Corlis Benefideo Award

Rebecca Solnit, 2015–16

The North American Cartographic Information Society (NACIS) was pleased and proud to announce the winner of the 2015—2016 Corlis Benefideo Award for Imaginative Cartography on October 16, 2015 at the NACIS conference in Minneapolis. Rebecca Solnit is the recipient, and the award will be presented to her collaborator Joshua Jelly-Schapiro at the 2016 NACIS conference in Colorado Springs.

Rebecca Solnit is an acclaimed writer with a varied career. A contributing editor at Harper’s, she has published seventeen books about the environment, landscape, community, art, politics, and stories. The award committee selected her particularly for her two published atlases, Infinite City, about San Francisco, and Unfathomable City, about New Orleans. A third atlas, Nonstop Metropolis, about New York, was released in September 2016. The books are a combination of on-the-ground, fact-based cartographic realism and eloquent and poetic dialogue about place. They bring to mature fruition a vision of roots-based, personal and evocative mapping suggested by critics of the field for more than a quarter century, and so present a model for other cartographers to play off of in our daily work.

Her work is precisely the kind of thing that NACIS had in mind when we formulated the award: too many cartographers find their work and careers framed in terms of cold facts, and too many people whose imaginations could benefit from the rigorous tradition of cartography find themselves unable to reconcile themselves to our field. We want to use the award as a way to bridge those gaps, to make it easier for map-makers and prospective map-makers in a variety of disciplines to have the conversations we need to have to make better maps. It is about stretching cartography, without breaking it. We need to keep remaking cartography anew, and this award points to people whose work forces us see maps and the world they describe in a new and surprising ways. As one of our members, Steven Holloway, puts it, we need to help “make a future possible.”

The Corlis Benefideo Award is named after the master mapmaker who is the subject of Barry Lopez’s short story “The Mappist,” which is collected in Light Action in the Caribbean. The name is used with the permission of Mr. Lopez, with our grateful thanks.