Last year, when the Violet Line expanded to become the Heritage Line, it took me a few weeks not to startle, expecting an earthquake drill, every time my bowl of sambhar rumbled as a train passed my usual lunch spot by Janpath station. Even though I commuted through that very underground metropolis, it was hard to fathom which dragon underneath shook up my sambhar – was it on its way to Kashmere Gate? Escorts Mujesar?
Wayfinding genius and Paris-based architect Jug Cerovic debugs it: “You cannot really see the network as most of it is hidden underground, you need a representation to make it tangible,” he tells us via email. This is why he designed a simple representation of Delhi’s increasingly complex metro-world on a map -- one that’s earned him a windfall of praise on Delhi Twitter and multiple requests to the city’s ruling AAP government to adopt it officially.
“The map is the network,” Cerovic says. The map is also the city. (Who would’ve known Connaught Place’s inner circle as Rajiv Chowk if not for the metro?) That’s the beauty of it: Cerovic’s design makes a coherent maze of Delhi’s eight metro lines – existing and ‘coming soon’ – as well as the little balloon of Gurgaon’s Rapid Metro. They form a clear, colourful pattern of complementary curves and identical angles. They look like – Delhi.
“But this is not enough, you need a story so that these shapes get connected together in the mental image of the network that your mind will produce,” he explains. So, besides its metro lines, he also renders vital elements of Delhi’s topography, such as the Yamuna, the forgotten 35 kilometres of its older Ring Rail system, as well as Suburban railway lines snaking to satellite towns of Sonipat, Rohtak, Palwal, etcetera.
After this map started doing the rounds online, a Twitter user pointed out: “Don’t u think its kinda similar to London underground?” That speaks to Cerovic’s idea: a common “nomenclature” and “standard” for all the cities, as he told Slate; one metro world (also the name of a book he’s published with his firm, INAT).
Meanwhile, a small Twitter campaign started up to give Cerovic’s map official status as the Delhi Metro map. The DMRC (Delhi Metro Rail Corporation) and the government are yet to respond. We called Ankit Lal, the social media strategist of Delhi’s ruling Aam Aadmi Party, who said: “After the ongoing assembly session winds up tomorrow, I will discuss it with Satyendar Jain.” Jain looks after the public works and urban development portfolios.
Were the government to sign up for it, Delhi wouldn’t be the first to adopt a Cerovic map for its metro: Seoul already has. In any case, Cerovic and INAT make their work available to commuters on their apps (iOS and Android). Were this map to be rendered in languages other than English, it would be improbable to get lost on the metro or beyond. (The design also ensures that no commuter will ever twist their neck trying to read the diagonal text on the indicators inside the metro coaches.) Interchange stations are also simpler to pinpoint -- each has a traffic-signal-like set of coloured dots to indicate the meeting lines.
Yet, Cerovic believes, “Colour is necessary but not enough.” (Think colour blind users.) To this end, he gives a number to every metro-line and capitalizes the names of the first stations on either end of each line. “I believe the map I’ve built is an efficient tool, even if printed in black and white.” Perfect clarity.
Akshita Nagpal is an independent multimedia-journalist based in New Delhi.
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