1. Social
October 24, 2014

New York's windows, Miss Subways and the science of map colours

By City Monitor Staff

Some of the city stories from elsewhere we enjoyed this week.

  • This piece from the New Yorker offers a glimpse inside the Miss Subways competition, run between 1941 and 1976. “Glamour shots” of the beauty contest’s winners were stuck up in advertising slots in subway cars, along with their hobbies and aspirations, page-3 style. All in, around 200 women were Miss Subways at some point in the competition’s 35 year duration until, as the piece’s author puts it, “Later winners displayed the liberated spirit that ultimately killed the contest.”

  • Cindy Brewer’s something of a celebrity on the mapping scene, though you probably haven’t heard of her. This Wired profile outlines her biggest contribution to the cartographic world to date: ColorBrewer, an online database of colour palettes to use on maps. Here’s an excerpt from the piece:

A big reason people run into trouble with their color schemes, Brewer says, is the way color picking is done in many software programs. Take the RGB cube (or sliders) many programs use to display colors along red, green, and blue axes, for example. “That’s not the least bit perceptually scaled,” Brewer said. “In some parts of the cube a tiny step gives you a huge perceptual difference. In other parts it all looks the same.” 

It’s a technical point, but also a very important one: for a map to effectively display data, our perception of the colour difference between two areas needs to match the difference in the data. ColorBrewer “will steer you towards a color scheme that progresses from light to dark” and, sadly, there’s an absolute ban on rainbow colour schemes.   

  • Frank Gehry, designer of large-scale, fantastical projects the world over, was asked at a press conference yesterday if his architecture was just about “spectacle”. His response?

According to Architects’ Journal, “There was then a prolonged period of stunned silence” before another journalist asked a question about modern architecture, to which Gehry replied: “98 per cent of everything that is built and designed today is pure shit”. Perhaps he was just having a bad day. 

  • And finally, this Tumblr page features daily artworks of real New York windows, nothing more, nothing less. Scrolling endlessly through them is inexplicaply compelling. 

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