Wednesday, March 30, 2022

The Fantastical Streetnames of Gothenburg

After World War II the UK government decided to develop a number of new towns in order to help relocate people away from the country's most congested cities. I spent most of my childhood growing up in Crawley, one of these new towns which was built in southern England.

When the town planners of Crawley mapped out their future town they decided to create clusters of streets with thematically named roads. For example in Tilgate (the neighborhood where I lived) there was a small cluster of streets where the roads were all named after painters (Constable Rd, Hogarth Rd, Gainsborough Rd, Whistler Close). There was also a cluster of roads all named for explorers (Drake Rd, Shackleton Rd, Cook Rd). In one area of Tilgate all the roads were given the names of 18th & 19th Century writers (Dickens Rd, Boswell Rd, Johnson Walk). In another area the roads were all named for English cathedral cities (Canterbury Rd, Oxford Rd, Winchester Rd). 

Each neighborhood of Crawley has distinct areas where the streets all have thematically linked roads. One, probably unintended, consequence of this is that you can use these themes when giving directions. So, for example, estate agents will often refer to houses as being in the 'Poets Area' or in the 'Painters Area'. 

Of course many other towns and cities around the world have areas with thematically similar street names. For example the Swedish city of Gothenburg has clusters of streets named after musical instruments, dances, herbs & spices, and even astronomical entities (Planet St, Big Dipper St, North Star St). 

You can explore Gothenburg's street name clusters in more detail on a new interactive map.Silvia Hüttner's Lightyears, Mustard and Diamonds: The Fantastical Streetnames of Gothenburg is a lovely story map which takes you on a guided tour of the thematically named streets of Sweden's second largest city. This tour starts in the area around the city's biggest hospital, where appropriately the streets are named after famous doctors (Doktor Allard Gata, Doktor Salens Gata). Further south in the city is an area where the streets all have a radio theme (Shortwave St, Longwave St, Transistor St). Immediately next to the 'Radio Area is the 'Musical Instrument Area' where (you guessed it) all the streets are named after musical instruments (Piano St, Mandolin St). 

If Silvia's map has inspired you to create a similar map exploring thematically clustered streets in your town or city then you can explore the code for her map on GitHub.

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