Thursday, April 15, 2004

I have always liked the London Tube Map: it's a design classic. If only my taxonomies could look so neat and be parcelled up in such a compact way: it amazes me that all the tube stations in Greater London can fit inside my wallet on a tiny card which is still easy to decipher. It was one of the first things about London that looked familiar to me: my Dad, an electrician, told me before I came down the first time that the tube map is "just a big wiring diagramme," and that is exactly what it is: designed by electrical engineer Harry Beck in 1933, based on the circuit diagrammes with which he worked.

The tube map revolutionised London and the way that Londoners thought about their city. Today it is almost impossible not to picture the place divided up by tube lines and stations, and, when we do so, we are holding in our minds an image of the tube map, and picture the nearness of our destination by proximity to the map's features. At the bottom of this page, the Transport for London website includes a Macromedia Flash presentation that allows you to click and see the current tubemap for Central London morph into the original 1933 version and / or into a streetmap version.