What is it about?

The paper (a) tells the history of figure-ground mapping from the early days of urban cartography to its late twentieth century revival as a technique of post-modern urbanism; (b) explains how the technique works; and (c) gives various examples of its use in practice.

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Why is it important?

The paper fills a gap in the literature, providing a simple introduction to an indispensable tool of urbanism. It attracts an exceptionally high level of downloads and is required reading on many programmes.


Sadly this paper was written and published before the spectacular New York Times edition of Sunday October 14th 2018, which included a special section of figure-ground maps showing the majority of buildings in the continental United States. Published in six editions across the nation, the central fold-out maps offered gigantic figure-grounds at an unspecified scale of the metropolitan regions of New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Dallas-Fort Worth. Text headlines included HISTORY MADE APPARENT and OUR BUILT LEGACY IN EVERY BLOT OF INK. Figure-ground in a nutshell !

Professor Michael Hebbert
University College London

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Figure-ground: history and practice of a planning technique, Town Planning Review, November 2016, Liverpool University Press, DOI: 10.3828/tpr.2016.44.
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