sound.

Video by Zimoun / 127 prepared dc-motors, sticks 30cm, 2015

Video by Zimoun / 240 prepared dc-motors, cardboard boxes 60x20x20cm, 2015

The installation was part of the exhibition What Lies Beneath Installation view: Borusan Contemporary Istanbul Exhibition: “What Lies Beneath”, September 5, 2015 – February 21, 2016, Curator: Christiane Paul. The exhibition «What lies beneath» strives to capture one of the current conditions of our culture: an atmosphere of increasing alienation and decaying trust resulting from factors that often lie beneath the surface of the visible. The show comprises four room-size installations — by Krzysztof Wodiczko, Michal Rovner, and Zimoun — that create a contemplative space for reflecting on cultural and social conditions and visceral forces that may not be easily perceivable and create feelings of uncertainty.

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The Columbian capital is quite an active spot with tweeters. In general the twitter platform is very popular in South America and Bogota is no exemption. However it is in terms of overall numbers behind fanatic tweeters such as Sao Paulo and Rio, but in Bogota we still have quite a good number of location based tweets. There are about 18% of the tweets geolocated providing a good base for the Bogota New City Landscape Map (NCL).

The NCL map is generated as a virtual landscape from geolocated tweets sent from within a 30 km radius of the Bogota area over the period of one week. NCL is an ongoing project and we have covered earlier that can be found through HERE.

The striking thing is the extreme cluster tendency in this version of the map. The twitter activity is simply and only concentrated in the business area of the capital along Carrera 7. No wonder this is where things are happening with a lineup of business, shopping and nightlife, where else would you go. This must also be where the money is, since the sample does require the users to use one of the more recent mobile gadgets. Hence the large void to the south and west, where lesser people are using the service. The third large void is defined by the large mountain ridge Cerros Orientales. The landscape feature her as a cut, both on the virtual scape and in the real world.

Image by urbanTick for NCL / Bogotá New City Landscape map generated from location based tweets collected over the period of one week. The area covered is within a 30 km radius of Bogotá.

In terms of the morphology, even though Bogota NCL features a singular hotspot like the lot of London, Paris, Barcelona it fits more with the feature structure of New York or San Francisco. Especially in term sof how it relate to the physical structure of the city fitting in along this mountain ridge, witch is sort of 1 to 1 reflected in the virtual twitter landscape.

The detailed overview of NCL cities from around the world can be found on the NCL World View, with links to the individual interactive versions.

Bogotá New City Landscape

Image by urbanTick using the GMap Image Cutter / Bogotá New City Landscape -Use the Google Maps style zoom function in the top right corner to zoom into the map and explore it in detail. Explore areas you know close up and find new locations you have never heard of. Click HERE for a full screen view. The maps were created using our CASA Tweet-O-Meter, in association with DigitalUrban and coded by Steven Gray, this New City Landscape represents location based twitter activity. Thanks for the help with the labeling to Luis Suarez from EstudioArQ.

Image by urbanTick for NCL / The lefthand rose shows the twitter activity over the days of the week, starting with Sunday at the top, going clockwise. The rose on the right shows the tweet activity per hour of the day, starting at 00:00 at the top. Here we are showing local time in Bogota. Hence the characteristic dip between three and five o’clock in the morning. Bogota is a typical morning city with more activity n the morning hours of the day. For more details on the time comparision with other NCL urban areas please see the presentation post ‘Twitter Data – Seeking Spatial Patter’

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Two recent books published by Lars Mueller Publishers are focusing on Landscape Architecture and both involve the Guenther Vogt probably the currently best known international Swiss Landscape Architect. Both publications focus heavily on the context and background of landscape architecture and quite some effort is put in to explain landscape architecture or even reinvent it. In this context it mas sense to review these books together.

The two publications evolve from very different contexts. ‘Tree Nurseries – Cultivating the Urban Jungle: Plant Production Worldwide‘ by Dominique Ghiggi is developed in the academic context of the ETH Zuerich at the Chair of Guenther Vogt in the Department of Architecture. It is an edited book with numerous individual contributions to the broad topic of the mobility of plants. These articles range from the history of plant species and how they traveled across the globe to where they commonly grow now to seed storage projects and the industrial process of large scale plant farming.

The book ‘Distance and Engagement: Landscape Thinking – Model Making: Walking, Thinking and Making Landscape‘ by Alice Foxley on the other hand is about the practice of landscape architecture and the research undertaken at Vogt Landscape Architects. Alice Foxley is head of research at Vogt Landscape Architects and has sort of summarised and conextualise the research undertaken in the practice during the past few years. This context is this case are realised projects. The publication aims to justify the two areas as part of the practice and is quite successful in this matter.

Tree Nurseries
Image taken from Lars Mueller Publishers / Cover of the book ‘Tree Nurseries – Cultivating the Urban Jungle: Plant Production Worldwide‘ by Dominique Ghiggi and published by Lars Mueller Publishers.

A tree is a tree is a tree, but it might has not always grown and lives where you just see it now. As the editor of ‘Tree Nurseries’ points out in the introduction the natural elements like trees in our cities usually are perceived as the last artefacts of nature and evoke a certain sense of place since greens don’t move, are immobile.

Reading through the book makes one quite quickly realise that this is not the case at all trees do move and especially the ones you see in your city definitely have moved a couple of times probably more often than yourself.

For example in the article ‘The History of Phalaenopsis SP.’ the editor tracks the documents the modern production of the orchid that is one of the most bought flowers on the market. There is very little to the romantic view one has on how a plant grows from a seed. The modern industrial production of is massive and strictly organised. Plants are produced by means of plant tissue culture in the laboratory, grow in trais and are watered and feed by machines, sorted and packed on the conveyor belt.

In another article by Brigitta Amman the history of plant migration in ‘Tree Migration’ is explored in more detail over millions of years, as a sort of tree archeology. This research is mainly based on pollen in soil samples.

How the movement and traveling of individual trees is tied to landscape design and how trees travel halve way around the globe is documented in the article “Tree Journeys’ by Guenther Vogt. For a project for the Zuerich Zoo a copy of the Masoala Rain Forest was created in a purpose built new building. The required plants are sourced from around the world and the design team traveled for Bamboo to Madagascar, to Thailand for Fiscus Altissima and Artocarpus lakoocha, to Florida for Ficus benjamania “exotica” or to Malaysia for Ravenala madagascariensis. Of course they came back with quite some luggage.

One of the really fascinating articles is ‘The Svalbard Global Seed Vault’ by Christoph Seidel. In the remoteness north of the arctic circle at a latitude of seventy eight degrees, thirteen minute north on Spitzbergen a building stores a plant seed bank in the permafrost. This project of the Seed Vault is run by the Global Crop Diversity Trut and is sort of a “safety net, an insurance policy, a modern Noahs Ark”. The building socks currently 526’000 samples of plants from around the world. It is however designed to host a lot more, about six times as much. An interesting project to store all these seed in such a location, where they couldn’t even grow, or at least not now.

Image taken from Lars Mueller Publishers / Cover of the book ‘Distance and Engagement: Landscape Thinking – Model Making: Walking, Thinking and Making Landscape‘ by Alice Foxley and published by Lars Mueller Publishers.

Research in the context of a practice however a presented by Alice Foxley in ‘Distance and Engagement’ is different and at first the strange feeling about it can not be described. In a competitive environment as todays design practices are finding themselves, the ‘luxury’ of research as research is hardly something many do. The focus is on producing a project working along a tight schedule coordinating different phases and finalize on time and by making some profit. Of course analysis and background research is part of this an integrated at each step of the projects. This builds up a stock of practice based knowledge the employees share as a collective experience and ideally this would develop the practice as an entity creatively.

This idea of researching and then embed this in upcoming projects is a different approach and rather unusual for a commercial deign practice. There are some examples Atelier Bow-Wow or ARU run by Florian Beigel and Philip Christou. Other examples might be the research focused office practice exhibition the well known architecture offices of Rem koolhas as well as Herzog and De Meuron toured around the large Galleries and museums a few years back.
However in these examples the research is usually also a project, as for example Made in Tokyo: Guide Book.

The research in ‘Distance and Engagement’ is very experiential and practical, both for the design team as well as in regards to further usage in a project. Some are excursions to experience and see a specific landscape, such as for examples into limestone landscapes in Yorkshire. Actually the location were some of the scenes of the most recent Harry Potter Films are shot.

On a second layer the publication also presents realised projects and brings them together with the research undertaken. In the case of the Yorkshire limestone the project is the landscape for the roof of the sub terrain auditorium at Novartis Campus in Basel Switzerland. This auditorium is adjacent to the headquarter of the same company designed by Frank Gehry architects.

The researched features of the limestone landscape were transformed into a design landscape in an artificial garden and it looks like a limestone landscape. The process of rastering an aerial image of a location in three steps in photoshop and pumping up the resolution is described in detail. That the result is a limestone landscape is rather surprising, but formally the similarities are obvious.

Further projects described are the Novartis Park where the research focused on the local landscape around Basel establishing some isolated connections to other locations in Switzerland or two projects in London, one for the newly redeveloped Tate Modern and the other one for Parliament Square.

Both these projects’ research focuses on the practice of walking and experiencing the surrounding at the speed of walking. This shapes very much in the style of Richard Long with walks on Dartmoor in Devon UK or different random walks in London.

Both publications argue that there is more to landscape design and that this context need exploring. In some sense maybe even aims at establishing an identity, a sort of history or knowledge of landscape architecture / landscape design.

And yes, probably this is truly needed for a profession that all of a sudden finds itself in the middle of a sustainability war, were geen is green and planting 1500 trees for the world exhibition can make the difference and a new urbanism.

Both publications are were nicely presented as beautiful books with a clear design, well they are Lars Mueller Publications. One is large and bold in colour rather like a magazine, only five times the number of pages, the other one is small, framed and formal, more like a document. Together they probably show the current state of landscape architecture research and practice.

Vogt, G. & Foxley, A., 2010. Distance and Engagement: Landscape Thinking – Model Making: Walking, Thinking and Making Landscape, Lars Muller Publishers.

Ghiggi, D., 2010. Tree Nurseries – Cultivating the Urban Jungle: Plant Production Worldwide, Lars Muller Publishers.

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Urban spaces are public space, one presumes. Yes? Who owns the space and what does public actually mean in relation to oneself as an individua? How much authority is imposed on the route we travel daily?
In general public space is for everyone, but only in general. In detail this means it is for certain groups acting and behaving in a certain way. Excluding can take many forms and ranges from physical barriers, economical hurdles to social aspect.
The unwritten moral rules are formed in different layers and dependant on numerous factors. Often a temporal aspect is involved to make things more complicated. As a preliminary conclusion space and especially the ruling of is extremely complicated and often near impossible to interpret a the potential user.
However, maybe the question is not the right one, maybe it is not about the rules or regulations. Maybe it is about the agency of the user? What if te question were, what do you want to use it for, could it be used for this? To make a proposa instead of asking how, completely changes the dimension and the dialogue and unlocks a potentially very fruitful conversation between different groups of actors.

Image taken from regardsdusoir / Urban Interventions, 2010, Cover by Gestalten.

The dilemma goes back quite a bitin history and it could be argued that is in parts a child of the modernist city planning. The city is designed as a machine that runs and functions. Its main purpose is serving the residents and visitors, which in turn makes them user. However, the clear lines of the functional city and the meticulous designed links and connections have reached not far enough. The ‘Junkspace’ (Koolhaas, R., 2002. Junkspace. October, 100, 175-190.) produced in between is taking over and users can’t cope with ‘Junkspace’, they are trained to function in transit only.

To navigate in the modern urban environment creativity is needed and especially action is needed. It has to be an proactive approach, no longer as users citizens have to commute, but a actors. Space is no longer what it looks like but it is what it’s used for.

In an awesome new Gestalten publication ‘Urban Interventions‘ the editors Robert Klanten and Matthias Huebner outline exactly how this ‘acting’ in urban spaces could look like. And from page one (actually page 8) an incredible ‘tour d’ urbanism’ takes you on a journey through other peoples reinterpretation of space. The mere density and variety of the projects presented makes you wane stand up and go out there into the streets and have some fun. It is one of those reading experiences that creap into your mind and things are no longer what they used to be.

Harmen de Hoop
Image by Harmen de Hoop / Sandbox, Amsterdam, 1996. Paving stones removed with sand and toys added to create a child’s play area.

The book is organised in seven thematic areas that are: Urban Canvas, Localized, Atachments, Public Privacy, Advertised and Natural Ways. Within this structure you can find gems such as Brad Downney‘s Spontaneous Sculptures – Broken Bike Lane, 2008 Berlin, Slinkachu’s Little People, earlier blog post HERE, or Tazro Niscino‘s temporary rooms usually featuring a public sculture as for example in ‘Engel’, Basel, 2002.
Other works are more practical like Harmen de Hoop‘s public space add ons that quip spaces with additional functionality. Similarly practical or transformative is Oliver Bishop-Young‘s ‘Skip Conversions: London, 2008.

One of my favourites is the ‘Urban Camouflage‘ reinterpreting the dimensions of activity in the (public)spaces of hardware stores.

Urban Camouflage
Image by Urban Camouflage / ‘Lappen’, performed in Stockholm in 2007 /

The book actually doesn’t provide the reader with the normally introductive ‘rules of the book’ and the table of content. Also each project is documented only with the basic project information, but not with any sort of interpretation. Very much in the sense of the introduction it is an explorative approach and how one reads the book is up to each individual. You can read it from front to back though if you desire.

A must read for every urbanist! Go out and have fun, you are the city.

Klanten, R., 2010. Urban Interventions: Personal Projects in Public Places, Die Gestalten Verlag.

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We are updating the the collection of New City Landscape maps and add two new world cities. The earlier maps can be found HERE and HERE. The new data comes from San Francisco and Sydney. In terms of physical Landscape they both have the Ocean as a defining element of the urban area, together with large water bodies enclosed by the urban area. In both maps these features come through in topography generated from the tweet locations.

Image by urbanTick / New City Landscape also available in the flickr pool NCL

San Francisco New City Landscape

Image by urbanTick using the GMap Image Cutter / San Francisco New City Landscape – Use the Google Maps style zoom function in the top right corner to zoom into the map and explore it in detail. Explore areas you know close up and find new locations you have never heard of. Click HERE for a full screen view.

San Francisco on the other hand shows similar to New York multiple centres that grow together. Beside San Francisco, also Oakland and some other sub centres show up. A strong point is of course the airport again.

Sydney has a very strong island characteristic, with downtown showing up strong on the right hand side. The Sydney map was developed in collaboration with ‘The Works Sydney’.

Sydney New City Landscape

Image by urbanTick using the GMap Image Cutter / Sydney New City Landscape – Use the Google Maps style zoom function in the top right corner to zoom into the map and explore it in detail. Explore areas you know close up and find new locations you have never heard of. Click HERE for a full screen view.

The maps were created using our Tweet-O-Meter, in association with DigitalUrban and coded by Steven Gray, this New City Landscape represents location based twitter activity.

Earlier maps cover London, New York, Munich, Paris and Moscow.

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In out series of tweetography maps the latest addition is the Moscow New City Landscape. And it is now also available as an interactive, zoom and pan-able map using the GMap Image Cutter.
Russia, but mainly Moscow are currently going through an internet boom and in this context twitter has become quite popular. The data we were able to collect using the Steven Grays code of the Tweet-O-Meter was slightly less compared to the very active cities of London and New York. The percentage of geolocated tweets is with almost 12% however higher than those tweet intensive cities.

Moscow New City Landscape

Image by urbanTick using the GMap Image Cutter / Moscow New City Landscape – Use the Google Maps style zoom function in the top right corner to zoom into the map and explore it in detail. Explore areas you know close up and find new locations you have never heard of. Click HERE for a full screen view.

The character of the final map i in comparison to London or also Paris more distributed and includes a number of hot spots. The city seems to be active in a few place simultaneously. This island characteristic however still has a major location centered on around the area of the Kremlin, with the main peak just above the Lenin Library Mettro station. The lines of dispersion sort of indicate te metro lines and follow roughly the stations from the centre to the outskirts. One strong ‘arm’ is going from the centre toward the olympic stadium in the North-East.
There is also a tendency of quite a lot of activity along the main road from Moscow to St. Petersburg, centre towards North-West. The North -West quarter is generally a bit more active than the three others with the South-East being the lowest. This fits roughly with the wealth distribution in Moscow with the South-East being a production area.
Regarding the parks and open spaces, same pattern a previously, no twitter activity. However in this case this is little surprising since parks are very unpopular in Moscow with perceiving them as low safety areas.

This map was produced in the context of the recent workshop at Strelkainstitute. Thanks for the cyrillic translation to Masha. The maps were created using our Tweet-O-Meter, in association with DigitalUrban and coded by Steven Gray, this New City Landscape represents location based twitter activity.

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A new GPS drawing project by Jeremy Wood (earlier on uT with the dog drawings and the dragon) has hit the online news. A contextual landscape map drawn by walking the landscape and tracing it with a GPS. Couldn’t be more simple as engadget points out: “walk around in the defined area with a GPS unit and end up with a 1:1 scale map of where he walked.”
The concept is very similar to Open Street Map (OSM). Take a GPS and with the recordings you can trace landscape features, OSM traces the streets and a visualisation of the data collected produces a map.
However Wood’s approach is interesting in so far as that he attempts to already process the landscape features in regards to the output map by using the trace to mimic mapping symbols. This provides an enhanced readability of the outcome.
Did he actually climb over fences and invade peoples gardens to achieve this? The map covers the Campus of the University of Warwick with some 238 miles of path over 17 days. Wood recalls: “Security was called on me twice on separate occasions and I lost count of how many times I happened to trigger an automatic sliding door.” More images on the artists page.

Traverse Me
Image by Jeremy Wood taken from GPSdrawing.com / Traverse Me is a map drawn by walking across campus with a GPS device to invite the viewer to see a different landscape to that which surrounds them. It questions the possibilities of where they are and inspires a personal reading of their movements and explorations of the campus. Commissioned by the Mead Gallery, Warwick Arts Centre.

Tanks for the link to Ralph Barthel, via engadget and infosthetics.

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The New City Landscapes have been introduced earlier as a visualisation of tweet activity in the urban context. The maps are derived from data sent via a mobile client and including location information.
The rising mountains and dropping valleys remodel the density of messages as a temporary urban landscape. Earlier coverage on this topic can be found HERE and HERE.
A more detailed series we start now looking at the different places New York, London, Munich and Paris individually. This time the focus is on Paris, Ille de France. In timeRose diagrams the temporary aspect of the data is developed with a visual means line to indicate characteristics of individual units. This method allows graphical analysis, highlighting the important aspects.

Image by urbanTick / New City Landscape of Paris, France. A topography map generated from twitter activity around the Ille of France.

The ‘Dents des Halles’ mark the highest point on the map, being a location of high tweeting activity. It is quite an important meeting point for people of all ages. It is a place to hang out, to stand around with no specific activity at hand. This seems to be an important condition for high twitter activity. Counter the assumption important places wil stand out, usually the less expected places close by will have the peak. Take the ‘Tour Eiffel’ for example it made it only as the ‘Flanc Tour Eiffel’ at the bottom of the ‘Colline d’Champ-Elysees’. The mix is more complicated and I am guessing that everyday location combined with routine activities actually float on the top, over one of activities. However to make the peak it obviously needs a combination.
From the Tour Eiffel up to the ‘Cime Excelmans’ down the ‘Flac des Princes’ across the ‘Carriere Marnes-la-Coquette’, one reaches the ‘Aiguille du Chesnay’, The peak next to Versailles. This another example of lower activity than expected.
A group of three peaks to the north-east marks the airport Charles de Gaulle a dent that would follow the logic.

Image by urbanTick / TimeRose analysis of the tweeting activity in Paris, France over the period of one week. The means line helps to classify the information.

Looking at the activity over time of the individual weekdays the pattern between weekends and weekdays is quit obvious. The visualisation here is a timeRose where the 24 hours are plotted around the circle, with the amount of tweeting plotted radial.
The means line is used to mark the highest activity peaks, with the angle of it indicating the fraction of the day covered. A steep line means late morning and late night, representing the tendency on weekends. Whereas a flat line points to early morning and early evening activity, as it draws on weekdays.
There is a problem with the data from Wednesday, this is due to the fact that witter was down and we do not have data for this period. However the drop off’s on both sides suggest a similar pattern as we find on the other weekdays.
The usual pattern is a three peak blob, representing morning, lunch and evening. With flater means the morning merges in to the lunch peak and a shift towards later times takes place. This shift starts to build up already during the week starting from Thursday.

Image by urbanTick / The island of twitter land Paris in the digital see of information. Generated from tweet density send form mobile devices in Paris, France.

The Other cities wil follow as blog posts very soon, stay tuned.
Thanks forsupport with the development of this to Annick Labeca at Urban Lab Global Cities

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We have been monitoring different cities’ tweeting habits over the past months using the Tweet-O-Meter. This project is developed together with DigitalUrban and was coded by Steven Gray. Earlier we had covered a London Weekend (HERE, HERE, HERE) and now we are looking at four cities. Those are New York, London, Paris and Munich over the period of one week.
The data is derived from tweets sent via a mobile device from an app that includes the location at the time of sending the message. We see large differences between the overall tweeting as well as in the mobile usage of twitter. London and New York generally send about the same amount of tweets, New York however has about twice the amont of mobile users compared to London.

Image by urbanTick / New York tweetography, the New City Landscsape generated from tweet density. Click map for a detailed version.

From the pool of tweets covering the city we have generated the New City Landscapes as a form of tweetography. Here the landscape features corresponds with the twitter activity of locals. THe mountains rise over active locations and cliffs drop down in to calm vallies flowing out to tweet deserts. Through out the emerging landscape features have been renamed to reflect the conditions.
The data is based on information collected over a seven day week last month. SOme temporal graphs will follow. There are obviously differences in temporal activities, but the New City Landscape is an overview of the logged time frame as a whole.

Image by urbanTick / New York tweetography, the New City Landscsape generated from tweet density – Zoom.

Charactering New York along the New City Landscape we can distinguish a massif of mountains from Fordham Heights southwards over the Central Harlem Rock, dropping down into Central Park to steeply rise up to the Timesquare Peak a long a ridge to the NYU Top to the Chinatown Head, where it starts dropping down the Financial Cliff. Towards the East the Manhattan Bridge Ditch separates this massif from the Brooklyn set of peaks. Were it starts with the Downtown Peak towards Bedford Hill, turning south over Ocean Hill, Rugby Ridge down towards Flatlands into the Mill Bassin Curve, dropping into the Jamaica Bay Pit. Another smaller group of hills form around the Jamaica Hills, Rosedale Hill and JFK Terminal 4 Point. For more details refer to the detailed map. Special thanks to John Reads for helping out with local knowledge.

Image by urbanTick / London tweetography, the New City Landscsape generated from tweet density. Click map for a detailed version.

London has compared to New York a centralised Peak structure with the Soho Mountain as its peak. The massif here falls from this point in all directions with a north ridge going along the Camden Ridge across Arsenal Point, Finsbury Park Ridge to the Tottenham Hill. This line ends with the Edmonton Peak at the Ponders End. Further outside singular peaks can be found such as the Heathrow Peak, the Selsdon Peak or the Chaffordon Hundred Hill in the East.

Image by urbanTick / London tweetography, the New City Landscsape generated from tweet density – Zoom.

We are still working on other maps. Munich and Paris are under way and more are to come soon. The language translation is tricky but with the help of specialists we might get that together.
Here a Munich preview.

Image by urbanTick / Munich tweetography, the New City Landscsape generated from tweet density. Click map for a detailed version.

Update 2010-06-04

Paris is now joining the other three cities. Here is the New City Landscape map of the Ille de France. Special thanks go to Annick for helping out with the terminology.

Image by urbanTick / Paris tweetography, the New City Landscsape generated from tweet density. Click map for a detailed version.

And the zoom-in as a preview

Image by urbanTick / Paris tweetography, the New City Landscsape generated from tweet density – Zoom.

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A book you don’t want to give out of your hands for its beautiful cartography and graphic design overall. Well it goes in the tradition of Atlases designed by Jost Grootens. He has only recently received the Rotterdam Design Prize for the set of atlases he designed for 010 Publishers so far. Those are the Groten KAN Atlas, the Metropolitan World Atlas, the Limes Atlas and the Vinex Atlas.
The now published ‘Atlas of the New Dutch Water Defence Line‘ edited by Rita Brons and Bernhard Colenbrander, designed by Studio Joost Grootens and published by 010 Publishers adds an other chapter to this ‘series’. It continues with the power full use of colour that already the ‘Metropolitan World Atlas‘ made so attractive, but this new publication makes a lot better use of the overall appearance. It is a real gem.
In the first place it is the cartography you will be looking at, but beside this the book actually has a true subject. And this is simply as the title says the Dutch Water Defence Line. Actually this is about defense in a proper military sense, and not as you might have guessed while already seduced by the pretty colours about water defense. Since it is set in the Netherlands it could have been about water drainage and pumping systems to fight the storm flooding of vital agricultural land, but its not. It is about a specific element of Dutch history, built between 1815 and 1885 as a “technically accurate territorial military system” (Johan van der Zwart abd Clemens Steenbergen in Atlas of the New Dutch Water Defence Line, p.28)
In a nutshell the military conceptis to defend the territory by simply flooding a stretch of land and in this way make it impossible for any land based mode of transport to traverse. It sounds very effect full and simple, but is actually a rather complicated piece of infrastructure and engineering. A detailed system of canals and basins are laid out in such a way as to create, by opening strategically positioned flood gates, a man made flood zone.
The whole system is based on the element the Netherlands has enough anyway and since water has its very own rules the given parameters are tight. Not only from the water element but also in terms of the landscape. In this sense, the here documented military defense structure is in a very strong way trying to make the most of a successful management of possibilities over constraints. This results ins a strongly context based solution, that is unique to this exact location and circumstances and paints a beautiful portrait of the character of an entire region.

Image taken from 010 Publishers / Showing a spread of the publication.

As hinted in the introduction, the graphics, cartography and design overall are brilliant. Especially the colour schema used for the maps is intriguing. In terms of the graphic design even this book is not protected from mistakes and problems. Everyone who is working with maps and plans knows these painful moments when you have a strong concept and clear structure and then for some elements it just doesn’t work out. A name is too long to fit in the desired space in the key, in one summary map suddenly two colours representing important information cancel each other out or the approach chosen for one element does not fit for another or in other scales. It is sort of a tradeoff and ad-hoc adjustment job one has to do, restricting damage while hoping the final product may remain close to the desired result. This sounds all very pain full, I know, and it actually is. However, this process can be used to continue developing the strategy and representation and ideally will raise the quality of the end product over the initially thought out concept. Still some minor problems will always be there and the quality of the end product is probably more about these are managed and integrated than how good the anyway functioning elements are developed. I believe this publication managed this process extremely well and the final product is great.
For me the main issue with the graphic elements in this publication is the representation of the forts. This being the central element of focus it plays many roles and obviously a single representation can’t be able to play all of them equally well. The colouring of the water protecting the forts as well as the pink used for the fill are not always consistent with the overall context of the maps.
The maps actually come with quite extensive background information in the form of essays and I think it is worth pointing this out because of the almost over powering presence of the cartography. I kind of owe it to this review that I have actually read and tried to understand the background, because otherwise I am pretty sure I would have been (still am) simply seduced by the pretty pictures and had satisfied put the publication to the top of my pile of inspirations. But going beyond the graphics starts opening up a perspective on a cultural territorial identity of a region that is even more inspiring and actually informative.
In this sense there is a hidden treasure in this book, but one needs to battle the dragon of seduction first, a fight I am bound to loose, at times. This one is definitely worth the effort already for the beauty of an bright orange or pink.
A book, or even a series, that has definitely already set a standard and will let loose a trend.

Image taken from Kosmograd / Showing a spread of the publication.

See also reviews on mammoth and Kosmograd.

Brons, R. & Colenbrander, B. eds., 2009. New Dutch Water Defence Line, 010 Publishers.

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