Category: Cartography

A map can evoke a world on a piece of paper, or on a few million pixels. Big or small, real or fiction. A world that once was but no longer is. Or a world that does not exist yet but that could one day bethere.

I always liked browsing through atlases, studying street plans and dreaming away over maps. And I practice the noble craft of cartography myself. From the history of Rotterdam to the future of Mars: I map it.

Map of the Netherlands with names of all 72 towns, villages and hamlets containing the word "berg" (mountain)

Mapping the Dutch Mountains

“So where are those three mountains?” I wondered when I recently got out of the train at the railway station of Driebergen (meaning “three mountains). They were not there, of course. The nearby Utrechtse Heuvelrug (Utrecht Ridge) is at its highest point, the Amerongse Berg (Mount Amerongen), only 70 meters above sea level. In any other country such elevations would not be considered a mountain or a hill, but at most a gentle rise in the landscape. The Lowlands I realized that the Netherlands, which are as flat as a well-laid laminate floor, have remarkably many towns and villages with...

Work in progress by the author on a digital graffiti world map on a wall of ten by five metres

Graffiti and Coffee Beans: Two New World Maps

More or less at the same time, I finished the work on two new world maps. Two maps with a totally different look and feel, and created in rather different ways. They have, however, one thing in common: when I started, I expected to finish them in one or two days, but it took weeks before I was completely satisfied about them. Cartograffiti Below you see me working with a spray can to put the finishing touches on map no. 1: the graffiti world map: Virtual street art The picture is, of course, fake news, just like the whole piece...

Detail of the Rotterdam Water Map, shaped like rust patterns on the hull of a ship, zoomed in on the city center and the Kop van Zuid district

Rusty Rivers – the Rotterdam Water Map

On one of my photo tours through Rotterdam I went to Park Quay. At that location, not far from the inner city, often relatively large seagoing ships are moored. This time, one of those ships was in obvious need of some major maintenance. I made some pictures of it, including this one: Rust I can look at this kind of pictures for hours. A lot of things are happening here on a couple of square meters! The red paint on the ship’s hull is irregularly discolored into a wild palette of shades all the way to purple and pink. In...

A mole's world view: a world map seen from below, mirrored, made in digital bronze

A Mole’s View: a Mirrored World Map in Digital Bronze

A few months ago I published a world map based on the perception of a penguin. A polar projection with Antarctica in the middle and the other continents grouped around it, some of them severely distorted. I do not intend to make a tour of the entire animal kingdom, but there was another species that asked for a cartographic interpretation: the mole. Talpa The mole (Talpa europaea) is a small subterraneously living mammal of the family of Talpidae. So now we know where media tycoon John de Mol, creator of The Voice, got the name for his company Talpa (you...

Perspective image of a world map made of 30.000 mosaic tiles, zooming in on North America, with the other continents in the distance distance.

Mosaic tiles and peeling paint: three special world maps

Does it happen to everyone or only to map-o-philes like me? You see a ship hull with rust stains or an old wall with peeling paint and you think, hey, that looks like a map. Oceans, continents, mountain ranges, archipelagos, with a little imagination, you can discover a complete fantasy world on such a weathered surface. Okay, most people will pass by without noticing but for those who want to see it, there is a lot to enjoy. Peeling world map I decided to turn it around and created an image on which peeling paint patterns really shape the continents of our...

A world map according to the Antarctic or Penguin projection, with the southpole in the middle and increasingly dramatic distortions towards the north

The Antarctic Projection: a Penguin’s World Map

A world map tells a lot about the person who has made it, or about the market it is made for. Here in Europe, we think it’s only logical to place the edge of the map in the Bering Strait and the Pacific. After all, there is almost nobody living there and besides: this way we put ourselves nicely in the middle. The Amero-centric world map People in North and South America, understandably, do not like to live on the edge of the map. That’s why one sometimes sees maps like below, with America in the middle. That the cut...

Downtown rotterdam between central station and the river and between Claes de Vrieselaan and Mariniersweg; fragment of a map of Rotterdam with all city blocks as glass in 15 different colors

The Glass Map of Rotterdam: a plan in fifteen colors

Wow! That must have been a hell of a job … Cutting all those pieces of colored glass, exactly the right size and shape. And then carefully arranging them on a steel plate to create a colorful map of Rotterdam. Digital glass No, fortunately these days we have software to simulate things like that digitally. This glass map of Rotterdam was made using an AutoCAD file of the city’s building blocks. In 3ds Max, I added some irregularity to make it look not too computerized. Then I, totally randomly, assigned to each block one of fifteen different colors of glass....

World map inspired by cubism, showing our planet as a complex system of shapes, colors and lines

A Cubist World Map

No, you better not try to find your hometown or even your country on this cubist world map. Borders, cities, walls and other human constructs are not recognizable in this explosion of colors, shapes and lines. Polygons and blending modes The map was made in Photoshop by overlaying quite a few layers. I made those layers using the filter crystallize, which subdivides an image into polygons in an entirely arbitrary way. I also made a layer of squares that coincide with latitudes and longitudes. After that I generated line drawings from the edges of all those shapes. Eventually I put...

The inverted world map where land and sea have been swapped; continents are oceans, islands are lakes and the other way around, in colors inspired by NASA's Blue Marble imagery

The Inverted World Map – Variations on a Blue Marble

It probably happens to everyone who likes to look at maps. You imagine land to be water and water to be land. Continents to be oceans and and oceans to be continents. Islands to be lakes and lakes to be islands. I could not resist the temptation to make a detailed map of such a topsy-turvy world. But I am not the first to do so. A little bit of googling yields a nice collection of inverted maps. Vladislav Gerasimov, for example, made a lovely styled fantasy map. And Chris Wajan on his Panetocopia website extensively discusses climate, vegetation and...

A room with world map Mars 2.0, showing the planet as it may look after terraforming, as decoration on the wall, while Mars rover Sojourner is driving around between the furniture

Mars 2.0 – Return to the Red, Green and Blue Planet

Liquid water has just been found on Mars. The movie The Martian (the perfect blend of Castaway and Apollo 13, with a touch of Saturday Night Fever) is in cinemas right now. And NASA has announced detailed plans to send people to Mars in twenty years. A good moment for me to take a look at the planet again as well. Mars Society Netherlands Mars and I have a long history together. In 1999 I founded, together with Arno Wielders (currently involved in Mars One) the Dutch chapter of the Mars Society in a café in Leiden. In the first...