Maybe there is no need to repeat the fact that maps are always political. Yet, the 1836 Map of Moscow seems particularly interesting in the way it uses its presumed objectivity to deliver an undoubtedly ideological message.  Published by a ‘whiggish’ London-based “Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge” (SDUK) - organization dedicated to education of the British middle class.

Not intended for navigation or orientation, this map was primarily a pedagogic expedient used for the education of the 19th century British working class—people who would, probably, never visit Moscow.What were the responsibilities of the mapmaker in translating a reality of (cultural) space into an “immutable mobile”, accuracy of which would never be scrutinized by the intended reader? What were the formal means—the rhetorical and representational devices—employed to depict a city that the majority of map’s intended audience would never visit?

In this way, the mapmaker was engaged in the creation of a specific cultural space: of a repository of knowledge that an imagined British working class citizen was ought to be able to navigate. It is not the cultural space of Moscow that this map depicts or creates, but a distant space in which Moscow plays a part as one of the facts of required knowledge, framed and represented according to the mapmakers (SDUK) ideological (presumably ‘whiggish’) agenda. As such, the map can be seen as  constructing an imperial image for the city, using different representational strategies. City is framed as a gestalt, an emblem, a form precisely delineated from its surrounding, easily perceivable and memorizable. Specific buildings are highlighted--institutional and monumental buildings that are related to religion, military functions and administration--while the rest of the fabric was left undifferentiated,  only defined by a street grid.

Architecture indeed provides an image for the city that cannot be achieved otherwise by the map, and the selection of the well known representational typologies also makes the reading and association with their meaning easier. However,  the gray fabric lends itself to multiple interpretation: it can be attributed to ideological ambitions of the mapmaker in depicting this particular city, deliberately using such representational shorthand. Through a deliberate reduction of information the city is rendered as an “institution” and as a proxy for the whole Empire, by selectively showing precisely those typologies. However, the gray tones of the anonymous fabric reveal little about the material reality of the 1836 Moscow. Visual gestures of the map  can also be seen as a representation of the potentially chaotic and still unrecovered city that was destroyed in a fire two decades prior, when it was the (wooden) generic urban fabric that perished, while the (masonry) monuments remained standing.Is it a matter of material endurance or is there a persistent “non-material” type that is diachronic and transcends materiality and function- being therefore resilient to degeneration and ageing?

Although it is more probable that the representational agenda of the map maker stands behind this particular representation strategy, the “after the fire” scenario offers the possibility to think of the city’s cultural space, and of what is sufficient to describe it. Namely, if there exists a relationship between the monument and the “anonymous” fabric that is missing from this map.

This proposed relationship is exemplified in the the German Quarters and Lefortovo Park. The lefortovo park and the architectural complex that is related to it can only be studied in tandem with the German Quarter that provided a specific dynamic for it to be realized. The park, hospitals and palaces are connected with personalities such as Bildoo and Lefort that came out of the German Quarter and were closely associated with the Tzar. This interactions became possible because of the existence of the quarter and its evolution into a center of political and social life of the city. The monument cannot be fully understood without referring to the social and consequently architectural/typological fabric that is associated with it. 

The questions that arise from this example therefore, refer to the entirety of the map and to the act of mapping cultural space at large: what is the relation between the monument and the fabric? What does this say about the resilience of urban form, and its relation to cultural space? Why isn’t this relationship represented? How could it be represented? Would it create a different cultural space of the reader? If the fire of 1812 never happened, would this map look any different?