The book is organized into ten chapters, defining the terms related to cartography by its chapter title and profiling cartographic techniques related to the chapter. A powerful foreword written by Mohsen Mostafavi, dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Design, and concluding remarks in the afterword by Antoine Picon, director of research also at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, two key figures in architecture education and research, complement the book.
The book is an easy read, since it is mainly populated with powerful map imagery, with a couple of pages or so in length of text for each chapter. This provides a balance between theory and practice in cartography, with a focus on landscape analysis and design. Many of the maps are not “traditional” maps. Contemporary maps are transformed into beautiful diagrams of the landscape that are depicted as stylized plans, definitely marketing to a landscape architecture/architecture audience. There really is no other book on this subject matter that has such rich visuals (both contemporary approach and historical references), and that tackles mapping terminologies in a technical and poetic way. Else/Where: Mapping—New Cartographies of Networks and Territories, by Janet Abrams and Peter Hall, published in 2006, is somewhat similar. However, Cartographic Grounds targets the ten aspects of cartography in a technical and visually exciting way.
Technical references are explained in a poetic manner that makes the publication engaging rather than a dull technical textbook. Various mapping techniques are beautifully showcased with historical and contemporary maps crafted by landscape architects, architects, or graphic artists and highlight1creative new ways to visually express2 the ground. The maps are works of art and visual instruments, offering a dual characteristic, stimulating the visual sense and satisfying the intellectual side. The book includes maps and text about James Corner, Richard Saul Wurman, Hargraeves, Gustafson, OMA, Groundlab, StossLU, Stan Alan, and Stamen Design—all leaders in design, visual representation, and data visualizations. Some of the maps and diagrams are presented with a title and, in some cases, a narrative about the technique of its composition. The map captions include the geo-coordinates of the site as well.