John Tauranac

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John Tauranac (born, 1939, New York City) writes on New York history and architecture, he teaches the subject and gives tours of the city, and he designs city maps and transit maps.

His first published maps (1972 and 1973) were New York Magazine’s “Undercover Maps,” which showed how to navigate passageways through and under buildings in Midtown and Lower Manhattan so you could stay dry in the wet and warm in the cold.

Tauranac wrote the guidebooks for the Culture Bus Loops operated by New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority as a freelance project for the Municipal Art Society (1973, 1974), whereupon he was hired by the MTA to write and edit “Seeing New York: The Official MTA Travel Guide,” which included a depiction of the subway in a geographic light (1976). He went on to chair the MTA subway map committee and to be the design chief of the 1979 subway map (along with Michael Hertz, credited for the design)[1] which, in addition to depicting the subway in a geographic perspective, simplified the system with the introduction of a color-coding system based on trunk lines. For his dual roles, he was awarded a commendation for design excellence by the National Endowment for the Arts and the U.S. Department of Transportation. He has since designed dozens of maps, many under the Tauranac imprint, including Manhattan Block By Block: A Street Atlas.

Tauranac’s books include The Empire State Building: The Making of a Landmark, Elegant New York, Essential New York, and The View From the 86th Floor. His articles have appeared in The New York Times, The New York Observer, The Wall Street Journal, Travel + Leisure, New York Magazine, Seaport Magazine, The Encyclopedia of New York City, and other publications. Tauranac teaches New York City history and architecture at NYU’s School of Continuing & Professional Studies, where he was given an award for teaching excellence in 2006.

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the consolidation of New York City, Tauranac was named a Centennial Historian of the City of New York by the Mayor’s Office for his work in history.

He serves on the advisory board of the Art Deco Society of New York and on the board of the Cornwall Connecticut Historical Society in Connecticut.

Tauranac received his undergraduate degree from Columbia University’s School of General Studies, where he majored in English literature, and his graduate degree from New York University’s Graduate School of Arts and Science, where his area of study was American urban history.

He lives on Manhattan’s Upper West Side with his wife and daughter.

Selected Books[edit]

  • Essential New York: A Guide to the History and Architecture of Manhattan’s Important Buildings, Parks, and Bridges, with over 170 photographs by Dave Sagarin, 1979, Holt Rinehart & Winston;
  • Elegant New York: The Builders and The Buildings, 1885–1915, 1985, Abbeville Press;
  • The Empire State Building: The Making of a Landmark, 1995, Scribner; 1997, St. Martin’s Press;
  • The View From the 86th Floor: The Empire State Building and New York City, various editions, 1997–;
  • New York From the Air: An Architectural Heritage, 1998, Harry N. Abrams; revised, 2002.

Selected maps[edit]

  • New York City Subway map Prototype, MTA, 1978;
  • New York City Subway map, MTA, 1979;
  • Manhattan Subway and Bus map-Wallet Size, Tauranac Maps, 1989, revised;
  • Manhattan Block By Block: A Street Atlas, Tauranac Maps, 2000, revised;
  • Manhattan Line By Line: A Subway & Bus Atlas, Tauranac Maps, 2004.


  1. ^ Gothamist: Michael Hertz, Designer of the NYC Subway Map

Further reading[edit]

  • Anderson, Susan Heller and David W. Dunlap, “Faraway Undergrounds,” The New York Times, October 4, 1985
  • Brown, Tony, “Grand Central Tour Reveals Some Secrets,” Gannett Westchester News-papers, October 11, 1985
  • Dunlap, David W., “Behind Grand Central’s Public Areas Lies an Array of ‘Secret’ Chambers,” The New York Times, February 2, 1988
  • Dunlap, David W., “New Maps to Help Rider Gain His Journey’s End,” The New York Times, December 17, 1985
  • Glazer, Nathan, “Miracle on 34th Street: The Empire State Building, The Making of a Landmark,” The New York Times Sunday Book Review, December 3, 1995
  • “Going Places,” The Talk of the Town, The New Yorker, July 24, 1978
  • Goldberger, Paul, “At Last, A Usable Subway Map,” The New York Times, August 2, 1979
  • Goldberger, Paul, “Putting the Subways on a New Map,” The New York Times, February 9, 1978
  • Henican, Ellis, “Mapless TA Goes Own Way: John Tauranac makes maps. He makes wonderful maps,” New York Newsday, May 28, 1992
  • Hiss, Tony, “Grand Central,” The Talk of the Town, The New Yorker, August 6, 1979
  • Holt, Dennis, “Nostalgic Journey Into the Beginnings of Our Subways,” The Phoenix (Brooklyn), February 2, 1984
  • Huxtable, Ada Louise, “A Mansion That Deserves More Than Platitudes,” The New York Times, December 27, 1979
  • Kohl, Victoria, “Unfinished Symphony: A Profile of John Tauranac, Urban and Architec-tural Historian and New York City Mapmaker Extraordinaire,” Promenade Magazine, April, 2001
  • McGhee, Tom, “He Gets You There By Subway,” The Westsider, June 22, 1989
  • McHugh, Claire, “The Transom: Subterranean Blues,” The New York Observer, June 15, 1992
  • Mindlin, Alex, “Forecast: Mostly Sunny,” The New York Times, April 23, 2006
  • National Endowment for the Arts & U. S. Department of Transportation, Design for Transportation: National Awards Program, Washington, D.C., 1981
  • New York City Transit Museum, Subway Style: 100 Years of Architecture & Design in The New York City Subway, Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2004
  • Shepard, Richard F., “Going Out Guide: Face of the City,” The New York Times, De-cember 12, 1985
  • Shepard, Richard F., “Going Out Guide: On the Town,” The New York Times, July 11, 1979
  • Stern, Robert A. M., David Fishman, and Jacob Tilove, New York 2000: Architecture and Urbanism from the Bicentennial to the Millennium, The Monicelli Press, 2006
  • Swertlow, Eleanor, “New Tour Heralds City’s Trivia,” The New York Daily News, July 28, 1975
  • Trager, James, The New York Chronology, HarperResource (Harper Collins), 2003
  • Ullian, Jessica, “The King of Maps: No One Knows the Streets of New York Like John Tauranac,” Columbia Magazine, Spring, 2006
  • Wilkinson, Alec, “Mr. Subway,” The Talk of the Town, The New Yorker, January 19, 2009

External links[edit]