Maps 2015 (5) Up & down in Granada


The results of a little escapade on the side of the cadastral data for volumes. If it is built, it must be drawn to ask for taxes… and those bases can be used. Here, around the Granada cathedral, that despite its imposing physical volume is considered by the Cadastre as one level building (albeit one with high ceilings…). On the first image, what can be seen at street level. On the second one, the volumes that are completely hidden (deep red is for buildings that according to data have no underground levels). These images don’t portray what happens in the intermediary situation, i.e., when the floor of a room is under the street level but its ceiling is above it, but for not more than a meter (to be seen soon, as it is interesting in a hilly city as Granada…).


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…

Maps 2014 (2) marinetraffic

 We usually think that maps can portray what has existed in a past moment or what could come into existence in a future. Up until now it was far less common to have dynamic maps of what was happening. This is precisely what does, exploiting data from the Automatic Identification Systems that are compulsory for any ship over 330 tons (this is the reason why most smaller ships do not appear).

Maps 2014 (1) OSM

 I have already said that before: I have a crush on maps. They are like stories that can be read in many directions, a good reason to give them a good place.

To begin this series, the 2013 yearly report produced by ( on the activity of openstreemap in 2013. This wonderful data source (used often in this blog) allows interesting journeys; it is not necessarily more detailed than google maps or similar systems, but it allows the download of data that can be reused (as in shp format), be it from geofabrik or other sites as cloudmade. Such open source software as gvsig or qgis allow the reuse of the daa (some cartography notions definitely help).

Maps (2) People flow in Tokyo, geotaggers in Madrid


The CSIS (Center for Spatial Information Systems) at The University of Tokyo has a research program on the modeling of people flows in urban areas by using GPS devices. Here, the map is really a video you can see on youtube on the flow of persons in central Tokyo during a day in 2008.

When you use other sources, as geotags for images uploaded to flickr and picasa, you get interesting maps too, as the one by Eric Fisher, part of a world atlas which somehow describes tourism interest in some areas. Two interesting maps, provided you remember what is said in their description, as not everyone moving in the city carries a gps, and many photos manage not to be posted on flickr or picasa…

Maps (1) Sandy storm

Please consult the original map on

Please consult the original map on and read the full story there

A good example of an elegant and simple map whose reality everyone wishes could have been avoided: deaths in low lying “bowls” due to the Sandy Storm in Staten Island, New York City. A simple map, with the level contours and the dots (see the link) where these people died, with their names.

Biblio (33) Graphic semiology

Basis for a cartographic semiology, by Jacques Bertin

Basis for a cartographic semiology, by Jacques Bertin

In 1967 the French geographer Jaques Bertin publishes the book «La Sémiologie Graphique », developing a theory that has become one of the foundations for the theory and practice of cartography, addressing the issue of the legibility of maps and of their ability to convey (or conceal, sometimes by will) the reality they are supposed to represent.

Even if the book appears in a moment in which computers are not yet a common tool for cartographers, it sets rules that can be easily translated to what today is the widespread use of geographic information systems (GIS). It is not a book that creates in itself a discipline (there are illustrious precedents, as “The Look of Maps”, by Arthur H Robinson, 1952, or the 1869 map by Minard on  the evolution of Napoleon’s Grand Army during the Russian Campaign), but it is a relevant element in a graphical culture in evolution.

I know no free access to this book on internet, but there is an interesting article by Gilles Palsky and Marie-Claire Robic on the roots of graphic semiology

The Minard map (1869) describing over the map of Russia how the 442.000 men Napoleon's Grand Army was reduced to a 10.000 men force at the end. The map also corelates the geographic route to the temperature in Reamur degrees

The Minard map (1869) describing over the map of Russia how the 442.000 men Napoleon’s Grand Army was reduced to a 10.000 men force at the end. The map also corelates the geographic route to the temperature in Reamur degrees