12 Maps Of Alternative Londons
There are many alternative types of alternative reality. There are alternative pasts, presents and futures. There are versions of London that could only exist in the imagination, or the virtual reality of games. Then there are anachronistic Londons that incorporate names and places from different eras.
We’ve compiled 12 of our favourite maps of alternative Londons. Feel free to suggest additions in the comments below.
After the Great Fire destroyed most of the Square Mile, a number of architects rushed out plans for rebuilding the city. Leading the pack was Sir Christopher Wren, whose scheme included grand boulevards meeting at wide piazzas, as was the fashion on the continent. Had the plans gone ahead, the City would look very different today. In 2013, James Macdonald put together the map above for Insight Guides. It shows Wren’s scheme overlaid onto a modern map of the Square Mile. We like the idea of the resurrected Fleet Canal to the west and the jaunty angle of Southwark Bridge, but Bank junction still looks like a bit of a nightmare. Read more.
With the second world war still raging, city planners were already plotting the London of the future. Chief modernisers were John Forshaw and Patrick Abercrombie. Their plans of 1943 and 1944 looked at many aspects of the city, from housing, to zoning, to green belt provision, but it is their recommendations for transport that really catch the eye. The 1943 County of London plan includes a radical reshaping of London’s road networks, including major new ring roads and multi-lane highways right through the centre of town. Famously, Camden Town would have been largely obliterated by a major junction and approach roads, while Victoria Park would have been pincered by two motorways. Some aspects, such as the Westway, came to fruition, but London was largely spared this tarmac overhaul. Also, that inner ring-road looks suspiciously like a pair of y-fronts. Read more.
Arty cartographer Stephen Walter’s magnum opus is a highly personalised view of London from 2008. Known as The Island, Walter’s map depicts the capital as just that. London is surrounded by numerous smaller islands such as Dartford and Sevenoaks in the ‘Kentish Sea’, while trade with the north is controlled at the great ports of Cheshunt and Roding, in Epping Bay. Magnificent. Read more.
In a similar vein, Ed Cooper imagines London as one great sea, where only the parks are terra firma. Don’t head west of Chelsea; here be dragons. Read more.
Our own stab at alternative cartography shows the London area in medieval times. The Anglo-Saxon map charts the roads, rivers and hamlets of the poorly recorded period from 500-1100 AD. The various features all existed at some point during this era, but perhaps not at the same time. In that sense, it is a map of the imagination as much as an attempt at true cartography. Read more.
Back in the days before it got all first-person shooter, the Grand Theft Auto franchise featured top-down play and had a spin-off set in swinging 60s London. The map from the game bears a vague resemblance to the London we know and love, though with Bow west of Tower Bridge and Camden Town butting up to Hyde Park, this is very much an alternative London. Read more.
Unlike GTA, Super Mario never visited our city, but this fan effort imagines inner London entirely in sprites from Super Mario 3. Read more.
We dubbed Curiocity the ‘greatest book about London published in modern times’. It’s full of unusual facts, illustrations and puzzles about the city, and also contains a series of exceptional and alternative maps. Here we see a guide to London’s erogenous zones. Read more.
Could this be the shape of the tube map in the year 2050? We don’t think so — the map will have been superseded by then — but this is nevertheless an intriguing glimpse of the transport schemes yet to come. Highlights include extensions to the Bakerloo, Northern and Metropolitan lines, a beefier Overground, Crossrails 1, 2 and 3, plus HS2. The map was put together by Brian Butterworth of ukfree.tv. Read more.
But what will the surface look like in 2050? To celebrate the Piccadilly line’s centenary in 2010, TfL commissioned this artwork from Nils Norman. It shows a London populated by geodesic domes, with algae and fungal farms providing new food sources. Most hopeful are the utopian (or perhaps Orwellian) Ministries of Love, Peace and Plenty. Read more.
North London has way more tube stations than the south. But what if things were reversed. This cracking idea redresses the disparity by turning the network on its head. Read more.
In 2011, Helen Scalway undertook an unusual project, asking random people to draw the tube map from memory. The results were as mixed as you might expect. She then plotted all the attempts onto one map. The result is an argument against crowdsourcing and the wisdom of crowds. Read more.