Geography as art

Friday, February 18, 2011 at 2:05 PM

While maps are often considered guides to get from here to there, on the Google Maps and Earth team, we’re constantly thinking of innovative ways to express geographic information. From helping you see the world from a street-level perspective with Street View, to enabling you to dive into the Ocean layer in Google Earth, new geographic visualizations are top of mind for the team. With that mapping mindset, Group Product Manager Lior Ron was struck by the abstract landscape paintings he saw at the Sausalito art festival.

Ben Joyce’s painting of San Francisco caught his attention: “The color scheme, brush strokes, and the open frame prompted my imagination freely to think about San Francisco and what I love about this city. What a wonderful way of visualizing spaces!”

San Francisco at Night by Ben Joyce

Ben describes his work as Abstract Topophilia: “The affective bond between people and place. The Love of Place,” and explains how cities like San Francisco inspire his artwork: “There is great beauty and intrigue in the layout of a city - from your everyday drive to work, to the historical creation of the streets, to your personal relationship with the town."

When Lior shared Ben’s work with some teammates, we too were fascinated by the bold color schemes and dramatic visualizations of geographic information, and were thrilled to learn that Ben has consulted Google Earth to create his city artwork. To share these creative visualizations with the team, we invited Ben to show some of his artwork in our team building, with depictions of cities ranging from Florence to Moscow.

Moscow by Ben Joyce

When we first hung up the paintings, we omitted location descriptions and opened a contest for the team: who could identify all of the paintings first? Google Earth Community Program Manager Robin Ziegler identified all of the locations about 30 hours after we started the challenge, and even plotted all of the paintings in Google Earth. Here you can see how Robin aligned Ben’s painting of Miami with the corresponding imagery in Google Earth.




Ben’s artwork will stay in our team’s building for the next three months, and will continue to remind us of the creative potential of geographic information.

Posted by Emily Henderson, Administrative Assistant, Google Maps & Earth