Monthly Archives: June 2010

Where’s the rest of Scarborough?

Filed under research & consultation, the map, what is...

As proof copies of the map are heading out the door for use in workshops and as visitors to the studio take a look and comment, the main question is as to why it focusses on the town centre when Scarborough is so much more than that.

If you’ve been following progress on this blog, the reason is probably apparent. But if you’re dipping in in advance of the launch event, here’s a quick explanation which will also provide a neat overview of the theory behind the map.

The aim is to steer people to Scarborough’s cultural, historical and arts-related places, and by association, events. By doing so it is hoped that residents and visitors alike will build a picture of Scarborough as a culturally vibrant town and their movements around it will be shaped as a result.

In order to make this happen we felt this had to be a very usable/useful map, not something that would only appeal to people already looking for an arts experience. This led us to cognitive mapping – a theory that you can/should draw maps aligned to how the human brain works when working out journeys. A key part of cognitive mapping is the brain’s use of landmarks to navigate by. So, we thought, what if we loaded our map with cultural landmarks, thereby encouraging people to navigate by, and thus notice these places?

To enable us to draw a map which would function in this way meant working at a particular scale, and practicality issues meant A2 was going to be the limiting paper size in providing a physically useful map. The end result of taking this approach would be that we would only be able to concentrate on the town centre.

So the decision was made to focus on this locale and have an inset of the wider Scarborough area.

It’s a compromise and it does admittedly provide some problems, particularly in creating trails to accompany the map, many of which which will not be limited to the town centre.
The alternative however would have been to show a wider area but lessen the effectiveness of the cognitive mapping theory. There are a couple of existing maps of Scarborough which could have been quickly adapted to highlight cultural venues but would this has affected the way people move around the town? Our research suggests not.

There are some benefits to our decision beyond the cognitive mapping theory – it has allowed us add a level of detail that’s totally unique to this map and as such is the first map of the town truly designed for pedestrians rather than cars. It has also resulted in (or so people are telling us) a visually striking and somewhat unique map that attracts attention just because of how it looks.

We see this printed map as just the start. It is experimental, a pilot almost, but it opens up a whole new approach to mapping Scarborough. There’s scope to continue to map areas of the town in this detail if desired, particularly as hand-held digital media become more widespread. Or until we can print bigger maps that don’t blow away in the wind.

View from the back

Filed under what is...

At the risk of this looking like a shameless advert, I wanted to mention an exhibition we have opening on Friday in our tiny galley in Scarborough. Inspired by a 6-month surf trip along the coasts of France, Spain, Portugal and Morocco, the exhibition by Kathryn Welford includes paintings and a map/montage of sketches and ephemera that snakes around the gallery walls. Interpretation of place is one of the key themes of CHART Scarborough and this exhibition seemed to resonate with the project. Advert over, read and see more here.


Filed under research & consultation

A chance encounter on twitter this morning (with @concretepost)  revealed some wonderful stuff. Go explore:

Gone, gone, gone

Filed under progress, the map

(Miles Davis tune reference, in case you were wondering…)

Another peek at the collage side of the map which is now at the printers. First poem by John W Clarke, second by Kate Evans – a reference to The Beatles playing at the seafront Futurist theatre. The letter/number combinations you can see are map references that correspond to the other side of the publication.

Sign off

Filed under progress, the map

It’s final proof day today, just gone through some minor changes to be made and then it’s sign-off tomorrow, then to the printers.

Above is a close-up of the proof showing a new level of detail with the building footprints after our surveying. no-one has mapped an area of Scarborough in this level of detail before, I imagine its pretty rare in general.

The colours are something we’d have loved to spend more time researching but have gone on our experience and some gut instinct. We think that having a suggestion of the building colours instinctively helps the map user figure out where they are on the map. We surveyed the town classifying buildings into a limited palette based on the building material or the frontage/signage if that was more dominant. The cultural landmarks are all magenta regardless to emphasise the cluster of cultural, heritage and arts venues and works in the town.

This pic also demonstrates the ephemeral nature of printed maps in that they’re out of date the minute they’re printed: The Premier Inn is 6 months off completion but will be a landmark when completed due to its corner/roundabout position and the prominence of the brand so we felt we had to label what is currently a building site.

Map as art?

Filed under progress

The most daunting and yet exciting phrase in the design brief for this project was ‘maps as art object’. However, following the interview for the project and initial research, we soon decided that Scarborough deserved the best possible most legible map we could draw. So how would this also fulfil the ‘map as art’ function?

We decided to produce two maps. One side of the printed publication features the map that has resulted from our research, focus groups and much experimentation. The reverse is also a map of Scarborough – composed entirely of photographs. Until recently this had descriptions of some of the key cultural locations but more recently 2 poets were commissioned to compose text to accompany the images.

Here’s a taster – a response to Crescent Arts (underneath the town’s art galley) by John W Clarke:

The things you see
down there!
A pocket fish,
cupboard vistas,
opening horizons of
brick, day printing
into night, throwing
the mud of life.

What’s in a name?

Filed under research & consultation, the map

Some neighbourhoods have names that have their roots in the history of the area, for example ‘Ramshill’, which evolves from the area being sheep pasture (originally the larger area of ‘Rams Dale’).  Some evolve over time through colloquial use – the ‘Old Town’ surely developed in this way as people sought to describe different areas of the ever-growing Victorian Scarborough. Some names are invented by councils, developers or other groups, often with an aspirational edge.

One such area is that centred around The Crescent which hosts the municipal Art Gallery, Crescent Arts studios and Woodend Creative Workspace/Gallery and extending either side to include Westwood School of Arts, down past the Rotunda museum and probably taking in the Spa and the Futurist theatre/cinema. Add the SJT and you almost form a pleasing ‘S’ shape linking these key cultural landmarks.

When Scarborough’s Renaissance programme kicked off about 7 years ago this stretch was referred to as a potential ‘cultural quarter’ – a phrase that’s very much late 90′s / early noughties town planning speak but at least suggests the importance of culture to the renaissance of Scarborough.

So is the label still valid? The Crescent didn’t quite expand culturally as intended although Woodend is a renaissance success story. An idea for a sculpture trail through the gardens linking the main locations didn’t come to fruition. But there’s a definite arc from the top of town to the seafront that takes in at least 7 culturally significant venues.

[current council-produced town centre map - i've marked the cultural venues with a pink dot]

Some stakeholders in the CHART Scarborough project think the label shouldn’t be used. Our focus groups thought it should, even if it is still partly aspirational. One person suggested it might even prompt renewed focus on the area to finish the job.

Maps have long put names to places, often turning the vernacular into the ‘official’ in the process. Should ‘Cultural Quarter’ become an accepted name for this part of town?

When the man from the OS came

Filed under progress

We were fortunate to recently have a visit from Glen Hart, Ordnance Survey Head of Research, and one of his colleagues. Glen was visiting John Whelan at the University of Hull Scarborough Campus who has been doing some fascinating (and actually quite beautiful) stuff with OS data and vector graphics.

The CHART Scarborough map, which John used as basis for a student project when it was still at concept level, proved a useful dovetail for John and Glen and gave us an always welcome fresh pair of eyes, not least from someone with a wealth of knowledge and ideas.

Most interesting was discussion on vernacular geography which is a current area of research for OS – basically how a map can provide a ‘sense of place’, which is exactly what CHART Scarborough is all about. As a result we decided to revisit the colour scheme of the map and an idea we initially rejected – that the urban area colours might reflect the building materials or shopfronts of the buildings. Which means getting our there writing down the colour of every building of every street to form a composite for that area. Below is one such record.

This we’re combining this with some more building footprint detail suggested by feedback off the Cartotalk forum. We reckon – although unfortunately we just don’t have time to research this particular aspect fully – that some indication as to the frontage of buildings in both shape and colour will help people locate the area they’re in on the map as well as help in capturing the feel of Scarborough town centre.

We’ll also be taking a final look at the area or neighbourhood names. I’ll write a new post on that, particularly as there’s some discussion brewing about one particular label…