Ask Londoners to name a map of their city and they are likely to mention the A-Z or the Tube map. Just because of their distortions – of direction and distance in the case of the Tube map – and exaggerations – of street widths at the expense of open space on the A-Z, of the central area on the tube maps – they fulfil superbly their intended purpose as navigating aids. But they also say much about life in a megapolis: the unknowability of much of it even to its own inhabitants, the importance of mass transportation as a means of coping with its size, the continuing importance for work and leisure of the depopulated centre. Maps do not talk simply of geography. They can tell us about the lives, preoccupations and values of their creators and users more clearly than words.
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