M is for Maps

August 2nd, 2007

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Accurate and up-to-date maps are the foundation for all community and regional planning. The starting point for mapping has long been the display of streets and property lines on plats. But by the early 20th century a broad array of additional information was being incorporated into maps used in planning: topography, including slopes; geology, including soil types and qualities; hydrology, including drainage systems, flood-plains, and wetland areas; current land-use patterns; and public utilities and facilities, including schools, police and fire stations, and parklands.

Groundbreaking metropolitan planning efforts, such as the 1909 Plan of Chicago overseen by Daniel Burnham, made effective use of this kind of resource and land use information. The Plan of Chicago also demonstrated the persuasive impact that well-presented mapped information could have –- especially when combined with striking sketches and renderings. Information and recommendations displayed in this way enabled the public to more quickly grasp the nature of their city and region, and its needs. Indeed, over time, maps have been one of the key tools used by planners to convey information and persuade others.

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