Cartozoological Urban Planning Coming to Southern Sudan


On June 19th, 2003 three men met at the Tekehtopa restaurant in Oslo and founded the Norwegian Cartozoologic Society. What exactly is cartozoology? The society’s website defines it as, “The science or practice of discovering and studying animals outlined paradigmatically by street layouts as they appear on maps, especially with reference to physical evidence of the animals’ presence in the corresponding terrain.” There’s a list of animal shapes they have found, mostly in Oslo. However the society also accepts submissions of cartozoological findings, given it meets three conditions, one of which is “the animal should emerge.”

Other examples have popped up on the Internet, whether they know they are cartozoologists or not. Animals on the Underground is a site that finds cartoon-like animals in the maps of London’s metro system. Graphic artist Kentaro Nagai has also produced a series of illustrations rearranging the map of the world in to the animals of the Chinese zodiac in a piece called “Twelve Animals.”

But now, this obscure, observational science is getting some publicity. This week the government of Southern Sudan, which is autonomous from Sudan and will vote on a referendum for independence next year, announced that they would remodel its 10 state capitals in the shapes of animals and fruits. Officials estimate the project will cost about $10 billion and take about 20 years.

The regional capital city of Juba will be modeled after a rhinoceros (pictured above). Another state capital, Wau, is set to resemble a giraffe. The placement of buildings will correspond to parts of the animal. For example, the president’s office in Juba is set to be located in the eye of the rhino, while the city’s industrial area will be along the animals back. Fittingly, in Wau, the sewage treatment plant will be at the giraffe’s backside. The town of Yambio will resemble of a pineapple. The choses correlate to the states’ flags.

Sundt, who along with Pihl and Bringsværd serve as secretary generals of the Norwegian society, is wary of the government’s project. In his newsletter he wrote, “It pains us to say it, but even if the idea is beautiful, we are afraid that the [South] Sudanese authorities haven’t got their priorities straight.” BBC reports that South Sudan’s total annual budget is only $2 billion and that the UN estimates 9 out of 10 Southern Sudanese live on less than $1 a day.

Main image: Pete Muller/AP Photo