Henry Grabar is a freelance writer and a former fellow at CityLab. He lives in New York.
Curious to know what the Champs-Elysees might look like in Midtown Manhattan? Forget the square footage and just put it there.
Measurement is all right, but nothing expresses a geographic comparison like putting two objects next to each other. Curious to know what the Champs-Elysees might look like in Midtown Manhattan? Or the Pyramids of Giza in Chicago? Forget the square footage and just put them there.
That is the gist and the genius of MapFrappe, Kevin Thompson's cartographic mixing engine. Users outline a place -- like, say, Brooklyn -- and drag it all over the world.
I took Kings County to Paris:
To Washington, D.C.:
And to San Francisco:
That's fun, but it's also something that can be shown with easily accessible statistics. For a second course, I actually did take the Champs-Élysées to Midtown:
From the Franklin Roosevelt roundabout to the Arc de Triomphe is almost exactly four crosstown blocks. Remarkably, the orientation is nearly the same! But lest you think that the world's most famous street isn't all that, consider its width: with its massive sidewalks taken into account, the Champs-Élysées is as wide, if not wider, than an entire north-south Manhattan block. (It also has more trees than all of Midtown Manhattan's streets put together.)
It would make quite a splash in Rome:
Mapfrappe also allows you to save your outlines in URLs that make them easily shareable. (If you want to take the Champs-Élysées to your hometown, here's the link.)
Once you get tired of outlining your own interests -- your walk to work in London, or Buckingham Palace on your block -- you can check out Drew's MapFrappe blog, which has hundreds of preset outlines to choose from. Napoleon may have brought the obelisks to Paris, but I put the Pyramids in Central Park (note their perfect north-south orientation):
It also comes with some neat outlines that you might otherwise not have thought of, including the footprints of dammed lakes and strip mines. Here's what Chile's Chuquicamata Copper Mine looks like compared to Washington, DC:
And while Google Maps uses a Mercator projection, which distorts the shape and size of territories at different latitudes, MapFrappe adjusts for this. (The blog has a series of these comparisons.)
Here's what South America looks like on top of North America: