Mapping social condition – 19th c cartography

Lecture 2 | elective course arch5131D “Mapping.Drawing.Thinking” at School of Architecture, cuhk | 19 Jan, 2021

The following three lectures will review development of cartography since 19th century, asking what is the purpose of maps as a medium, and how mapping as a tool is used in architecture and urban design. Following the introductory talk, we can understand the function of maps as documentation of (1) physical environment and (2) human activity.

Mapping physical environment

The map has always been a medium to document natural landscape, marking elements such as continents, mountain range, ocean and waterways. Since Enlightenment, the map was an important vehicle in the quest of men to comprehend the world, from applications in navigation and exploration in new territories, to the study of geography and earth science. As urbanisation accelerate since the 19th century, the map is also used for description of manmade landscape in terms of infrastructure (road/railways) and urban form (buildings).

For 19th century industrial capitals like London, this type of illustrated aerial map was a popular product and regarded as the portrait of the city. It shows relative spatial organisation but not accurate measurements, the purpose was to give a humanistic view instead of scientific precision. The bird’s eye view approach depict some key buildings such as the church or the train station in 3-dimensional view, where the viewer gets an instant impression of the city’s structure and icons, somewhat like our experience of reading good earth images nowadays.

As a context to view the maps produced at this time, the early 20th century is an epoch of urban development that celebrates science and technology, highlighted by the showcase at the Paris exposition in 1900. The city at that time was viewed as a machine or an organism to be dissect, and the map served the role as an autotomy drawing that looks beyond the surface to reveal the functioning of a city underneath that is not visible.

The map collection called “the works of Paris’ gave a view of the city in constraint to its 19th century townscape, as a functioning organism of a modern capital. One of the maps in the collection is “the sweets of Paris”, which mapped out the newly installed sewage system of Paris in 1878. The system reads like the veins of a body, and the map explains how this intricately designed system functions.s see

This period of the last 2 decades of 19th century is a time of rapid modernisation for Paris followed by the French Revolution. While reflecting the scientific inquiry of the enlightenment, Paris’ modernisation is also the vision of its chief engineer Haussmann (and Napoleon III) who believed that order of physical environment can give enforce order in society. aside the merits or fault of Haussmann’s plan for Paris, let’s take a look at how the Map as a tool can utilise or promote this vision.

There is a lot of debates regarding the merit of fault of Haussmann’s plan for Paris in architecture or urban design. However, the actual work and impact done to the city is not exactly the subject here, but we try to look at how the MAP as a tool to utilize or promote this type of vision. In this other set of maps by the same engineers of the Haussmann plan, he emphasised the promenades of Paris which this set of maps gives the clean and orderly vision of central Paris situated between two picturesque parks. It is the presented in the grand exposition, showing the orderly modern city. (Another note regarding the French plans is that they have the radial boulevard comparing to the more egalitarian use of grid in NYC, also reflecting the different approach…

Mapping human activities

(diseases, social class, movement, purchsing pattern…)

Besides physical geography – whether it is for the purpose of documentation or creating vision, there is another important aspect that a map describes – in fact one that we’re more interested in – is to describe human activities. Through mapping of human activities, the social reality of a certain time is displayed.

If we were to look at the beautiful Paris, here is the flipside – the reality. This is the condition of London slums in crowded and polluted condition. These back-to-back tenement house with poor ventilation and drainage is a typical scene shared by many industrialized cities from Paris to New York ( and London)

The common view of the time is that the slums are the origin of urban vice – disease, crime, poverty. it is believed that they are interrelated to the environment, and the poor who inhabit in this condition. this lead to the rise in social cartography. through the cerifiginton and mapping to find out the reason of this problem.

The earliest mapping are for medical purpose. it could be this one of yellow fever in NYC in 1797, speculating the cause of yellow fever and the relation to the docks environment. This is the lower east side of Manhattan with docks and slips – and many dock workers reside. This relatively close area shows the relationship of (1) the dark dots of death cases, (2) the hollow dot of recovered case . (3) the cross of the suspected cases, and the area marked S where the condition is poor and damp – which is the environment – and these maps show the interrelationship of cause and effect.

As the pandemic was proliferating in the early decades of 19th, from a rather simplistic notation of deaths by dots, the medical mapping has been developed, into Dr John Snow’s map for Cholera case in London Broad Streets area. It gets more accurate into representing the number of death and the more precise location of the house he or she reside in. So here we can see the cumulative cases of death along Broad Street – and the location of the water pump that was later concluded to be the sources of the disease. . like the yellow fever map, this map is also accompany a medical report to speculate the origin of the disease, weather it is contentious from people to people or is it by other factor. The interviews with inhabitants and their daily habit, connection to the pump is found and the finding is the water-bone disease. Here we have to pat attention to the map, as a supplement to the research report and representational.

If we look further into the methods of representation, the two maps above take one dimension of the pandemic cases and relate it to the static urban form or feature.

In the map of Leeds to describe its Sanitary condition, we being to see its relation to social issue. there is a overlay of (1) Read and Black dots for Cholera and respiratory disease cases , (2) different shades of block color to represent household income, and (3) the streets in yellow shade that indicated poor hygiene condition. So the representation of maps has gone into multi-dimension, a reflection of how inquiry into medical issue began to discover the relationship between health and environment and social condition – this is when the use of maps for social investigate became popular.

The emphasis here is not just data records, the on intention and outcome.

How does it relation to our current situation?

The above medical cartography maps in the 19th century were made with the belief that the environment, whether it is the docs or the dense streets, contributes to the cause of epidemic disease, and further discover its spatial relationship with social condition. This whole topic of pandemic and socio-spatial relation suddenly became so relevant to us nowadays. and even more so as we have the information and technology available that anyone can extract their own map and being to study and analysis. It is in a still “current” mode so have not not yet seen too many analytical results from the in-depth study published, but looking through these maps we can begin to speculate the relation of different cases and began to ask the question of whether there is any relation to the urban morphology and social condition?

Many of use have the idea of poor living condition and speculate its health risk, here is the map gives a strong view of what it might relation to. the most current situation temple street area with high number of cases is relevant in the question of the type of urban area.

The inquiry of social condition

so i would say this is the power of mapping – It gives a spatialized view of statistic numbers ,a clear representation that most people could understand or at least have an impression of the condition. from disease mapping ,a lot of association is discovered and the social investigation using the maps a tool is moving from the subject of disease to other aspect of social condition that could lead to new policy and social reform…

The poverty map of London by Charles Booth is one of the most comprehensive and important social cartographic work. As introduced last week and will be further discussed later, the simple idea of it is to categorize by street blocks in different class roughly according to their social status and earnings. From golden yellow of the wealthy upper-class, with shades of red for the general middle class and the blue and black for the poor and lower class residents. In an overview of the mapping of the whole city, an immediate reading can be made of the spatial division of dark patches in the east and south, golden yellow in the west surrounding Hyde Park an the outer circle of generally red zone. (Edward Soja spatial justice)

In this and other maps we see above, it is important to know the relationship between survey data and the map. We usually see the resulting map in its please graphic, but what is behind it is just as important – such as the medical report that accounts the pandemic map we saw earlier. Such as this set of hundreds of notebooks which record the survey by Booth’s team in order to present such data on the map.

So we see that in order to give the overview it can with the work of comprehensive survey of all the street blocks represented in the map, there are hundreds of these notebooks to support the data shown on ONE map, which was an enormous task at the time. (how do these day and survey be done these days?)

Here i would just point out two things about the mapping method:

  1. the parameter – the level of investigate, street block by street block – that it can cover the whole city and also give enough detail
  2. the color scheme – as discussed how to the use of color in relation to the perception/impression of the “darkest park of London” it has been influence and used by many to follow. We’d also be interested in the impact of these social survey – what does this type of Social Diagnosis survey and maps do?

The Old Nichol, situated between High Street Shoreditch and Bethnal Green, was regarded as the worst slum of East End. It consisted of 20 narrow streets containing 730 dilapidated terrace house which where inhabited by some 6000 people. The London County Council decided to clear the Old Nichol slums in the 18902, and the first council housing development in Britain called the Boundary Estate, was built in this place shortly be before 1900.

We have to be careful that this is not a simple cause-and-effect, but all these activities from social survey to mapping and reform are all the production of such time and belong to the society were they became aware of urban life. so it’d say that all are note of the time. this type of social investigate became more power with the act of mapping, along with other qualitative accounts such as narratives, all different ways to revel the condition and contributing to social reform and improve of the conditions of old industrial age slums.

The transformative power of social mapping

Charles Booth is influential not only in Europe but also the the the time man scholars and social reformers from the US would travel to Europe, particularly UK to learn about the practice. Jane Adams, from the Hull House in Chicago is one of them who travelled and return establish the settlement house in Chicago to serve the poor. their service also provide include research and education. The Hull House in Chicago is a settlement house that provide charitable service to the area. The resident Florence Kelley worked with a team in 1890 to survey the neighborhood to inquire about their conditions and social status, and result in this set of quite elaborate maps of the areas nationality and wages.

While the Charles Booth map attempt to get a overview of the entire city, this map going into smaller area allows it to get into more specific details into each building. Let’s pay attention here to the use of color, as that was a strong element of the gradient in Booth’s map, and here for the Nationality it show rather a colorful variety instead of some gradient (is it to avoid the connotation of Black vs White?)

But what about wages? using similar type of very distinct color to show the low wage earning of less than $5 a week in black, 5-10 in blue, to the over $20 in yellow. it didn’t give as strong a senses of cluster of similar condition or gradient of transition. it has perhaps be more neutral but less direct impression. I would say in this map it was attempted to have a more objective narrative so to advice the descriptive categories in the Booth map but instead the similar dollar value earnings . In a way it is slight less complex but the quest remains whether a map can be neutral?

Yet another type of spatial relation can be read of the building block and street. Here we can see the household with better earning s are those facing the street, while the unit facing the back are with lower earnings. The very simple and logical explanation as the rent in the back is lower than the front, and so lower earner has no choice but to live the the back alley. IF we relate t other real estate aps nowadays, perhaps some of this logic is still applicable. although the tech change, but the logic remains. As we relate the first image of the London Slums with back to back housing units, the condition is not that much different there, a as we can see in the right those packed buildings, and already a slight improved for their have to build in an alley. what how is the plan graphic giving a view of the image?

At the time, many social issues – crime, drug use, prostitutions, are all being studied and in many case through mapping. the solution was believed in some case relate to urban morphology – the physical condition of the city. Although ha much further conversation we can go into, of welter space produce the vice or the problem turn the space into it condition? such as this case in Washington DC as a straight forward and strong one – again using the mapping technique and graphic representation – to show the problem of the blind alley – where we see the overcrowding of the city center created the problem of blind alley, and how the crime happens there.

Pulling back into the large scale, across the Atlantic is the US of late 19th C there were many cities that have done similar survey. This one here shows the condition fo NYC produced by the tenement house committee in 1894, for the purpose to illustrate thorn the cause of the Tenement act to improve living condition. Produced in Band W we can see the use of graduate and pattern to distinguish the categories, and because a useful factor for the us as a US immigrate country’s.

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