Grootens

Vinex atlas

Operating at the intersection of data visualisation and urbanism, the Atlas work of Dutch book designer Joost Grootens is without peer. At its best, graphic design and data visualisation reveals new truths, ways of seeing and understanding. In Grootens' work on publications such as the Metropolitan World Atlas this focus has been on the urban realm, and in Atlases such as the New Dutch Water Defence Line, and the Vinex Atlas, specific aspects of the Dutch built environment. But while they may be preoccupied with specific elements of the Dutch landscape, they reveal a process of representation which rewards patient study.

" Its position in the landscape, the forts, the inundation system, the geomorphology, the strategic system and recent developments can be read off in maps rendered so as to give an understanding of all aspects of the defence line landscape. The defence line reveals itself as a many-tentacled military defensive system of forts, group shelters and polders that can be flooded at the threat of war. The maps show the cohesion of the defence line as a landscape-strategic structure as well as the topographic composition of this structure in layers and components. The more detailed maps of the forts display the wealth of historic places, insertions in the landscape and defining elements."

Waterline defence Waterline defence

As with the Vinex Atlas, an exhaustive, analytical guide to the Vinex districts across the Netherlands, a seemingly dry topic of limited appeal is embued with a rigourous aesthetic sensibility.

Vinex atlas

In December this year, 010 will publish an Atlas of the Conflict - Israel-Palestine, designed by Grootens, and in January 2010 a Grootens monograph entitled I swear I use no art at all will be published, taking an analytic, atlas-like approach to mapping his own work:

"A monograph that works like an atlas, it charts in a systematic and neutral fashion the first 100 books designed by Grootens in the past ten years. In the first chapter, ’10 years’, Grootens uses timelines, lists and plans to trace the course of his career as a designer, the people he works with, the places where the work gets done."

Metropolitan World Atlas

You can find out more about the work of Joost Grootens studio at his website, and watch video interviews here and here.

Branding the boroughs 2

hex london

In Felix Barber and Ralph Hyde's superb book London as it might have been, we can read of a Victorian plan to change the structure of the London boroughs, part of a plan to prevent overcharging by cab drivers.

London as it might be

"In the middle of the 19th Century a slightly fanatical Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries published a scheme for an hexagonal London".

".. John Leighton suggested that the old borough boundaries should be altered to conform to a honeycomb pattern. Within a five-mile radius of the General Post Office all the sprawling, differently sized boroughs were to become hexagonal-shaped areas, 2-miles across. There were 19 altogether with the City in the centre of the honeycomb. Each hexagonal borough would be identified by a letter, and the letter as well as a number would be painted or cut out of tin-plate to be visible day and night on lamp-posts at every street corner."

It's an inspired idea, and one that can also serve as the starting point for the Rebranding of the Boroughs.

John Leighton's hexagonal map only extended about 6 miles from the centre of London, but it's a relatively process to extend more concentric rings of hexes, turning the Great Wen into a setting for a boardgame, Settlers of Catan or Squad Leader re-imagined upon London.

hex london hex london

With a clear demarcation between boroughs, it becomes much easier to define transition from one border to another. Unlike the Japanese municipal flags, whose forms are symbolic images and katakana, for London a more typographic treatment was chosen. Inspired by HAL in 2001, each borough is given a 3-letter code for a consistent visual identity.

hex london hex london

Now the jumble of logos and graphical devices can be replaced with a consistent, uniform identity system. The only change is to rename the borough of Haringey as Highgate to avoid the clash with Harrow.

Within each borough, each individual hex can also be given it's own identity, further reinforcing the idea of London as a series of villages. And you could zoom in, each larger 2 mile hex could be divided into a grid of smaller hexes.

hex london


Previously:

Koolhand

Koolhand typeface by Chris Papasadero

Koolhand is a free experimental typeface designed by Chris Papasadero inspired by some of the architecture of Rem Koolhaas. In it, plans and sections are treated as typographical elements. I'm not sure any of the letterforms are of actual building designs by OMA, but Papasadero has certainly captured much of the essence of their work.

One day all architects will have their own typeface.

Branding the boroughs

chiyoda flag

Neo Hackney

Last week I popped along to the exhibition 'London's Towns' at the Building Centre in London. Subtitled "Shaping the Polycentric City", (download catalogue here) the exhibition looked at developments proposed across the London boroughs, as each looks to assert an identity within the larger metropolis.

It seems that every borough needs a masterplan these days. The focus of many boroughs' displays was to highlight their efforts to develop as a standalone 'hub': a retail, cultural and commercial centre that could resist the gravitational pull of Central London. Some, such as Greenwich, Croydon and Stratford see their future as a city within a city.

'London's Third City', Croydon boldy proclaims, neglecting the fact that Heathrow can already be considered such. But you have to give Croydon credit for its gutsy vision, (already attracting admirers in Paris), a colourful masterplan by Alsop, and by far the swankiest model on display that understandably was given centre stage.

Croydon

Croydon

Inevitably, with the exhibition sponsored by the various London Boroughs themselves, there was little critical analysis of the visions presented. Is the city becoming more fragmented? Or is there a framework emerging for a more coherent whole, within which each of the boroughs has a chance to establish a unique character?

It struck me that all the boroughs were seeking to establish an identity, and yet a compelling graphic rebranding would be a far stronger way of doing this than through some badly conceived urban masterplanning.

I recently discovered that every city and ward in Tokyo has its own flag. What's more, they're awesome. Each is unique, but there is also a visual consistency and pattern to them, a typology, that lends them great overall coherence.

Tokyo City Flags

Tokyo Ward Flags

Compare this with the logos of the assorted London boroughs, a truly horrific collection of bad clip art, worse typography, pointless squiggles, and the occasional moronic slogan ("The London Borough", "putting residents first", "the brighter borough").

London Boroughs

Does London have the boldness to implement such a branding exercise? I think it would help give residents of each of the boroughs a strong sense of identity, some team colours so to speak. I'm reminded of the Scorpion football campaign by Nike back in 2002, where each borough of London was given a name, eg Enfield Tigers, Merton Jungles, Bromley Boxers (?), and then teams from the boroughs would battle it out in a first-goal-wins knockout tournament at the Millennium Dome.

As in many things, the marketeers are a long way ahead of the urbanists.

City of Signs 7

Eureka car park

Eureka car park

This has been around now for a while, but is still worth revisiting. The Eureka Car Park, in Melbourne, features a signage system created by Axel Peemoeller while working at Emery Studio. The letter forms are distorted acros the vertical and horizontal services, so that when viewed from the correct position, they can be read perfectly.

Eureka car park

Eureka car park

From the Emery Studio website:

"An opportunity to exploit the potential of the vertical and horizontal surfaces of the entry, as a sequence of monumental messages that enhance the experience of arrival and departure through bold graphic illusions."

Such Anamorphic images have been used in art for many years (eg Holbein's painting The Ambassadors), and have also in more recent years been common on televised sports pitches, such as cricket and rugby, but this is the first time I have seen them used for wayfinding. Wouldn't it be amazing if the apparent jumble of signs and symbolds across a city, when viewed from a certain vantage point, resolved into a beautiful coherent image?

Eureka car park


Previously:

City of Signs 6

BMW Moscow billboard

BMW Moscow billboard

BMW Moscow billboard

BMW Moscow billboard

Moscow, long since over-run by huge billboards, seemingly making up for lost time, can now boast possibly the worlds biggest. At more than 6000 m2, the ad for BMW cars includes a number of cars stuck to it, turning the vertical surface into a virtual racetrack, the city rendered as pure autopia.

Inevitably, the discussion on the Kanye West blog soon turns to the relative merits of Beemers over Benzs.


Previously: