Hacking Robert Moses

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009
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Recognize this? Look closely, to be sure. (Curbed)

Recognize this? Look closely, to be sure. (Curbed)

If you’ve seen Watchmen already, then you know Richard Nixon is still president and there are a few extra skyscrapers along the Manhattan skyline. In that case, things are probably a little different down at street level, too. Perhaps, like Tricky Dick, Robert Moses stuck around and realized all of his grand schemes.

If so, Google Maps would still be there to document it all. Or so we’d like to think that’s the story behind Vanshnookenraggen brilliant mock-ups of the Lower Manhattan Expressway (above) and Mid-Manhattan Expressway in Google Maps. There’s a certain evil genius to the maps, as their creator explains. Because they look so real, we believe they’re actually there, which is part of the problem:

A map, after all, is a representation of reality with certain things omitted (or in this case, added). As mapping software becomes even more ubiquitous now that they are in the palm of our hands (Blackberrys, iPhones, etc), I think it will become all too easy for people to just accept what they see as reality. This is a dangerous prospect but one I think can be taken advantage of when trying to communicate certain information, such as what a neighborhood you know pretty well would look like with an elevated highway slammed through it. This was true for me, at least, while I was making these; Hand erasing buildings through SoHo, TriBeCa, and the LES was an eery experience as I tried to imagine what these places would really look like if my brush was a bulldozer.

And thus I began to understand the failing of Robert Moses (well, this one anyway). He didn’t drive and lord knows he didn’t think much of these areas which he tossed off as “slums.”

Kind of explains why so many projects look better in renderings than in built form, too. (via Curbed)

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