Circle Series

I've become enamored with the idea of a series of map cuts. One of the constituent parts of cartography is canvassing a landscape and creating boundaries for a map. What do I include? How do I represent it? What needs to be included for the map to match its purpose? What is the orientation? Traditional European cartography always orients the top of the map as north. A convention so common we don't even notice. It's one I intend to upset at some point. Consider Fra Mauro's world map. He was a Venetian Camaldolese monk who made what was considered one of the most significant maps of the world at the time. It was incomparable. It was also oriented like Chinese and Islamic maps of the time, with the south at the top. An interesting perspective and reflection on the paradigms and world views of those societies.

Most of my map cutting has been rectilinear; they are more or less street maps without the names. It's very classic and recognizable. The name of the city is provided by me, but not on the map. What I noticed was that in giving them to people, it's the landmarks on which they orient themselves first. We are not used to looking at everything from above, in an abstract linear sense and knowing where we are. Once oriented to the landscape, recognition arrives gradually. It slowly dawns, these waves of revelation, as the map starts to take on meaning.

I decided that I wanted to make a series of maps that focused on these landmarks. I thought that in choosing a circle, like Fra Mauro, I owed something to the planisphere, though clearly my maps aren't adjustable or useful for star charting. As proof-of-concept I created my first map of Oxford. Rather than make the map circle centered on a square of paper as I initially thought I would, I moved it up in my design and added the name of the city to the bottom. This was the mock I drew before I cut:
The diameter of the circle actually presents some difficulties in choosing how to frame what's captured because the periphery is lost. I wanted to capture the Iffley roundabout (in the bottom right where the three roads diverge) which leads to Cowley and Oxford Brookes Uni, St Giles (where Woodstock and Banbury roads meet at the top left) and the Isis (the bits of the thames river). It can actually be difficult to tell with the mock just how it will look without the black, but I needed the waterways to be identifiable as such. 


You can see that in the final result it looks much nicer than my drawing. The drawing is always very rough and the lines are much cleaner when swept away from the surrounding paper. You can also see how fragile it appears (it's actually quite flexible) when it isn't adhered to the page. I chose an Oxford Blue backing because, well, that's the colour of the University (and the nickname for its sponsored sports teams). 


I had to add the cut outs from the 'O', 'R', and 'D' back in. Otherwise it looks peculiar and lopsided. I've yet to find a stencil font that I like well enough to swap it for Eurostile, which I traced and cut out. 

In the end the proof-of-concept worked and I created ones of Berlin and London (1, 2, 3). The circular scope focuses on particular landmarks and I think works quite well. What's next for this series is to create a triptych version where it isn't the city that's the focus but the landscape. I want to put three side by side where the common feature is noticeable and thematically linked, but I have yet to find what that theme is. I'm mulling over Washington, D.C.; Canberra, A.C.T.; and another as yet undiscovered district that shares the strange set up of these enclaves. But perhaps I'll focus on train stations which are a feature I've highlighted in my London Thames map where the train lines draw into London Bridge, Waterloo, and Victoria as well as my map of Antwerp. Expect more on that subject in a later post.