I am in a celebratory mood. There are many significant City of Immortals benchmarks this month. First and foremost is the 215th anniversary of the founding of Père-Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, which occurred on May 21, 1804. It all began with the eighteenth-century Parisian engineers who had overlooked one major question in their urban design scheme—what to do with the ever-increasing population of the dead? In 1799 a competition was announced under direction from Napolèon to create new cemeteries on the outskirts of Paris.
The winner of the largest commission, the cimetière de l’Est (located at Mont-Louis in the east), was architect, urban planner, and landscape designer Alexandre-Thèodore Brongniart—the first architect ever to receive such an unprecedented project.
Americans certainly aren’t the only ones with a bit of a thing for Paris. Benjamin Franklin was born there, and from their gift of the Statue of Liberty, to our gifts of the Lost Generation and Jerry Lewis, to their love of American pop art, and countless moments of literature, art, music and cinema — we seem to love it there as much as anyone (except maybe actual Parisians).
As historic as the Broadway musical title, Mapmaker, Mapmaker, Make Me a Map!, the printed map is perceived by many as an historic artifact of a bygone era. With the preponderance of digital navigational systems in our cars and GPS apps on our smartphones, the role of the classic mapmaker might seem outdated or unnecessary. I assure you, it is not!
In creating my own map of Père Lachaise Cemetery, I have come to admire the cartographers whose skills are still very much in demand from the National Geographic Society whose maps of scenic trails are invaluable to hikers to major tourist attractions who rely on skilled designers to create maps that oftentimes are deemed works of art. (more…)