What does the slightly stylish traveller, city explorer or cultural person-about-town carry for orientation purposes these days?
Wallpaper* City Guides are a bit stiff, both in the handling (small, thick books are nicer to look at than to use) and in the content (so self-conscious and, well, trying). Even though Shelf Appeal appreciates the thought of Tyler Brûlé (the Tom Ford of media who came up with Wallpaper magazine) lining up the whole set – just so – in his Swiss chalet. It’s not enough to win them a place in the Margaret Howell back-pack.
A substantial edition of the relevant updated Pevsner would be acceptable whilst motoring around portions of the UK. Somehow I always forgive those books their lack of images because the detail is so magnificent and the tone so personal. But what if you are travelling further a-field, Europe or the Americas? Mr Pevsner left glaring gaps in his back catalogue.
An Ordinance Survey map is a wonderful thing. I never get over the cleverness of the symbols and the beauty of the delicate graphics. But they’re not so hot in urban jungles. A standard A-Z Map will go a long way to solving matters mappage and feels full of potential in a way Google Maps on your iPhone doesn’t. And the covers haven’t changed for, like, ever, which is rather nice.
But sometimes you want just a little bit more. A little bit more designed and a little bit more, well, knowing. A set of 3 Herb Lester fold-out maps might well do the trick if you find yourself in London. Although they just added a 4th New York map, excusing a return trip there, perhaps? Their maps have nice illustrations (although maybe they could squeeze in even more) mid-century-feel graphics, quirky themes and attention to lots of details. All of which makes them eminently nice things. One can’t help but feel a tasteful paper wallet should be coming soon, too, to carry them all neatly together.
Finally, something city-types would be relieved and pleased to open up across a small Formica-topped table (avoiding dipping them in your cappuccino, please) and use to plan the day away.