5 Great Ways to Map Your L.A.

  • Maps

With our "Map Your L.A." contest underway, we're exploring different ideas on mapping. The power of place isn't found in traditional mapping alone, that's why we document the "stuff" (i.e., weekend family trips for a Chinese-American to Chinatown, or the changing adventures of generations along a waterway) that are important to accurately illustrate nuances of a community. The "stuff" maps can potentially cover is infinite, so there's never one way to share that information.

On our site you'll find examples of personal maps by our student producers, a comprehensive map of recreation along the L.A. River, and digital maps pinpointing hotspots of history and personal experience in all our featured neighborhood chapters. But for fun ideas and techniques on mapping, see below. These maps will inspire you to make your mark on L.A.'s cartography and maybe even win a prize in the end!

1. Finding Fiction
"Window Map of Anchorage" by Scott Griffith feat in Hand Drawn Map Association's Collection As D.J. Waldie put it, "Like a good story, a map is fiction;" they draw from the imagination of perspective and edit relevancy in relation to space. With this in mind you can create maps of fictitious places as found in the Hand Drawn Map Association's collection, featured right, or you can warp what already physically exists to want your mind desires. Imagine East L.A. Bungalows along the shorelines of Venice, or a circus in the heart of Richland Farms, Compton, for instance. You can build a world with the possibilities.

For more hand drawn map inspiration, check out Kristofer Harzinki's From Here to There: A Curious Collection from the Hand Drawn Map Association.

2. Build Your Borders
"Northeast Corner, US-Canadian Border" by Ruland Kolen

Place in relation to actual, physical space sometimes veers toward the abstract in mapping. The map featured left, taken from the blog "Strange Maps," illustrates the one exclave of the US-Canadian border that otherwise is a completely straight line between the two nations. Meaning in certain parts of Manitoba or Ontario you could potentially hop or skip to the U.S. Pretty neat.

What defines your community can extend from your home, to your work, to where you hangout on weekends. Build your own borders of L.A. and see how geometric life looks on paper.

3. Name Changing Planes
"Somebody Sydney" featured on Black Maps Blog Pasadena was once Rancho del Rincon de San Pascual and Compton was once called Rancho San Pedro. Common difference? New management, new name. The perspective of mapping is as important now as it has been historically. Whole nations were created from hundreds of tribes under one name by imperialist to create the world we see today. As you can see in the image to the left, the power of naming in maps is not lost on the present. In this case, what seems to be commonly known districts of Sydney, Australia are described differently from each perspective.

Is Miracle Mile home or a blank canvas on your map? Hollywood a do-not-go zone, or a typical Friday night? By naming your places in L.A. you create your own language for your city.

4. The Longitude Timeline
Timeline Map from Flickr Maps have always shown changes in time, but to the right you'll see the cartographer goes a bit further by using planes drawn on the map as a timeline. Los Angeles has gone through the hands of many settlers and ethnic groups, so neighborhoods have changed, culturally, over time. What's your history in L.A. or the history of your home?

Map the history of a street, avenue, boulevard, court, or place using longitude (East and West) as a timeline. Mark personal triumphs and unique finds, use historical references, or combine both to integrate yourself along historic landmarks.

5. Hidden Stories
"Fallen Fruit of Silver Lake" featured on Journal of Aesthetics and Protest Just a short walk Downtown on 1st Street from San Pedro and you'll pass the birthplace of the fortune cookie. If you've found yourself in that area before, unbeknownst of this beloved contribution to modern Chinese-American fare, it's ok. This kind of information is commonly lost on the day-to-day passerby. Maps, however, reveal these remarkable stories that are associated with the familiar buildings, and spaces in our community.

Maps also call attention to "stuff" we may have never considered without provocation, as seen with this featured map, "Fallen Fruit of Silver Lake," a collaboration of David Burns, Matias Viegener and Austin Young. This mapping project not only uncovered a "free" food source, but spurred a debate on laws and ethics on public space in the process. It's an example of complex narrative within hidden information and you can find out more about the Fallen Fruit project here. We love to hear your story at Departures, and this is an opportunity to go further and also tell us where that story begins.

About the Author

Kelly is a proud member of the KCET Departures team!
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Contest Entry: "Which Way Is Up?" by Henry Cram


Contest Entry: "Producer" by Diego Nunez