Michael Pecirno

Most maps of the U.S. prioritize metropolitan areas. But "Minimal Maps" single out the nation's forests, crops, and waterbodies.

Eighty percent of the U.S. population lives in "urban" areas, a staggering 249,253,271 souls. Yet these folks live in just 3 percent of the country's 2.3 billion acres of land. Most of America's 50 states are forestland (30 percent), pasture and ranges (27 percent), and crops (18 percent), with parks, tundra, and swamps making up the rest.

These are statistics that never fail to blow my provincially urban mind—in part, perhaps, because most maps of the country visually prioritize metropolitan areas.

But London-based designer Michael Pecirno produces images of America that illuminate all land use patterns, type by type. "Minimal Maps" uses 2014 USDA data to explore in rich detail how forests, grasslands, crops, and water spread across the contiguous states—each with its own map.

"[C]orn fields take up 91 million acres of the American landscape," writes Pecirno in an email. "This is a staggering 4.83 percent of the continuous United States. While hearing that value is quite astounding, there is little way right now for us to visualise what 4.83 percent of the American landscape looks like, or furthermore, where this land is. By focussing each map on a single subject, we are able to better visualise and understand our landscape."

All images courtesy of Michael Pecirno.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. POV

    What ‘Skyscraper’ Doesn’t Get About Skyscrapers

    The Rock’s new movie should have gotten more thrills out of high-rise design, an engineer argues.

  2. A view from outside a glass office tower at dusk of the workers inside.
    Life

    Cities and the Vertical Economy

    Vertical clustering—of certain high-status industries on the higher floors of buildings, for example—is an important part of urban agglomeration.

  3. Equity

    Minimum Wages Can't Pay for a 2-Bedroom Apartment Anywhere

    There isn’t a single state, city, or county in the U.S. where someone earning federal or state minimum wage for a 40-hour work week can afford a two-bedroom home at fair market rent.

  4. An illustration shows two alleys in Detroit.
    Design

    Finding the Untapped Potential of Alleys

    “We’re starting to realize they’re just as powerful as a park or plaza.”

  5. Equity

    To Save a Town ‘By the Grace of God’

    Ben Carson’s HUD is shutting down two of the largest housing projects in Cairo, Illinois, leaving the town’s fate to a higher power.