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Cool Poster, But Where's Barnaby Woods?

Washington, as they teach the kids in lessons on local history, is a city of neighborhoods. But you haven't seen just how much that distinguishes us from other cities until you get a look at Jenny Beorkrem's Ork Posters, a series of typographic art posters of major American cities.

Ork Posters is just out with its Washington map, and it is both fascinating and markedly different from their maps of, say, New York City, Boston, or even Chicago (though that's a closer comparison). How so?

dczoom.gif Courtesy: Ork Posters

The D.C. poster is much more crowded, not because of density of population, but because our neighborhoods are smaller and more bunched up. The character of the District changes quite noticeably in a matter of a very few blocks, whereas neighborhoods in most of the other cities Ork has mapped are more sprawling affairs.

"Compared to the other East Coast cities, D.C. is more divided," says Beorkrem, a graphic designer who is based in Chicago, where she started her city mapping. "The Ork style makes that really obvious when you look at D.C. next to one of the other city designs, it almost looks more 'messy.' And part of that is due to the unique shapes of D.C.'s neighborhoods, given the shape of the city and the 'organic' street paths and river contrasted with the angled streets."

In each city where they've been released, the Ork posters have been well-received and have, of course, sparked debate about which neighborhood names got included and which didn't. Beorkrem reaches out to lots of local sources while researching each map (full disclosure: Beorkrem posed a bunch of questions to another Post reporter, who in turn asked me to give the artist some of my thoughts on neighborhood names and boundaries. I sent her a quick memo, and some of my recommendations got onto the map--and some didn't.)

One constant source of controversy is whether to include neighborhoods that exist in the minds and common language of the people, but aren't shown on any official maps. Then there are names that exist primarily because real estate agents have used them to try to win over more customers. (Think of the ads for Shaw apartments that say "East Dupont" or "Logan Circle East.")

In Washington, Beorkrem struggled over whether to include North Cleveland Park or North Michigan Park--she settled for just the basic neighborhood names, without their directional additions. I liked that move, but I'm a bit disappointed to see that she has one sprawling Chevy Chase spread over the northwest flank of the city, rather than including Barnaby Woods, Pinehurst Circle and Hawthorne, which most D.C. maps show as separate areas. I can understand the reluctance to include names that may have been chosen by real estate developers rather than by the city government, but when an area's that big, and it has sub-area names that are in common use, why not include them?

In all, this is a terrific way of looking at the city, a non-traditional view that emphasizes the District's history, diversity and density--and encourages folks to get out and wander into places whose very names seem enticing.

I'm heading over to Stronghold, a D.C. neighborhood that Beorkrem blesses with a presence on her map despite the fact that it's nowhere to be found on any of the major commercial maps of the District and the name has not appeared in The Washington Post for at least the past 28 years. Beorkrem shows the neighborhood as the area between Trinity and Catholic universities, and there are indeed real estate agents who use the term, but it's new to me and to several old D.C. hands I consulted.

Anyway, have a look at the map--what's missing, what's there that shouldn't be? And where do you want to explore that you hadn't heard about before looking at this map?

By Marc Fisher |  December 17, 2008; 7:46 AM ET
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That's a nice map, though I went to Catholic for 4 years and I've never heard of "Stronghold" or "University Heights" for that matter.

Posted by: MattinSW | December 17, 2008 8:25 AM

What, no Swampoodle?

Other than that, it's an impressive piece of work. I think I have to get myself one.

Posted by: staxowax | December 17, 2008 9:04 AM

NoMa? Penn Quarter? For real? Might as well throw in West End if we're going for the land of make-believe.

Posted by: comesthesun2 | December 17, 2008 9:35 AM

Who knew that Lincoln Park stretched all the way to the Anacostia and down to M Street? And here, I thought it ended at 13th...

Posted by: eevolk | December 17, 2008 9:39 AM

Mt. Pleasant seems to have spilled over 16th Street into Columbia Heights. No doubt someone in ANC 1A will get up in arms over that.

I do like the way Buzzard Point was squeezed in on the map down here in SW.

Posted by: legalmoose | December 17, 2008 10:46 AM

marc: the reason you might be having trouble with the stronghold name is that this map has it in the wrong place!

stronghold is the name of the area across from the mcmillan sand filtration site. it's the neighborhood on the east side of north capitol street, northeast of bloomingdale, southwest of trinity university, northwest of glenwood cemetery.

(i learned about stronghold since moving into bloomingdale)

Posted by: IMGoph | December 17, 2008 4:05 PM

It's tough to compare the cities too literally, because they're all missing things. The DC map, for example, should have Van Ness; Manhattan needs Lenox Hill; and Chicago needs Streeterville. So do you compare what's literally there, or what should be there?

Posted by: simpleton1 | December 17, 2008 6:45 PM

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