Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Unbuilt Robert Moses Highway Maps | vanshnookenraggen:

A map, after all, is a representation of reality with certain things omitted (or in this case, added). As mapping software becomes even more ubiquitous now that they are in the palm of our hands (Blackberrys, iPhones, etc), I think it will become all too easy for people to just accept what they see as reality. This is a dangerous prospect but one I think can be taken advantage of when trying to communicate certain information, such as what a neighborhood you know pretty well would look like with an elevated highway slammed through it. This was true for me, at least, while I was making these; Hand erasing buildings through SoHo, TriBeCa, and the LES was an eery experience as I tried to imagine what these places would really look like if my brush was a bulldozer.

And thus I began to understand the failing of Robert Moses (well, this one anyway). He didn’t drive and lord knows he didn’t think much of these areas which he tossed off as “slums”. There is a famous image of a young Moses standing in front of a map of the entire city (to the left).

What you need to be aware of when you are looking at a map is how it lies to you; it is a seductress. You think because it represents reality you can better understand reality, which is true only to a point. But when combined with the power and ambition of Robert Moses the maps seduction warped him and let him think that a line across the map represented far less chaos and destruction than he perceived. Adjusting lines on a map is easy and because a map is a visual design adjusting lines seems like a good way to clean up the map. But the lines on a map hide the fact that they represent something real, a street that needs to be moved, houses that need to be knocked down, families and businesses that need to be kicked out. I’m not saying that Moses wasn’t aware of these things, in fact he was keenly aware. But it was so easy and sexy to clean up the map that he was willing to do whatever it took to draw his maps to be permanent.