Circa 1833-42. “Exhibiting its internal communications and the facilities and dangers to travellers therein.” Purports to be written by A Lady, but that seems unlikely. I’d say it’s probably authored by a man who’s perhaps spent too much time in the Region of Platonic Affection or the Tenting-Ground of Uncertainty. Poor guy.
We talked about how the NYC subway map distorts the proportions and cardinal orientation of Manhattan to serve the needs of the map — laying out all of the info on the page, fitting the whole system on the map, graphical clarity. But a subway is just a line with points — from the viewpoint of the subway rider you just need to know how many stops until you transfer to the green line, then which direction to take (binary decision) and then how many stops until you get off. You don’t need to know that the F train makes a 90° turn after W. 4th, just that 2nd Avenue stop is two stations later. When leaving the subway you do need a planar map for negotiating the grid, but in the tunnels a line will do.
So if that is the case, why make the subway map resemble its geographical reality at all? Why not let it become something else, something symbolic or representative of structures and organizing principles unburdened by physical reality?… Continue reading →