Walk the city: New illustrated maps of Asia’s oldest neighbourhoods feature art by local creatives

Photo: Connie Yuen drawing her map of Sheung Wan / iDiscover

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 It’s difficult not to fall in love with these hand drawn maps of some of Asia’s most enigmatic cities. Each map is more like a poetic ode to an old neighbourhood than a navigational tool. Illustrated by local designers, the maps have a personal touch that provides insight into the spirit of the city. Better still, these little pieces of art come with a savvy app, so you can wander around just like a local.

iDiscover collaborates with young and upcoming local designers to create friendly and helpful maps for the historical neighbourhoods of Hong Kong, Macau, Yangon, Jakarta and other Indonesian cities. Coconuts recently sat down with iDiscover to find out more about this process of artful mapping.

In Hong Kong, designer Connie Yuen spent 2 months hand drawing her map of Sheung Wan. We found out what inspired her. “It’s the daily interactions between people on the street and the many old trees in one of my favourite neighbourhoods in Hong Kong”, she said.

Photo: Connie Yuen and her map of Sheung Wan / iDiscover

In a very different and equally unique style, designer Que Chan walked the crowded, gritty streets of Sham Shui Po and drew its pawnshops, teahouses, street markets, signboards and tattoo parlours in intricate detail. “I love Sham Shui Po, it is authentic, honest and raw and has everything that makes Hong Kong so unique”.

Photo: Intricate details of the streets of Sham Shui Po / iDiscover

Don Mak’s signature brushstroke style is in popular demand, yet he was excited to take on this job of portraying a rapidly gentrifying Aberdeen. “I loved designing a neighbourhood map for Aberdeen. The new MTR station was still under construction when I was working on the map, so the fabric of the neighbourhood was untouched; I imagine it will change once the MTR opens. I enjoy and am inspired by this quiet and traditional Hong Kong street life”.

Photo: Don Mak’s map of the ‘floating village’ Aberdeen in Macau / iDiscover

In Indonesia Dewi Soewono drew inspiration from traditional Balinese paintings for the map of bustling Denpasar, Abiyaasa Adiguna Legawa created a map of the charming colonial hill town Bandung in true art deco style while Astrid Prasetianti inserted the vibrant colours of Jakarta’s urban potpourri in the maps for Kota Tua and Glodok: “This job makes me proud of my hometown. We take what we see every day for granted, so it’s nice to see a city through someone else’s eyes”.

Photo: The vibrant colours of Kota Tua and Glodok in Jakarta / iDiscover

Macau’s pastel coloured facades inspired the colour scheme of Tun Ho’s map of St. Lazarus, a lesser known but quietly captivating neighbourhood, hidden just behind the city’s famous St. Paul’s ruins.

Kay Tung designed the map of Old Taipa; once a sleepy fishing village on a remote island, now surrounded by casinos and hotels, where hunting for traces of the past is a joyous adventure: an old shrimp paste workshop, a firecracker factory, a temple with underground dragons, claypot brewed coffee and that unique mix of Portuguese/Chinese cuisine.

Yangon’s historic heart has four distinctly different parts, colourful Chinatown, bustling Indian Quarter, the grand monumental central Pansodan Boulevard and finally the lush and green streets around the city’s grandest building: the Secretariat.

Photo: Four routes to explore Maynamar’s old capital Yangon / iDiscover

iDiscover found four different designers to capture the spirit of each place, for example Ryan Pyae’s soft colours for the Secretariat guide map are in stark contrast with Mekong Kyaw Swar’s choice for a dark and bright palette for Chinatown, which as we all know, only comes truly alive at night.

So why this combination of an app and a map?

“It is the app that we built first. People liked the app, but we also realised that travellers still find comfort in the good old paper map when in a new place” says Ester van Steekelenburg, iDiscover’s founder.

“The App&Map is a winning combination. The illustrators can be very free in their designs, because the maps don’t need to be information heavy. That’s where the App comes in: kitted out with GPS maps and packed with all the necessary background information on the sites: practical stuff, but also colourful anecdotes and lots of photos and videos. It even includes tips in the local language so you know what to order in a local tea house in Hong Kong or buy that puppet from a puppet maker in Surabaya.”

Photo: Edchi and Kelv from Little Importance with their Kowloon City Map / iDiscover

Wondering where to get the maps? Check out iDiscover for a list of selected cafés and restaurants where you can pick up the free maps. To get ready for your trip, download the iDiscover app from iTunes or Google Play.

Together the App&Map bring you the authentic and the honest in Asia’s oldest neighbourhoods, all curated by locals. And if you happen to get lost, take it easy and have fun. The app will guide you back home.

Websites of designers:

Connie Yuen: http://www.maoshanc.com/

Que Chan: https://www.chanqueen.com/

Don Mak: http://www.donmak.hk/

Little Importance: http://www.little-importance.com/

Abiyaasa Adiguna Legawa: https://www.behance.net/abiyasaadiguna

Dewi Soewono: http://www.devisoewono.com/

Astrid: http://www.astridpr.com/

Tun Ho: https://www.behance.net/tunho

Kay Tung: http://kaytung.lofter.com/ 

Ryan Pyae: https://www.behance.net/ryanpyae

Mekong Kyaw Swar: https://dribbble.com/mdesignygn

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