The Spring Geography Colloquium Presents: Patrick Ellis – “On the Whole”: City Models, Cartography, and Aerial Vision


April 8, 2019

Film & Media Department alumni Patrick Ellis (Georgia Institute of Technology) to give a lecture as part of the Spring 2019 Geography Colloquium. Info below.


A model of San Francisco originally made by the Works Progress Administration was recently put back on exhibit. Every home and street, every field and dune, every pier and monument, all cast in miniature and spread out over 1,500 square feet, capturing the city as it appeared in 1939. The model has served many purposes, from urban planning to simple spectacle. It may seem a sui generis artifact, but it has its precedents.

This talk explores the long history of such model, miniature cities and their varied purposes. Surveying the medium from the Napoleonic plan-relief to the 3D-printed variants of today, I zoom in on the model city of the Balloon Era, when many of the surviving particularities of this format were established. Before relief maps would become available to lay audiences, before tethered balloons provided views for a paying public, immense models of Paris, London, and other metropolises toured within showman circuits, expressly functioning as approximations of the aerial view. These models, lost at the borderland of the histories of cartography and media, simulated the view from a balloon, slowing down and shrinking civic life to a state that encouraged its contemplation, and allowing for a careful accounting of a customarily fast-moving object: the city.

This lecture will take place Wednesday, April 10th from 3:30-5:00PM in 575 McCone Hall