290 - A Work of Genius

Criado por um empregado em 1931 (que recebeu em pagamento 5 libras), o mapa do metrô londrino revelou-se um toque de gênio, especialmente por sua “infidelidade” às distâncias reais entre as estações. Hoje ele pode ser definido como obra de arte, que inspira as interpretações mais fantasiosas...
by Linda Ligios.

Anyone who has been to London will be familiar with the iconic “Underground Map.” Originally designed by Harry Beck in 1931, it is colourful and easy to follow, even if {yootooltip title=[ it bears little relation to the actual geography ]} it bears little relation to the actual geography: é pouco fiel à verdadeira geografia {/yootooltip} of London.
Not surprisingly, there have been many other versions of the map. Some are humorous parodies, while others offer serious information. Last year saw the launch of the “Undergound Film Map,” which replaces the names of stations with the titles of famous films that were shot there. The map was produced by the Film London agency, in collaboration with London Transport (Transport for London, ed.), as Film London chief executive Adrian Wootton explains:

Adrian Wootton
(Standard British accent/West Midlands accent)

Well, Film London has worked for a number of years promoting filming in London and also promoting to audiences and to Londoners and to tourists where films have been made, to encourage interest in visiting London and because the London Underground tube map is such an iconic design and something that’s familiar to people not just from London, but is familiar to people from all over the world, it seemed like a very good idea to work with our partners in Transport for London and see whether we could utilise the iconic design of the map {yootooltip title=[ in a way that made sense to the public ]} in a way that made sense to the public: de um modo que fosse compreendido pelo público {/yootooltip} and tourists, and link it very explicitly to film because obviously there’s {yootooltip title=[ an awful lot ]} an awful lot: um monte de... {/yootooltip} of films that have (been) filmed on the underground, using public transport, there’s a lot of films that have been shot in tube stations, outside tube stations, so it’s something that’s very familiar to public audiences all over the world, the map is very familiar to public audiences, and we just thought we’d put the two things together and {yootooltip title=[ see if we could come up with something ]} see if we could come up with something: e ver se poderíamos bolar algo... {/yootooltip} that people could look at and they’d think, “Oh, that’s a London Underground map,” and then they’ll look at it and (say): “Oh, it’s not, it’s actually the London Underground map with film titles, instead of place names on it!” And that was how the idea {yootooltip title=[developed]} developed: tomou forma, se desenvolveu {/yootooltip}.

Needless to say, Adrian Wootton is a big fan of the original London Underground map:

Adrian Wootton

It’s brilliantly, elegantly simple. People can immediately understand it. It’s intelligible. I mean, maps confuse people, generally. People find them difficult to read, they find them difficult to interpret. The primary colour schemes that were used to distinguish the lines, the simplicity of the way in which the different underground lines are {yootooltip title=[laid out]} laid out: dispostas {/yootooltip}, and the fact that, either on a large scale, or {yootooltip title=[shrunk into a little pocket guide]} shrunk into a little pocket guide: espremido dentro de um mini-guia de bolso {/yootooltip}, people can immediately interpret it, understand it and know where they are. I think it’s the most elegant and intelligent map about a public transport system that’s ever been created. Certainly, when I look at it and compare it with, I don’t know, other maps that talk about the metro system in France, or the subways in New York, I still find those much more confusing than I do a London Underground map, which is why I think it is an inspiration for artists because it takes something that’s actually very complicated, you know, and something that’s quite difficult and makes it readable for you, which is why, for us, it became such a lovely idea to say, “OK, we’ll take all the place names off the map and we’ll put all the film titles on there,” and then people can use the map to go to those places, but they’ll then know that certain films were made there, rather than just going to that place that’s on the map.

With 270 stations, 11 lines and around 3.5 million journeys a day, the London Underground system is one of the largest metro railways in the world (officially, it is “the second longest”: Shanghai has the longest). The London Underground is also the oldest in the world: it first opened in 1863. And it undoubtedly has the most famous map. Every year 15 million pocket maps are printed and distributed free of charge.

The famous London Underground map was designed in 1931. Its creator, Harry Beck, was an {yootooltip title=[engineering draughtsman]} engineering draughtsman: dsenhista/projetista técnico {/yootooltip}. Today his map is an international icon, but he was paid just £5, the equivalent of two weeks’ {yootooltip title=[ wages ]} wages: salário {/yootooltip} in those days.
Beck’s design was inspired by electric circuit diagrams. Initially his idea was rejected as it was geographically inaccurate and was published only after a series of modifications. The map’s geographical inaccuracy can still be a problem for visitors today. On the map the centre of London has been {yootooltip title=[ enlarged ]} enlarged: ampliado {/yootooltip} and the suburbs have been compressed. Sometimes tourists don’t understand the true distance between stations. If, for example, they want to go from Bank to Mansion House, the map will show them that the best {yootooltip title=[ route ]} route: percurso, rota {/yootooltip} is to take the Central Line to Liverpool Street, and then change to the Circle Line and follow it for five stops. In reality, Mansion House is only 180 metres from Bank!
And yet these are minor problems when we consider the map’s wonderful simplicity. It has been a model for maps of other metro systems. It has also been an inspiration for artists. One of the best examples is The Great Bear by Simon Patterson. He has taken each line and replaced it with categories of celebrities. There are footballers, engineers, philosophers and {yootooltip title=[comedians]} comedians: humoristas {/yootooltip}. They are all “stars” and this explains the astronomical title, The Great Bear (Ursa Major).

Transport for London’s “Art on the Underground” programme has also produced some interesting versions of Beck’s map. The latest is by the American artist Barbara Kruger. She has replaced the names of stations with a concept for that particular area: Westminster is “Reason” and Covent Garden is “Devotion,” for example.
Beck’s original has also been reinterpreted in Film London’s “Undergound Film Map”. Here the stations have been {yootooltip title=[replaced]} replaced: substituídos {/yootooltip} by the names of actors, directors and films.

The origins of station names are quite varied. Is it just a coincidence – or is it typical of England – that the first two examples {yootooltip title=[are named after pubs]} are named after pubs: receberam seus nomes de {/yootooltip}?!

Swiss Cottage is named after a local pub. The pub was originally called the Swiss Tavern when it was built in 1804, but it later became Swiss Cottage.

Elephant & Castle
The area is named after a pub, the Elephant & Castle, which was demolished in 1959. The present Elephant & Castle dates from the 1970s and is located a short distance from the {yootooltip title=[ site ]} site: local, localização {/yootooltip} of the original pub of that name.

Seven Sisters
The area takes its name from seven {yootooltip title=[ elm trees ]} elm trees: olmos (tipo de árvore) {/yootooltip} which once stood at Page Green, where Seven Sisters Road joined the old Ermine Street.

King’s Cross
The district in which King’s Cross is situated takes its name from a statue of King George IV which stood at a {yootooltip title=[ crossroads ]} crossroads: cruzamento {/yootooltip} here from 1835 to 1845. One contemporary observer described the statue as “absurd!”

Covent Garden
The area is named after a {yootooltip title=[ walled enclosure ]} walled enclosure: recinto cercado por muralhas {/yootooltip} and garden, which belonged to Westminster Abbey. It was recorded in the late 15th century as “Convent Garden.”

Answer these questions after reading The London Underground Map: A Work of Genius.