Opening Day

    When Emily and I met, we were eager young students at the University of British Columbia starting our first year in the Architectural Environmental Design Department. Like many design programs, our group was small, with only 24 students crammed into a small studio space in an old brick monstrosity built in the 50's. And over our two years in studio, we all found our strengths and weaknesses through trial and tribulation; over months long projects as well as intensive group projects.

    One project in particular involved looking at urban planning as it related to the occupy movement uprisings happening around the world at the time. We were tasked with analyzing the function of public space and urban design by following the uprisings of the Arab Spring as well as other protests around the world. It was this project, on which Emily and I worked together, that would become the  seed of our idea that mapping can also be art.

    For our project, we chose the cities of Cairo and Mexico City for their famous public squares; Tahrir Square and El Zocalo. Our aim was to show how the city street grid, and its connection to transit routes including underground subways and trains, affected the protests. But we wanted to make our presentation visually dramatic and understandable. How could we layer all the information on a single graphic that
    was clear and not cluttered? Our final solution was simple; laser cut from millboard, the streets made a web which became the base of our map and we then placed things
    above or below this web to signify its geographic location as well as its vertical depth.

    The project was a success. But after the crit, as we began to dismantle our creation, I looked at what we had made and thought, “You know what? I’m going to save this.” And so, our project lived on the wall in my small apartment until we graduated a couple of years later. To me, these webs of millboard, even in their abstraction, were fascinating as they stood alone.
    On graduating, we took jobs at different architecture studios and Emily and I moved in to a two bedroom in Vancouver. One day while at work, making GIS maps for an urban
    planning project, I made a simple error in layer organization and saw something which reminded me of our cut-out maps at home. I took the data from GIS and brought it into Adobe and began tweaking the line weights and colors, taking away layer after layer until our first map was born. Though these first iterations were quite simple. I showed Emily and they joined the city street webs on our walls. Soon, our friends began to request we make custom maps in the same style for them, so we made more of them, using the same process. Over the months we were able to streamline our process as well as perfect our layering and line weights. 
    Our business today has over 400 maps that Emily and I continue to make by hand; and we add more daily. Now, in addition to our on-line store, we have over 60 retail stores across North America that sell our maps and we have distribution networks in Vancouver and Los Angeles

    We’ve discovered that maps are a popular item, needless to say, and we think others love them for the same reasons we love them. Maps represent memories; they tell a story about you, your friends, and your family and about where you came from, where you are, and where you are going. Maps represent the spaces where life happens; where we all make memories and share experiences.

    This new website has been a labor of love – and a lot of detailed work. We hope people who visit experience a sense of exploration and can easily find new cities. The world has wonderful spaces to travel through and we hope that, in some way, we can both inspire the timid travellers, and remind the experienced ones of just how diverse and fascinating our cities are. 
    This is blog #1. These blogs will focus on the inspiration that led us to create these maps; stories from fellow travellers on their journeys through some of the best... and maybe even worst... cities in the world. We hope you will enjoy sharing in these memories.
    - Owen and Emily