Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Strange and Secret Totalitarian Capitals

This past Sunday was the 10th anniversary of Napyidaw, Burma's new capital. I did a post about how the country suddenly moved its capital far into the hinterlands with no explanation and under much secrecy. Much of the city is strangely empty according to those few outsiders who have visited. Totalitarian regimes like to keep their geographic knowledge to themselves. Another example is North Korea's Pyongyang.
Unlike Napyidaw, Pyongyang has a long history of settlement but because North Korea was closed off to foreigners after the Korean War, little is known of its recent development. An article from the Library of Congress, Geography and Maps Division shows some of the rare maps available outside the country including this guide for tourists attending a 1989 youth festival.
The map is surrounded by pictures meant to highlight power and modernity.
More from the Library of Congress article:
Those who manage to enter the city are chaperoned and follow a strict itinerary; the practice serves to perpetuate both curiosity and mystery. Fortunately, geographic knowledge of the city has been growing by way of satellite imagery. Satellites, however, can only depict but cannot describe. 
 Click for for the full article.

Another country that like Burma suddenly moved its capital to the far northern hinterlands is Kazakhstan. In 1997 they moved the capital from Almaty to the small city of Akmola and then renamed the place Astana, "the capital" in Kazakh. Moving the capital allowed the government to centrally plan a monumental capital city, one full of strange modern architecture.
The map above, though hard to read details the top ten architectural wonders of the city in blue. Those wonders are listed on this page, and include the Baiterek Tree of Life (below) as well as the world's largest tent, serving as a mall and entertainment complex and also includes a river, park and beach.
Here is a picture via CNN of the modernistic capital complex.
Despite being the world's second coldest capital and being surrounded by many hundreds of miles of mostly empty grasslands, the city does have more life than Napyidaw. It is also much less secretive. Here is a cartoon-ish map of one of the business districts north of downtown, itself a ways north of the capital complex.
Lastly, I've always wanted to show some maps of Brazil's capital, Brasilia. While not the product of a totalitarian state, it is also a highly designed landscape created from a mostly blank slate. The design is meant to look like a giant bird or airplane. It looks cool on maps and aerial photos. On the ground, however it's a pretty bleak landscape. Here is the original plan followed by a map.
Here is a night shot from the International Space Station via Wikipedia.
Like these other capitals, they favor modernistic architecture.
On the ground however, it does not look like a warm, inviting place.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Burma's Ghost Capital Turns 10

Ten years ago today Myanmar (or Burma) suddenly moved its capital from Yangon (Rangoon) to Napyidaw, an area of rice paddies and sugar cane fields.
While the above map via mapsofworld shows many points of interest, the few westerners who have visited the secretive capital have described a mostly barren city full of empty superhighways as detailed in these pictures from the Daily Mail and the Guardian.
 An aerial view from Here Maps shows lots of empty space in the middle of town.

From the Guardian article.
The purpose-built city of Naypyidaw – unveiled a decade ago this year – boasts 20-lane highways, golf courses, fast Wi-Fi and reliable electricity. The only thing it doesn’t seem to have is people...


Wednesday, March 23, 2016


Philadelphia's data scientist Lauren Ancona has created this wonderfully practical guide to parking in the city. Parkadelphia shows streets colored by regulation - metered streets are red while residential permits are blue.
Zoom in enough and you can see the actual meters. Click on one for more specific regulations, including how many quarters you will need-for those of us who still use cash.
The site uses Mapbox, so it looks great on mobile devices, where you might need it the most.

The site is in beta so some of the regulations are under review. She is taking feedback from residents and has a nice little warning note in Philly-ese explaining the beta situation.
You can submit feedback from the white word-bubble icon in the top right,

as many have done.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Cassini Topographic Maps

The first large-scale topographic maps based on geodetic measurements were done by the Cassini family in France. The map set (182 sheets) took over fifty years to complete and was worked on by four generations of the family between 1750 and 1815. Prints of these maps are held by the Maps Division of the New York Public Library. They very nicely let me take some out of hibernation for a look. 
Here is the cartouche describing the triangulated geodetic network in French. The scale is in toises-a measuring apparatus of the time, it works out to 1:86,400
Here is an image from the index map
The road network is so accurate that it can be overlaid on top of modern aerial photos. Here is another example from the northern tip of France. 
Seeing these maps in person in pretty amazing! I could stay all day photographing these but at some point I will need to move on  Here is one final picture 
Here is a link where you can browse the entire map set. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Egg Map

Dénes Sátor, a designer in Budapest created the Egg Map. Squeeze it and you zoom in for more detail.
From facebook:
EggMap by Budapest-based designer Dénes Sátor is a pocket-size tool for urban explorers to navigate the city and squeeze away the stress.
 The map has some nice details of Budapest. The districts are color coded and then each block shaded differently, probably at random to distinguish them. While not informative, it makes for a pretty map
The zoomed in look is a bit strange with its variously sized symbols and text  but that may be partially because it is meant to be looked at while squeezed.
There's even a legend - at least there's one on the Behance page.

Order details are on Facebook but when you go there it appears the "launch" hasn't happened yet - otherwise I would have ordered one just to play with. If you want an egg map of your city there is a Google Doc where you can request it. The time frame on any of this is quite unclear.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

A Medieval Map of Mars

Eleanor Lutz created this wonderful medieval style topographic map of Mars.
Details can be found on her blog, Tabletop Whale. The medieval look is enhanced by the the text, font choices, and cute addition of "Here there be robots" to the title. The more modern looking landing sites detract from that look a bit, however.
 Some notes from her site:
To add a little something extra, I included the history of each place name on the map. Martian craters are named after famous scientists (for large craters) or small villages on Earth (small craters). Since the base map is hand-drawn I also added an overlay of actual NASA topographic imagery. This way even if some of my lines are a little off, you can still see what the actual ground looks like underneath.
The map is partially based on this wonderful USGS topographic map (click warning-huge image, will load slowly)
The USGS map uses the Mercator projection to show the areas between 57 degrees north and south and has separate polar projections for each polar region. Lutz's map covers the same Mercator north-south region but for some reason shows only the areas between 50 degrees east and west, a vertical slice of the above image.

The Mercator projection means that the equatorial craters are drastically undersized compared to those at the higher latitudes. Nobody lives there as far as we (or David Bowie) know so hopefully the Greenland Problem does not offend too many people but its still good to be aware of it.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Flavors of Finland

Sautéed Reindeer , Crucified Whitebait, Lingonberries - also Tarbread (a secret recipe) Explore the flavors of Finland with this interactive map from Expedia Finland.

Click the food picture to get a recipe-except for Tarbread ('cause it's a secret). The Lapskoussi recipe calls for "chopped swede" - hope that's not what it sounds like!