Mapping the Almost-Real City

Artists rendering of the Inner Belt Expressway through Cambridge, MA
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Artists rendering of the Inner Belt Expressway through Cambridge, MA

I had a nice phone interview with Eric Jaffe from The Atlantic Cities (a website I fell in love with the second I found it) last week. He had discovered many of the maps I have made over the years and wanted to write a quick article on what I do. He was really cool and interested in the maps I make and I have to say it was cool to talk with someone who is into this same crazy thing. If you have read anything on this site before you’ve seen the maps but the article gives you a nice little back story about me and why I do this.

Mapping the Almost-Real City

History is filled with city plans that, for one reason or another, never became anything more. Some of them find their way into archives or museums. Some of them still await funding or completion or destruction in a sort of civic purgatory. And some of them are revived, at least in a digital sense, by hobbyist mapmaker Andrew Lynch.

The 28-year-old Lynch posts an eclectic array of urban design work at his website, Vanshnookenraggen. (The name is a nonsense word he made up in high school and used because he figured — correctly, obviously — that the domain would be available.) His creations over the years include a Google Map rendering that depicts the unbuilt Lower Manhattan Expressway and a hypothetical subway map of Boston.

Explorers of the Underground

Freedom

I have no idea why I didn’t post this in July when it came out. About a year ago I accompanied a Columbia Journalism student, Brian Eha, on a couple explores as he was writing his master thesis on the subject of Urban Exploring. Usually explorers are pretty tight lipped but since I’m not as active as I used to be I’m more open to talking with others about it. Brian and I explored the Glenwood Power Station in Yonkers and the Freedom Tunnel under Riverside Dr. in Manhattan. I posted the pictures from Glenwood here but the Freedom Tunnel was too dark when we went to get any good shots, though I have posted a couple here. The article is a great read and I was happy to help.

Glenwood

In New York City, when night falls, a number of doors and less obvious passageways open onto another city. One of these is the mouth of the Amtrak tunnel that runs under Manhattan’s Riverside Park. In December 2011, after five months of living full-time in the mundane city, I need a vacation, a respite not so much from the beloved city herself but from what cities increasingly consist of: light, noise, human and automobile traffic, crowded streets and stores and subway cars, trash and blackened gum on the sidewalks, the appalling tons of flotsam that wash up around us. For nearly half a year the only vistas have been vistas of human habitation. And so one cold night I take it upon myself to walk for nearly 60 blocks through the underground waste of the Riverside Tunnel, known colloquially as the Freedom Tunnel after Chris “Freedom” Pape, a graffiti artist whose murals made it famous among a certain subset of the population for whom spending time in dark tunnels is not unusual, and is even considered fun. My companion this night, Andrew Lynch, is one of this number, young and blond like me, but taller and less muscular, lanky with an easy stride. By day he sells real estate on the Upper West Side. By night—not every night, and increasingly fewer nowadays, but some nights even now—he’s an urban explorer.

Read the rest of it at Outside Online.