Month: December 2014

Maps 2014 (44) The history of cartography according to the Universtiy of Chicago

Venus as the Morning Star in the Codex Borgia, an ancient celestial map from the pre-hispanic Mexico (volume 2, book 3 of the History)

Venus as the Morning Star in the Codex Borgia, an ancient celestial map from the pre-hispanic Mexico (volume 2, book 3 of the History)

As this moment of the year has come, the place in which I live has gained a festive momentum, in which presents are exchanged. I could not possibly give what I don’t own, but I can share with those that like me enjoy maps a link to an extraordinary resource: the History of Cartography edited by the University of Chicago, which encompasses examples from prehistoric times to the European Renaissance. The volumes are not limited to the “western” world, as they include examples from other cultures.

The website allows downloads by volume and chapter. Happy reading!

Biblio (111) A visual history of the future

Biblio 111- A visual history of the future

Foresight, the British government long-term research organisation that provides evidence for public policies, has begun a program on the future of cities. In this context they have produced a volume related to the evolution for more than a century of the images concerning the future of cities, using many sources going from plain urban planning literature to cinema. Sure, A clockwork orange is by no means an urban planning text, but there is a message on how the urban space can be used…

An interesting compilation of images that illustrate the evolution of the visions about the future of cities, mainly in the western world (including Japan, see figure 38 in the document), going from hippies (figure 42) to academics (figure 56), and from art (figure 51) to dismay (figure 39).

foresight-urban futures- image 51

This is the closest thing I’ve seen to the mountain in “Encounters of the third kind”, and here it would materialize in Berlin. Sure, chances for this to happen are from slim to none, but it is a powerful image.

Maps 2014 (43) The Roman world


Stanford Universtiy has developed a geospatial model of the Roman world, Orbis, which can be consulted as a web map. In technical terms it is a geographical information system in which you can consult, using current standards of transportation planning, the least costly, the shortest or the fastest route between two points of the empire taking into account what was available in those ancient times. The methodological explanation of the GIS is interesting. I can not judge to which extent the results are close to what was real, but at least they seem consistent.

I’ve tested the fastest route from Flavium Brigantium to Lutetia: 17,2 days in summer, some 50 in winter, mainly by boat. I’ll never complain about two days by car…

Biblio (109) Green infrastructures

Biblio 109

Green infrastructure is one of these ecology-based complex concepts… and an interesting one. The traditional concept of infrastructure (“gray infrastructure”, as it is called these days as green ones have appeared) is that of any kind of contraption that allows you to use the laws of physics or any other science to adapt the current environment to our needs as a species; it is usually based on active elements that somehow require high amounts of ressources and some kind of maintenance. Green infraestructure is presented as an approach in which the man-made intervention is less visible, with an aim to get a good level of environmental services (yes, she is still the client…) by working in a more symbiotic way with ecosystems; understanding how nature works helps achieve a higher efficiency in some aspects with less pollution and environmental damage (not that previous engineers were brutes, but they worked from a different paradigm). The European Environmental Agency booklet conveys that idea in a more ellaborate way.

Biblio (108) Journal of Urban Cultural Studies

What can a new scientific magazine on urban matters deliver these days? Sure, only time can tell, but it seems good to have new forums. Urban Cultural Studies appear as a vision of a dialogue between art and society, with a large array of associated disciplines, from architecture to video games. For some, this would be the typical scheme developed in an American University that, despite having placed itself under the banner of a “Marxist saint” (Henri Lefebvre) would only be, in the end, another product of consumerism, and a niche one. i.e., a University with a certain prestige must propose any kind of product, as a cable provider would deliver Kim Kardashian and “Mad Men”.

But I think such a vision is far from fair, and reductionist. If you remember the previous “biblio” on the need to make urban planning cool again by giving is practitioners a clearer idea of the implications it has on society as whole, beyond the mere economic calculations, this initiative is interesting. Following the blog of its director, Benjamin Fraser, you can see there could be something there. Besides, no excuse to read the first issue, as it can be freely consulted (that’s understating the current cultural paradigm…).