Thursday, October 20, 2011

Boylan Heights and the Poetics of Cartography

Denis Wood's recent book Everything Sings: Maps for a Narrative Atlas is featured on Places, an online journal of design. In the 1970's and 80's he began working with his students on a "narrative atlas" of the Boylan Heights neighborhood in Raleigh, North Carolina. These maps are unique in that they remove the usual street patterns to reveal the bare details. His map of jack-o'-lanterns from this series was featured here on a Halloween post a couple of years ago.  The Places feature has a slideshow of some of these maps. Here are a couple of examples:


Traffic Signs

Porch Ceiling Colors

The Places feature includes Wood's eloquent descriptions of the creative process. Here is a quote about making the "Pools of Light" map:
 The usual “efficient” map would have located everything on the street onto a single sheet — that is, different marks for lamp posts, fire hydrants, street signs, trees. Our inefficient map concentrated on a single subject, and, rather than lamp posts, it brought the pools of light into view. No legend, no north arrow, no neat line, none of the usual apparatus. At last, a modernist feel!

That’s when I knew we could write poems in maps, and I began thinking seriously about a poetics of cartography.
 A few more maps:

Intrusions Under the Hill - water, sewer and gas lines

Barking Dogs

Other maps include a map of power lines titled "Squirrel Highways", a mailman's delivery route, a diagram of the distance and direction that rent money travels to absentee landlords, wind chimes, viewsheds, and a bunch of others. The slideshow can be seen here.

1 comment:

Michael5000 said...

"Everything Sings" is a pretty awesome name. I liked his big 90s book, though it was a little uneven. Maybe I'll check this one out.