Meet John Tauranac

John Tauranac writes on New York City’s architectural history, he teaches the subject, he lectures on the city and gives tours, and he designs maps.

Tauranac’s first published maps were New York Magazine’s “Undercover Maps,” which were published in 1972 and 1973. Those maps showed how to stay dry in the wet and warm in the cold by navigating passageways through and under buildings in Midtown and Lower Manhattan.

Maintaining his mole’s eye perspective, Tauranac chaired the subway map committee at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for the bulk of its existence in the late 1970s, and he was the creative director of the official New York City Subway Map that was published in 1979. He oversaw the creation of dozens of other transportation maps for the MTA, and he has designed maps for Historic Battery Park, Avenue Magazine, the Parks Council, both the Grand Central and Lincoln Square Business Improvement Districts, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, both editions of Ken Jackson’s Encyclopedia of New York City (Yale University Press), and the most recent edition of New York From the Air (Harry Abrams).

Maps that are published under the Tauranac imprint include Manhattan Block By Block: A Street Atlas, which was first published in 2000 and is now in its fifth edition, in addition to several different takes on mapping public transportation in New York City. Tauranac Maps publishes a subway system map that is schematic, or diagrammatic, on one side, and geographic on the other; three 8-panel maps of Manhattan that face each other back to back in various combinations – subways and buses, subways and streets, buses and streets – as well as a little Manhattan subway and bus map that folds down to fit in a credit-card case. Despite this map’s petite size, it is remarkably clear and legible. Tauranac’s mantra is “clarity is king.”

Tauranac’s books include the three editions of New York from the Air (Harry Abrams), with photographs by the great aerial photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand, which was first published in 1998. The most recent edition was published in the fall of 2011.

He is also the author of The Empire State Building: The Making of a Landmark (Scribner, 1995; pbk, St. Martin’s Press, 1997); Elegant New York: The Buildings and the Builders, 1885–1915 (Abbeville Press, 1985; reprinted, 1996); Essential New York: A Guide to the History and Architecture of Manhattan’s Important, Parks, and Bridges (Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1979); The View From the 86th Floor: The Empire State Building and New York City (Tauranac Press, various editions, 1998–2010); Seeing New York: The Official MTA Travel Guide (Popular Library-CBS, 1976); and the guidebooks for MTA’s Culture Bus Loops I and II (Municipal Art Society, 1974 and 1975).

Tauranac’s articles have appeared in The New York Times, New York Magazine, The New York Observer, Travel & Leisure, New York Newsday, Seaport Magazine, and other publications. (See Tab 9.)

Tauranac has been teaching for over 25 years at New York’s architectural history at NYU's School of Continuing & Professional Studies, where he is an adjunct associate professor. In 2006, the school presented him with its Award for Teaching Excellence.

He has given lectures and tours for the Museum of the City of New York, the Municipal Art Society, the South Street Seaport Museum, the New York City Transit Museum, the Department of Special Affairs for the Mayor's Office, the Skyscraper Museum, the Art Deco Society of New York, and lectures aboard the Queen Elizabeth II on a westbound trans-Atlantic voyage.

Tauranac was named a Centennial Historian of the City of New York by the Mayor's Office for his work in history in 1999, and he was awarded a Commendation for Design Excellence by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the National Endowment of the Arts in 1980 for his role in the creation of the 1979 subway map.

Tauranac is a graduate of Columbia’s School of General Studies, where he majored in English literature and minored in history, and he did his graduate work in American urban history at NYU’s Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.

He was bred and born on the island of Manhattan, and he lives on Manhattan’s Upper West Side with his wife, Jane Bevans, an artist and lawyer. Their daughter, Maggie, and her husband live nearby.

Read All About Him!

Tauranac as the Subject of Some Newspaper and Magazine Articles

“On the Vaunted City Subway Map, Mistakes and Phantom Blocks,” Matt Flegenheimer, The New York Times, May 2, 2012

“Above It All: ‘New York From the Air’ Hits New Heights With Fresh Photos of an Ever-evolving City,” Gina Pace, Daily News, October 7, 2011

“City Geometry, Seen From Above,” Sam Roberts, The New York Times, October 2, 2011

“Mind the Gap: Incongruent Proximities at HHT Houses,” an interview with John Tauranac in the Newsletter of the Historic House Trust, New York City, Vol. 5, No. 2, Spring, 2010, p. 3. On line at

John Tauranac Talks New York City Subway Map History,” April 29, 2010

“Mr. Subway,” by Alec Wilkinson, “The Talk of the Town,” The New Yorker, January 19, 2009

“The Smartest Guys in the Room,” Municipal Art Society Newsletter, May 12, 2009, on line at

“The King of Maps: No One Knows the Streets of New York Like John Tauranac,” by Jessica Ullian, Columbia Magazine, Spring, 2006

“Creative Minds: John Tauranac, Mapmaker,” The Weekly Reader,

“Unfinished Symphony: A Profile of John Tauranac, Urban and Architectural Historian and New York City Mapmaker Extraordinaire,” by Victoria Kohl, Promenade Magazine, April, 2001

“Miracle on 34th Street: The Empire State Building, The Making of a Landmark,” by Nathan Glazer, The New York Times Sunday Book Review, December 3, 1995

“Behind Grand Central’s Public Areas Lies an Array of ‘Secret’ Chambers,” by David W. Dunlap, The New York Times, February 2, 1988

“At Last, A Usable Subway Map,” by Paul Goldberger, The New York Times, August 2, 1979

“Putting the Subways on a New Map,” by Paul Goldberger, The New York Times, February 9, 1978

“Grand Central,” by Tony Hiss, “The Talk of the Town,” The New Yorker, August 6, 1979

“Going Places,” by Ann Goldstein, “The Talk of the Town,” The New Yorker, July 24, 1978

John Tauranac As a Subject in Some Books

Mapping New York, Seth Robbins and Robert Neuwirth, Black Dog Publishing (UK), 2009, pp. 160–163;

Subway Style: 100 Years of Architecture & Design in The New York City Subway, by Anthony Roberts and the staff of the New York City Transit Museum, Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2004, p. 164;

Transit Maps of the World, by Mark Ovenden, Penguin Books, 2003, 2005, 2007, p. 34;

The Subway: A Trip Through Time on New York’s Rapid Transit, Stan Fischler, H & M Productions, 1997, pp. 166 and 234;

New York 2000: Architecture and Urbanism from the Bicentennial to the Millennium, by Robert A. M. Stern, David Fishman, and Jacob Tilove, The Monicelli Press, 2006, pp. 69, 129;

The New York Chronology, by James Trager, HarperResource (Harper Collins), 2003, pp. 731, 748, 776, 832, 867;

Vignelli Transit Maps, Peter B. Lloyd with Mark Ovendeen, RIT Cary Graphic Arts Press, 2012, pp. 28, 69,76–80, 82, 85n9, 90, 98, 101, 110.

Awards Tauranac Has Received

A Centennial Historian, Designated by the Mayor's Office, 1999, in honor of the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Creation of the City of Greater New York (1898),;

Commendation for Design Excellence, The New York City Subway Map (1979), National Endowment for the Arts & U. S. Department of Transportation, Design for Transportation: National Awards Pro-gram, Washington, D.C., 1981;

Award for Teaching Excellence, New York University School of Continuing & Professional Studies, 2006,

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