Visible Cities

Writer Rebecca Solnit uses social cartography to map San Francisco's urban body.

Maps are no doubt the necessary personal guide to navigate someone through a city. But it isn’t always direction that we are looking for. Writer and activist Rebecca Solnit reveals more than street names and bike routes in her book Infinite City. Solnit tackles the social cartography of San Francisco in a series of maps that make visible the city’s hidden mysteries and rich history. This field guide beautifully juxtaposes famous landmarks and cultural landscapes that aren’t visible to the naked eye. In the map “Death and Beauty” Solnit charts the San Francisco Chronicle’s yearly mur- der report to highlight how the violence is clustered on one end of the city. To provide a poetic relief to this stark reality, Solnit contrasts the swath of murders with the abundance of Monterey cypress trees native to this region of California. The unlikely pairing reminds us that this is not your father’s typical road trip atlas.

This phrenological map of San Francisco's neighborhoods provides a laugh for any locals privy to the insider references.

The Future of The City


The adoption of ubiquitous computing, mobile devices, and rich sources of data are changing how we live, work, and play in urban environments. Increasingly, a digital landscape overlays our physical world and is expanding to offer ever-richer experiences that augment—and in some cases, replace—the physical experience: “The city is the platform, the network, the sensors, and the interface,” as frog creative director Rob McIntosh put it in a recent talk. To celebrate the New Cities Summit where frog hosted a workshop on the Meta-City, design mind presents a special digital issue exclusively on the future of the city and live coverage from the event.

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