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Mapping the Sense of a Place


Little seems to be known about international Frenchman of mystery Jacques Liozu despite a prolific working life.

Liozu illustratively-mapped much of France and the Americas; occasionally ventured to the UK; took in a few neighbouring European lands; and, explored Australia, Asia…and Finland.


Sharing a home town with Toulouse-Lautrec, Liozu was born – nine years after the famous painter died – in 1910 in the southern French town of Albi. He, in turn, died in 1974 in Bourg-Madame, a commune in the Pyrénés-Orientales department, in the even more southern part of France, adjacent to the border with Spain. 

At some point between those dates Liozu worked for a number of publishers, notably Odé, Chantel de Toulouse and Librairie Gründ. We presume it was for these companies that he produced so many maps.

Bumping into Jacques Liozu

We stumbled across Jacques Liozu’s work in the course of ours. A project suggested an illustrated map – one in which a flavour of a region could be depicted with a sprinkling of site-specific ‘heritage stories’.

Liozu was a master at this particular art. Cut away the slightly twee embellishments around his maps and his insight, wit and charm out-guns some of the best protagonists of today. During the 1950s and 1960s our man produced many pieces, each, presumably commissioned to promote a region to tourists – although, it’s hard to be sure.

Examine each map closely and you’ll discover, quite literally, a world of stories. Imbued with a light, humorous style the Liozu maps reveal much of what a place had to offer. A town famous for its cheese here, a distillery there; coal mining here, ship building over there and sheep up above. 

Macro vs. micro

These maps tell you very little about individual locations, preferring to give you a broad overview. They give a great ‘sense of place’, something we often talk about at Tandem. They show a potted history, through centuries; juxtaposing a Roman centurion against a pit worker; a spectacular cathedral next to a man guzzling vino (France, obviously).

In theory, these maps shouldn’t work. The pan-history episodes should confuse the viewer: there were centuries between the Romans and the coal miners! But they don’t confuse at all. They show how interesting a region’s past can be. They show how a melting pot of events, both great and small, help colour and flavour a place.

As a tool for interpretation, an illustrated map provides a great starting point when your geographical extent is wide. Presented with a smörgåsbord of experiences spread across a whole region, the illustrated map has the potential to help the visitor choose which flavour best suits their tastes – and leave them hungry for more.

Rebecca Gilbert