The Lure of the Layout
Maps always capture my imagination — they’re a way to travel without the expense of actually going anywhere. And they can turn any room into a destination resort or a learning center. I have noticed an increasing use of city maps — or city plans — in everyday objects. I like these paper place mats showing
and Tokyo, for example. They’re from A+ R Store. What a great way to explore the world while you’re having breakfast.
Wall maps remain a popular decorating feature, and not just for a child’s room. Historical views of cities and towns often included street maps along with streetscapes, like this 19th century view of Marysville, California
complete with vignettes of commercial and residential buildings. It’s from the extraordinarily rich collection of images and manuscripts chronicling the history of the western U. S. at U. C. Berkeley’s Bancroft Library and is available at Zazzle. Frame it and you have an instant curiosity.
One of the most famous urban maps of all is the so-called Nolli Map of Rome from 1792, drawn by an architect named Giambattista Nolli,
including the floor plans of all the major monuments. Here’s a detail from it showing Michaelangelo’s layout of St. Peter’s Basilica
and Bernini’s colonnade reaching out to embrace and define St. Peter’s Square. The Nolli map is a particular favorite of mine and has now been reprinted by Raven Maps with the University of Oregon - so it’s easy to own.
In a somewhat different, but no less structurally-oriented vein — my mother, who once worked for the American Red Cross as a disaster relief coordinator, is fond of weather and seismic activity maps like this one
from USGS recording the history of earthquakes in the San Francisco Bay Area and has one in her kitchen (all those yellow dots are epicenters — no wonder we’re a family of fast eaters…).
Such maps are, to my mind, all related to floor plans. In fact, some of our designs,
like Daniel E. Bush’s Modern Plan 460-6, are definitely worth framing! Keep them in mind the next time you’re looking for a conversation piece.