When I first saw the picture of it, I wasn’t really sure what am I looking at. Is it some kind of a fantasy map of some game, or just some imaginational countries lying in the middle of the water? But, when you take a closer look, then you recognise Earth’s continents, first Australia and Asia, then you see Africa on the top left corner and then you think to your self – oooh, right, this is somekind of a map of the world.
And you are right! This is called the AuthaGraph World Map, and is an interesting representation of spatial relations of continents. It’s author is a Japanese architect Hajime Narukawa, who was born in 1971. He graduated in 1994 from the Shibaura Institute of Technology, Tokyo National University of Fine Arts with a master’s degree in 1996, and the Berlage Institute in Rotterdam with a master’s degree in 1999. He is also a founder of Authagraph CO, that was opened in 2009.
AuthaGraph is a Tokyo based Japanese company that dedicated themselves in research and development based on geometrical studies mainly by means of model making. The company then carefully applied these pure geometrical ideas to practical use according to various social needs in design, fine art and engineering. The’AuthaGraph World Map’ is an interesting result of that. It represents all oceans, continents including Antarctica which has been neglected in many existing maps in ‘approximately’ proper sizes. The idea of this projection method, which is a bit unusual, was developed through an intensive research by modelling spheres and polyhedral, and then the idea was applied to cartography.
The traditional map we grew up in school with was designed by cartographer Gerardus Mercator, who was the world’s most famous geographer in the 16th century. His map based on a new projection that shows sailing courses of constant bearing as straight lines. It depicts Earth on a surface of cylinder, which is than flattened. Mercator projections are still widely used nowadays, especially in nautical charts for navigation.
With this new projection, Hajime Narukawa supposedly solved a 447-year-old problem of the inaccurate and highly distorted traditional world map. The traditional Mercator map tried to flatten the spherical globe but greatly distorted Greenland and Australia in the process. Narakuwa’s design is based on an idea of dividing the world into 96 triangles, flatting and transferring into a tetrahedron form. This dividing technique allows the map to be unfolded into a rectangle while still keeping the proportions of the continent. Narukawa‘s creation breaks other rules by throwing cardinal directions completely out. This map provides a decentralized world view. The map projection tries to reflect an infinite multiverse perspective that is intended for the understanding of global phenomena in the 21st century. The projection is useful for tessellation (means tiling of a plane, using one or more geometric shapes-tiles, with no overlaps and no gaps). AuthaGraph projection can also be used for depicting temporal themes, such as a satellite’s long-term movement around the earth in a continuous line.
AuthaGraph world map also brings up some questions, like the position of Antarctica. Why is it off South America but not souther than New Zealand? The meridians and parallels are not perpendicular to each other, which doesn’t make it useful for navigation. There is also some distortion in South America – especially Brasil, which looks larger than USA, but is in fact about 15% smaller in surface area. Position of Iceland is also a bit unusual, because we are used to seeing it just north-west of UK, but now is actually on the other side of the map, next to Greenland.
In the end it is worth mentioning that Narukawa’s AuthaGraph World Map, which was unveiled in this year (2016), won the coveted Grand Award of Japan’s Good Design Award competition, beating out over 1,000 entries in a variety of categories.