I designed this map of Minneapolis to convey a triptych of truisms as a starting point for sharing our stories (past, present, and future) of the city. Also, I really really like maps.
Firstly, cities change, and they can do so quickly and dramatically. Minneapolis changes. That white scar of I-35W running south from downtown? Not so long ago, that was dozens of blocks and hundreds homes that were a vital part of the continuous flow of the city from north to south, east to west.
Secondly, technologies become obsolete. They can change even more rapidly than cities, shifting in tandem with landscapes and societies many times over a generation. That white scar of I-35W? It’s the relic of one particular ebbing technological era. The curb bumps where pay phones stood? Another, already receding into memory.
Thirdly, and most importantly, Minneapolis is YOUR city*. You arrived for college or a temporary job or a romance and stayed? It’s your city. Your grandparents were fleeing racial violence in the South? It’s your city. You knew you wanted to leave southeastern Minnesota for a bigger town? It’s your city. You feel stuck here and want to save up to move to a big city or buy a farm? It’s your city. Your family came as refugees? It’s your city. You left St Paul a year ago for better bike lanes? It’s your city.
Here’s the latest happify poster, now available for purchase. Despite superficial similarities, this one is totally different from that earlier Minneapolis map I did. Honestly. That one is based on an antique map of the city, this one is based on the city of 2015. That one was all about things lining up, an idealization of grids. This one is also hand drawn, but without the same level of finicky alignment of points and lines. It’s a hand-pulled screen-print, intended to be tactile and imperfect. At the same time, the new map has undergone much more scrutiny for accuracy, much more consideration of what is represented and what isn’t.
I chose three solid colors for the maps: a grey illustrates built blocks, a green shows where our public access parks** are, and our lakes, creeks, and rivers are in a teal blue***. I wanted the (large) negative spaces to be both visible and empty. For the most part, they are cemeteries, golf courses, highways, and rail lines. That is, they’re areas frequently devoid of people doing people things. They’re places that are fenced or walled off from us, fortresses whose impermeability to our walks and bike rides is so quotidian as to render it invisible. But as every bad Pinterest quote attributed to Lincoln or Shakespeare will tell you, there is no failed city space, only opportunity for innovation!
In this map, I want to give you a sense of the triptych: cities change, technologies become obsolete, and Minneapolis is YOUR city. I want to capture map-ness, yes, but I also hope to evoke feelings of connectedness and possibility, the sense that cities aren’t immutable forces of nature but malleable systems that reflect our values and goals. As we transition away from fossil fuels/obsolete technologies and towards more equitable ways of living, we’re beginning to find ourselves with abundant space for building our new and better future. Minneapolis is no exception.
What’ll it be? What do you want for (y)our city? What do we want in our story, going forward? A network of Midtown Greenways and LRT instead of highways? More river connections along old rail lines? Parks on bridges? Affordable housing/urban gardening hybrid spaces instead of sand traps? Food trucks and picnics as we remember our beloved dead? Housing for homeless or displaced people? Restored wetlands? More residential/commercial blocks connecting communities that the highways sliced apart? New incubator business corridors with classrooms and senior centers built in? Let yourself dream big. This is (y)our city.
* I don’t mean to underestimate the role of (race/class/ethnicity) privilege and disenfranchisement in Minneapolis. I’ve felt an outsider for my entire life here, despite my roots. But with whatever power and voice I have, I want to tell you, fellow Minneapolitan, that this is YOUR city.
** I chose to leave out 1) parks that are functionally only watershed buffers, 2) parks that serve as medians for car traffic, 3) parks associated with schools whether public or private, and 4) restricted access parks, like golf courses and cemeteries.
*** I chose to show only bridges that allow people access without a car or a fee (i.e. bus fare) to cross.