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Friday, March 30, 2012

Metrography - London Re-shaped & Visualised as The Tube Map

You've seen a lot of Tube Maps which attempt to show what they should look like if
geographically accurate. However, students Benedikt Groß and Bertrand Clerc, from Royal College of Art in Kensington, have turned this on its head somewhat. They believe that Londoners now have the Tube Map ingrained in their heads so much that we actually think London looks like the London Underground map. Benedikt said "We're visualising the imaginary, mental map Tube users have of London." As we know Harry Beck's Tube map for many is "more useful than the actual geography."

Geography vs London Tube Map - Benedikt Groß and Bertrand Clerc
Geography vs London Tube Map - Benedikt Groß and Bertrand Clerc
He continued "Similar to the process of my MapMap Vauxhall project, all real world geographical locations of stations, railway tracks and Thames riverbanks have been matched with the corresponding positions on the London Tube Map. In the image above this process is demonstrated, you can see the mapping of the River Thames, Victoria Line and stations."  The black dots are from the Tube map - the red dots are the real locations.

In a project called Metrography, they have taken 1,865,565 data points from OpenStreetMap & merged them with TfL's Tube map. The latitude and longitude of each point is then recalculated, keeping the positions of the Thames and stations as fixed references to produce a rather beautiful map below

metrography topology of London reshaped according to the underground map - Benedikt Groß and Bertrand Clerc
Metrography - topology of London reshaped according to the Tube Map - Benedikt Groß and Bertrand Clerc

Metrography wasn't designed for navigation, but Benedikt and Betrand think that maps like this could become popular. "In future an accurate map might be less important than an abstract map," says Bertrand. "And maybe we've started that process."  Hat tip to Wired who published this in their May 2012 issue. 

What do you think?  Is the quest to find or design a geographically accurate Tube Map actually quite redundant and pointless now?  If so many of us see London as the Tube Map, would a geographically accurate one be more of a hindrance than a help?  Or should the real Tube Map make more efforts to show that distances that look far away from each other are actually quite close?  Is this something that could encourage more of us to walk between stations (probably quite useful given the levels of Tube overcrowding predicted for the Olympic Games)?

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