Tracing London’s Taxis

To earn their hackney license, London’s taxi drivers must all famously master “The Knowledge,” a vast compilation of raw data about the best routes through the city’s streets. The memorization process takes an average of 34 months to study — and 12 attempts to pass. That means it’s a safe bet few licensed London cabbies […]

Posted in: Europe, Maps, Transportation, Video by Christopher Szabla Comments Off on Tracing London’s Taxis , , , ,

Swiss Lane: Still Mysterious

Last year, after returning from Montreal, I posted about a Mile End alley with a strange name that doesn’t appear anywhere in the city’s official toponymical records. Nobody has yet come forward with an answer as to how Swiss Lane got its name, but one Flickr user, DubyDub2009, did a bit of extra research and […]

Posted in: Art and Design, Canada, Heritage and Preservation, History, Maps by Christopher DeWolf Comments Off on Swiss Lane: Still Mysterious , , , ,

Unbuilt Cities

Satellite views of California City (above) and Lehigh Acres (below) from Google Maps The world is filled with mad dreams only partly come to life. In Eastern Europe, half-built skyscrapers that neither communist governments nor their free market-friendly successors could complete form ironic landmarks, totems of ideological overconfidence. In China’s Inner Mongolia province, authorities built […]

Before the Grid

Paths in snow, on the beach and across fields show how people seem unable to walk straight even when they have a clear shot at where they’re going. People don’t walk straight. Not only do they take short cuts when they can, they avoid trees, rocks and uneven places. The streets in old cities and […]

Posted in: Canada, History, Maps, Public Space, United States by Mary Soderstrom Comments Off on Before the Grid , ,

Old China in Yau Ma Tei

While harbour reclamation has made Yau Ma Tei a landlocked neighbourhood, it began life as a waterfront village, with a large Tin Hau temple serving as a hub for trade and activity. When the British gained control of Kowloon in 1860, it laid a grid of mostly numbered streets through Yau Ma Tei. Most of […]

Posted in: Asia Pacific, Heritage and Preservation, History, Maps by Christopher DeWolf Comments Off on Old China in Yau Ma Tei , ,

Montreal’s Lost Rivers

In Montreal, “river” usually means one of two things: the all-important St. Lawrence River, godlike in its power and presence, and the Rivière des Prairies, whose lazy nature is perhaps better reflected in its informal English name, the Back River. Before it was urbanized, however, Montreal Island was covered with creeks and rivers. Some have […]

Posted in: Canada, Environment, History, Interior Space, Maps by Christopher DeWolf Comments Off on Montreal’s Lost Rivers , , ,

Victoria Harbour in 1915

When I look at old maps of Montreal, I marvel at how entire neighbourhoods have vanished and streets renamed. What’s interesting about old maps of Hong Kong, by contrast, isn’t what has disappeared, but what has appeared. The above map, which dates back to 1915, is recognizable in its depiction of Hong Kong, Kowloon and […]

Posted in: Asia Pacific, History, Maps by Christopher DeWolf Comments Off on Victoria Harbour in 1915

The Isles of Montreal

Today, Montreal Island tends to exist in opposition to everything around it. “On-island” is code for diversity, cosmopolitanism, multilingualism, urbanity. “Off-island” means suburban, homogeneous, unilingual. Those are gross stereotypes, obviously, and while there is a grain of truth to them, they ignore the more complicated reality of metropolitan Montreal. They also ignore just how vast […]

Posted in: Canada, History, Maps by Christopher DeWolf Comments Off on The Isles of Montreal ,

Montreal and its Suburbs… in 1843

Way back in 1843, Montreal, population 50,000, was big enough to have six whole suburbs to its name. On the west, there was the Recollet Suburb, St. Ann’s Suburb, St. Joseph’s Suburb and the St. Antoine Suburb. On the north, the St. Lawrence Suburb followed the path of St. Lawrence Street, already the city’s main […]

Riding the Rails in 1941

Considering the mayor’s enthusiasm over bringing back tramways to Montreal—the city’s new transport plan, unveiled yesterday, proposed three new lines that will be built over the next several years—I thought it would be fun to take a look at this old tramway route map from 1941. What I find most fascinating is the way it’s […]

Posted in: Canada, Maps, Transportation by Christopher DeWolf 1 Comment ,

Tourists Lost on Three Continents

Boulevard Saint-Germain, Paris Place d’Armes, Montreal Largo do Senado, Macau

Posted in: Asia Pacific, Canada, Europe, Maps by Christopher DeWolf 2 Comments , , ,

Finding Your Way in 1894

I was one of those kids who decorated his room with National Geographic maps. I am still fascinated by them—especially by old maps. Take the above, for example. This 1894 map of Montreal (click on it to see the full version) is a guide to a city that is at once familiar and strikingly, surprisingly, […]

Posted in: Canada, History, Maps by Christopher DeWolf 7 Comments

Mapping the City — But Whose?

Navigating urban worlds, New York According to British novelist Will Self, “people don’t know where they are anymore.” The “student of psycho-geography” was recently chronicled walking from JFK Airport in Queens to his hotel in Lower Manhattan, an apparently perilous journey involving the traversing of a sidewalk-less overpass at night and being tailed by a […]