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Graduate School of Design Exhibit Features Maps from Library Collections

Cartographic Grounds: Projecting the Landscape Imaginary will be on display in the Gund Hall Lobby until December 19.


November 27, 2012—Cartographic Grounds: Projecting the Landscape Imaginary at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) melds data-driven and experiential depictions of the ground though cartography and landscape architectural drawing.


The exhibition features maps from more than 20 Harvard libraries, including the Harvard Map Collection, Frances Loeb Library, Ernst Mayr Library and Widener Library, as well as reproductions of maps from the British Geological Society, Bibliothèque Nationale de France and NASA.


“The idea stemmed from a conversation about how design drawings have lost their precision with regard to the way in which they depict ground surfaces,” said Jill Desimini, exhibit curator and assistant professor of landscape architecture at the GSD. Pieces displayed in the exhibit are organized into four categories determined by subject matter: terrestrial practices, aqueous explorations, subsurface inventions and temporal itineraries. Thirty-five Harvard students, faculty and staff contributed drawings, texts, physical models and animations.


The exhibit includes a section on New York’s Central Park, which celebrates its 160th anniversary next year. The materials showcased illustrate how its landscape changed over time through maps, historical photographs, letters and guidebooks from the Frances Loeb Library’s special collections. Some of the letters were written by the park’s superintendent, landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who supervised the design and construction of Central Park.


Irina Gorstein, conservator, treated the maps before they were displayed. “It was a challenge because many of the maps were fold-outs from books printed in the late 19th century on very acidic paper. It was a delicate process because the maps had to be flattened and mended before they could be safely installed, and many of them were very brittle.”


Mohsen Mostafavi, dean of the GSD and Alexander, Victoria Wiley Professor of Design and Library board member, and Charles Waldheim, chair of the GSD’s Landscape Architecture Department and John E. Irving Professor of Landscape Architecture, initiated the exhibit.


View the exhibit in the GSD’s Gund Hall Lobby at 48 Quincy Street through December 19.


View photographs of the exhibit here.