Eric Fischers map of Seattle by photography: blue is for locals, red is for tourists, yellow is for unknown.
  • Eric Fischer's map of Seattle by photography: blue is for locals, red is for tourists, yellow is for unknown.
Before I fell down a giant hole of seasonal illness that lasted an entire week, I attended James Corner's town-hall meeting about the future of Seattle's waterfront, which played to a packed crowd at Seattle Aquarium.

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It felt like the old days, when big-name architects and designers gave big-picture speeches and presentations before being whisked back to their faraway offices to design museums and concert halls and libraries. Remember that economy, that energy? (While designing Tacoma Art Museum, Southwest-based architect Antoine Predock conducted a breathless love affair with Mount Rainier, which resulted in a hilariously earnest collage that I wish I had an image of now. I remembered it when Corner waxed poetic about the "life of the ferry." This in no way is a sign of a bad design to come: Predock's TAM is pretty great in most ways, once you know how to find it.)

Seattle's waterfront is more than overdue for a redesign. It has never actually had a comprehensive, implemented urban design, despite several attempts. But the truth is, nobody knows how a revamp will be paid for. And Corner's preliminary presentation didn't reveal much. It was a series of observations by an out-of-towner demonstrating his education process; it was full of information about what is, not what will be.

One of Corner's slides was a work of art by someone he called a Seattle artist called Eric Fisher. I didn't know who this was, so I did a little digging, and came up with the man in question: Eric Fischer, a San Francisco area digital cartographer who has never actually been to Seattle. (I'm sorry if you already know about him due to the Internet being fast and me being slow.)

Seattle was one of the cities Fischer included in his 2010 series of maps of where locals versus tourists take pictures in cities around the world.

In what look like heat maps—created using the geotagging in picture databases—blue marks represent pictures taken by locals (people shooting for less than a month in the city), red represents pictures taken by tourists, and yellow are unknown. Corner's point was that Seattle's waterfront gets love both from tourists and locals alike, and any redevelopment of it should serve residents as much as tourists, he stressed.

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Last fall, Fischer created another set of maps. He used Census data to color-code 100 American cities according to race and ethnicity. New York's the only real rainbow.

In an email, Fischer says he's now working on understanding traffic patterns in order to help improve transit service. And he'll be mapping 2010 Census data as it's released.