Mapping Chicago by taking a photo at every major intersection

Planner Neil Freeman found an interesting way to map Chicago: take a photo of every major intersection. A post on Atlantic Cities describes the map:

Freeman’s first project, called “Chicago mile by mile,” created an unconventional city map of the city based on 212 photos of strategic “mile” intersections. It was inspired by Chicago’s unique grid system, in which every eight blocks measures a full mile, and the city’s corresponding address system, which advances (for the most part) in increments of 800. If you begin at the zero-points of Madison and State streets and go west a mile, for example, you’ll reach the corner of Halsted Street at 800 W Madison Street.

“This arbitrary address system ends up defining what it means to live in Chicago,” he says. “These arbitrary systems that end up underlying our built environment of our daily life are really intriguing to me.”

On the webpage with the map, here is how Freeman describes the map:


Chicago mile by mile

Neil Freeman, 2002
213 color photographs
114 x 104 inches

These photographs maps Chicago’s uncomprimising street grid into 212 4″x6″ snapshots. The photographs document every intersection of mile streets, major roads on section lines. The entire city is traversed by this network of arterials. Photographs were taken in January 2002.

It would take a while to look at the thumbnails of all the photographs. However, I think doing so might start to reveal patterns. In other words, are the major intersection on the North Side more alike or different from major intersections on the South Side? Are there patterns across all intersections? I suspect there may be as these major intersections would tend to attract certain kinds of functions and organizations.

Extending this project in three possible ways could also add a lot of information. One way to expand this would be to start filling in more of the intersections between these major ones. A second way would be to track these intersections over time. If Freeman took all of these photographs again in 2012, how much would have changed? A third way would be to collect data on how people experience and visual these intersections and compare this to the photographs. How exactly do residents and visitors perceive these intersections?

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