A map with the words "London Underground Architecture & Design Map"
Blue Crow Media

Starting with London’s Tube, a new series aims to capture the art and history of rapid transit systems around the world.

A new series of maps wants city-dwellers to appreciate the public transit systems they love to hate.

Blue Crow Media, an independent map publisher, recently released their first in a series of public transit maps: a double-sided, cartographic guide of the London Tube. The London Underground Architecture & Design Map displays featured stations on the front, and on the reverse side walks the viewer through photographs and details of the stations, including hidden spots to find unusual signs and murals.

Derek Lamberton, Blue Crow Media’s founder, created Brutalist and concrete city maps two years ago in an effort to raise awareness of the 20th century architecture and its often uncertain fate today. Now, Lamberton is turning his attention to transit networks. Though quite a few are marred by budget woes, electrical failures, poor on-time performances, and outdated rail cars, these systems often contain a storied and stylized history, too. Lamberton worries about the destruction of these networks’ aesthetics, and cited the decision to paint some of Harry Weese’s coffered station interiors in Washington, D.C. as one example. “All this led me to wonder if there was value in publishing a series of maps to draw attention to and celebrate the heritage and current state of these networks,” he says.

After deciding on a city and title, the team at Blue Crow works to narrow down a map’s specific highlights, making sure to include a mix of styles, architects, and designers. London Underground Architecture & Design was curated by Mark Ovenden, a transport design historian and broadcaster, and features photography by Will Scott. When unfolded, the map measures 17.3-by-22.6 inches.

Photo courtesy of Blue Crow Media

Lamberton wants people who may not have time to appreciate a station’s tile work and lettering during their morning commute to have a chance to admire the system’s hidden beauty. “There is value in knowing and recognizing that you are surrounded by design and architecture that has been considered for your benefit,” he says. “For a tourist or someone taking time to explore the system, the maps aim to provide a surprising and visual way to learn about a city and its recent history.”

London’s map was especially interesting for Lamberton, as the Tube has been the site of many different styles, designs, and buildings across its network. “It is so varied, and such a vast system, that the opportunities to uncover a remarkable bit of design are endless,” Lamberton says.

Next on the mapmakers’ horizon is Moscow. Moscow Metro Architecture & Design will debut in the spring of 2018, and transit maps for New York, Berlin, and Paris are scheduled to follow. Lamberton hopes that the project can gain enough momentum to eventually cover smaller cities as well.

“If we can draw positive attention to a city’s transit network or the efforts of its staff,” says Lamberton, “then that will hopefully lead to some constructive conversations about how to improve things (and to not paint any more concrete in the D.C. Metro).”

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