Imagining the Mundane: The Invented Cities of Robert Berlo

Island Lakes, an invented city of Robert Berlo

High Country News has a remarkable obituary of one Robert Berlo, an army chaplain and map collector whose 13,000 travel maps were recently acquired by Stanford University’s Branner Earth Sciences Library. The collection includes “every official state road map from 1929 to the present, plus U.S. Forest Service, topographic, regional and city maps,” according to the article.

The real treasures of Berlo’s collection, however, were the maps of places he’d invented himself. Berlo used “the real geography of a place as the foundation for an invented city,” and imagined the evolution of the community from its first settlement to its latest metropolitan guise, creating a new map for each decade of its existence. Island Lakes, shown here, occupies a lake valley of Admiralty Island in the Alexander Archipelago of southeastern Alaska, about 50 miles south of Juneau. What I love about Island Lakes is the very lack of whimsicality in Berlo’s fidelity to the everyday grid that characterizes most modern cities. All he’s done is create another place that might have appeared on any of the 13,000 maps he collected in his lifetime. A man loyal to his passion, certainly.

I haven’t been able to find any other examples of Berlo’s imaginary maps, but I’d certainly be interested to hear of them.

Island Lakes, an invented city of Robert Berlo

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  • Tim Absolon April 25, 2013 Reply

    Great. Realistic.It could have been gifen more details around piers and enterance at parks.

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