Henry C. Beck Paris Metro Map 1951


Designer: Henry Beck – Paris Metro Map, 1951


This map design is Henry Beck’s proposal for the Paris Metro in 1951 after his London Underground design had become quite the success. The most important thing to note about this project is that it represents what could have been for Beck’s career, due to France rejecting his design. Even though this work is well known now it was never actually used by France. It was rejected because the French believed that Beck’s style of separating the above ground geography from the below ground railways and stations would not work in Paris due to a lot of their metro being above ground. Another concern was the Paris underground railway also being closer to the surface than the London Tube was. However, there is some speculation that Beck’s reduction of the Parisian geography did not sit well with the locals. Furthermore, some argue that the map looked to “British” for Paris’ style, due to its similarity to his London Underground design. So at the time, Beck’s Paris railway project became useless and never seen again, until it was published for the first time in a 2008 book on the Paris Metro by Mark Ovenden. If Beck did receive the Paris job it would have changed his career and life because he would have been the creator of two major metropolitan railway system maps. Becks name would have most likely been known worldwide by all in the information design industry. It may not have worked out like that, but in the end, Paris eventually switched to the modernist grid system in 1999 after most of the world’s major cities had already been influenced by Beck’s legacy. I personally like this project for multiple reasons. One is the actual aesthetic of the layout and colors. The different lines, including the thicker blue one that represents a river, are very clean, pleasing, and effective. Another reason is the sure feat Beck accomplished laying out this design since there was a lot more interwoven and centered railways in the Paris metro than the London Underground. Not to mention that fact that this project could have been so influential and was practically unknown until 2008.