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Colleen Morgan via Flickr Creative Commons // CC BY 2.0

These Centuries-Old Maps Were Meant to Be Read By Touch

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Colleen Morgan via Flickr Creative Commons // CC BY 2.0

It’s easy to think that data is data, and that the way we visualize and share information has more to do with the information itself than it has to do with us. The truth is that data is far more subjective, personal, and cultural than that. When Americans and Europeans think of maps, we tend to picture flat, colorful drawings covered with squiggly lines. But for native Greenlanders living in the 16th to 19th centuries, maps were more of a hands-on experience.

Greenlanders would carve wooden maps, and they were as functional as they are aesthetically appealing. The maps, made of driftwood, are designed to be read not with the eyes, but with the fingers. Their small size made it possible for navigators to slip them into their mittens while kayaking, allowing them to follow along without exposing their hands to the punishing Arctic cold. The wooden maps were waterproof and buoyant, and they were just as easily read in the dark—an important feature in a country that can get less than four hours of sunlight per day in the winter.

The maps made full use of each piece of wood. The coastline wraps around the entire object, with dips and peaks representing islands, fjords, and glaciers. As Swedish cartographic archivist Ib Kejlbo has noted, “[t]he wooden map is the embodiment of the basic principles of presentday cartography, being the reproduction of a locality, seen from above, scaled down, and where distances between landmarks are kept in correct proportion.”

In 2000, the Greenland postal service released a stamp celebrating the wooden maps’ ingenuity and cultural significance.

Wooden maps, albeit of an entirely different form, were also used by another seafaring people: the Polynesians. Their so-called stick charts look incredibly simple, but were so complex—taking into account not only geography but also the movement of the ocean—that they could often only be read by the navigator who created them.

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architecture
One Photographer's Quest to Document Every Frank Lloyd Wright Structure in the World
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iStock

From California’s Marin County Civic Center to the Yokodo Guest House in Ashiya City, Japan, Frank Lloyd Wright’s influence spans countries and continents. Today, 532 of the architect’s original designs remain worldwide—and one photographer is racking up the miles in an attempt to photograph each and every one of them, according to Architectural Digest.

Andrew Pielage is the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation’s unofficial photographer. The Phoenix-based shutterbug got his gig after friends introduced him to officials at Taliesin West, the late designer’s onetime winter home and studio that today houses the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and Taliesin, the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture.

Higher-ups at Taliesin West allowed Pielage to photograph the property in 2011, and they liked his work so much that they commissioned him for other projects. Since then, Pielage has shot around 50 Wright buildings, ranging from Fallingwater in Mill Run, Pennsylvania, to the Hollyhock House in Los Angeles.

Pielage takes vertical panoramas to “get more of Wright in one image,” and he also prefers to work with natural light to emphasize the way the architect integrated his structures to correspond with nature’s rhythms. While Pielage still has over 400 more FLW projects to go until he's done capturing the icon’s breadth of work, you can check out some of his initial shots below.

[h/t Architectural Digest]

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Courtesy Chronicle Books
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Design
Inside This Pop-Up Book Are a Planetarium, a Speaker, a Decoder Ring, and More
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Courtesy Chronicle Books

Designer Kelli Anderson's new book is for more than just reading. This Book Is a Planetarium is really a collection of paper gadgets. With each thick, card stock page you turn, another surprise pops out.

"This book concisely explains—and actively demonstrates with six functional pop-up paper contraptions—the science at play in our everyday world," the book's back cover explains. It turns out, there's a whole lot you can do with a few pieces of paper and a little bit of imagination.

A book is open to reveal a spiralgraph inside.
Courtesy Chronicle Books

There's the eponymous planetarium, a paper dome that you can use with your cell phone's flashlight to project constellations onto the ceiling. There's a conical speaker, which you can use to amplify a smaller music player. There's a spiralgraph you can use to make geometric designs. There's a basic cipher you can use to encode and decode secret messages, and on its reverse side, a calendar. There's a stringed musical instrument you can play on. All are miniature, functional machines that can expand your perceptions of what a simple piece of paper can become.

The cover of This Book Is a Planetarium
Courtesy Chronicle Books

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