January 18, 2009

New York subway map party

Filed under: map — ubikcan @ 3:41 pm

Nice piece in the New Yorker about a party held at John Tauranac’s place to celebrate his redesigned version of the New York subway map.

Tauranac designed the MTA map in 1976 in the following way:

As a teen-ager, Tauranac liked to use the hotel basements and side entrances to travel. “My father was at the Biltmore for years,” Tauranac will say. “It stood above the tracks beneath Grand Central, and so he knew all the passageways. At the time, the early seventies, I was waiting tables at the Promenade Café in Rockefeller Center, and I realized that there must be a way to walk through underground passageways to Grand Central. I had been an English major, so I started to explore and write down the routes, and then it occurred to me that saying ‘Take the third door to the right and go ten steps and turn left’ was the cure for insomnia, so I started charting them instead.” Eventually, the M.T.A. hired Tauranac, and in 1976 he became the chief designer of the new subway map.

But he also did a block by block atlas:

Manhattan Block by Block,” in which he recorded the buildings of note on every street and avenue in Manhattan. He would start out each day with a sheet of paper with blocks pencilled in, and walk the streets and write down what was there. Strangely, he could only work south to north. If he mapped north to south, the map in his head inverted itself, as if he were looking at it upside down. He has no idea why this was so.


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