Otto Neurath: Mapping the City as a Social Fact?

Sophie Hochhäusl


1937 Map, 1937. Source: Architectural Record, July 1937, p. 56 In 1937 Otto Neurath (1882–1945) created a map that revolutionized the illustration of the city. Neurath was of course famous for his engagement with picture statistics and quantitative maps at large, but his 1937 map marked the beginning of a new tradition: socio-political mapping in the field of urbanism. Originally designed in color, Neurath’s map titled City Planning appeared in black, white and red in “Architectural Record” in July 1937 and accompanied the text, Visual Representations of Architectural Problems. Compound of ISOTYPE symbols, ISOTYPE hatches and the spatial abstraction of a city, this map was crucial to the discipline of urbanism, because it represented the first comprehensive solution in illustrating spatial implications and socio-political components. In addition the article directly responded to Neurath’s failed collaboration with CIAM (Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne) in 1933 (Otto Neurath, “Visual Representation of Architectural Problems,” Architectural Record, July 1937: p. 56–61). But this map is not only crucial because it stood at the beginning of a new tradition and because it was Neurath’s answer to the largest mapping project of its time; the 1937 map is also important, because it marked Neurath’s culmination point of theorizing the city while at the same time putting an end to Neurath’s discussion on architecture and urbanism, which he actively engaged with for more than two decades. For the workshop “Picturing Social Facts. On Neurath's Visual Language” I want to elaborate on the evolution of this map in detail and explain how it came about that Neurath eventually pictured spatial parameters of the city as social facts. I want to do this by casting some light on Neurath’s ambivalent relationship with CIAM, but also in terms of Neurath`s specific skill and mind-set, which eventually superseded the architects’ undertaking in illustrating the city. In uncovering these roots, I want to stress that it was Neurath who introduced the field of urbanism to the socio-political analysis of the city.


20th century philosophy; architecture; philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; architecture; CIAM; city planning; isotype; mapping; Neurath Otto

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