Flowing City Maps

DOI: 10.14714/CP81.1316

Flowing City Maps

Istvan, Chaotic Atmospheres | istvan@chaoticatmospheres.com

Venice

Venice

This series was made for an exhibition about cities, their environments, and the relation between them.

Human cities have spread all over the planet. They have colonized the wilds, stand proudly in the middle of deserts, cling to the cliffs, and spill over swamps to cover them; they extend and flow back, struggling to survive.

New York

New York

Although they seem immobile, they live and move like trees and mountains. Their time is not that of one person, it is that of the human species. They are witness to what we are, but also what we have been.

Cities resonate both the choices imposed on us as an animal species (proximity to water, climate, etc.) and the choices we have made as humans (their architecture, monuments, town planning, etc.). The accumulation of these choices is felt every day by the inhabitants of a city. In turn, they grow up infused with this identity, just as ants absorbing the pheromones of an anthill.

Cairo

Cairo



Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro

The popularization of pictures of our Earth from space gives a new opportunity to understand the identity of cities as a whole. From far enough away, they reveal their history as their deep symbiosis with their environment. The concentric lines of Paris, like those of a tree trunk, reflect different periods of growth of the city; the streets of New York have structures similar to plant cells; Rio de Janeiro’s buildings nestle along mountains like a river bed; however, although very different from each other, all human cities are recognizable as such in the relation they have with their environment. They therefore reflect both our cultural differences as human beings and our common identity as an animal species.

Beijing

Beijing

I wanted to represent this relation as a kind of invisible fluid that overflows from the city to its surrounding area. For that, I’ve retrieved city maps and used processing software that specializes in generating eroded 3D terrains for video games. This software can export pictures called “flow maps,” usually made for texturing purposes inside a game editor because they follow precisely the elevation of the terrain.

Paris

Paris

But I didn’t want this flow to follow the actual topology of the city and its surroundings. So I “mixed” the city map with a random noise that simulated an elevation map that the software interpreted like the true elevation map of the city. This way, I was able to change the original flow map to better meet my own vision of the relation each city has with its environment. I used these pictures as a basis for my final illustration and I added colors and effects in order to give to each city a unique identity.

Tokyo

Tokyo

I’m a digital artist who uses math and procedural functions to create series of pictures based on the repetition of a process.

I began my artistic education in the Fine Arts School of Geneva when I was seventeen. Then I moved to Paris to attend a school of fashion design. This gave me the opportunity to meet a lot of creative people. After my studies, I shared the next five years between Paris and Geneva, working as a freelance graphic designer for the friends that I’d met when I was student.

After these formative years, I decided that it was time to go back to what first brought me to Fine Arts: my will to “design pictures with computers.” At this time, digital art was only a passion, but one in which I had already put a lot of work and personal feelings. So I started to work on my passion as if I was working for clients: thinking in terms of projects, following them until the end, not losing sight of the final message… Over the years, I developed my early experimentations until they evolved into true subjects of pictures.

The result of these experimentations is what you can find now on my portfolio: chaoticatmospheres.com.


Visual Fields focuses on the appreciation of cartographic aesthetics and design, featuring examples of inspirational, beautiful, and intriguing work. Suggestions of works that will help enhance the appreciation and understanding of the cartographic arts are welcomed, and should be directed to the section editor, Laura McCormick: laura@terracarta.com.

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