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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Bird’s Eye view captures graffiti for the Internet age

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To my delight, I have recently discovered that Live Search Maps, while being less user-friendly, and lacking many of the features of Google Maps, has expanded their “Bird’s Eye” view across many cities, including Montreal (the feature has been available here for quite awhile but only for a small section of Downtown).  The Bird’s Eye feature is more or less just an improvement on the conventional satellite aerial view we all know in Google Maps (Live Search also has aerial views which are actually much sharper than the views currently offered by Google).  With this view, you see your location from above, but looking from an angle rather than from directly overhead.  As a result, so long as it isn’t blocked by something taller, you can get a view of an entire building and can even rotate the view to see from four different sides.  It’s not as neat as Google’s Street View but until Google finally puts their photos of Montreal online, Bird’s Eye (and the recently disappeared Toronto-based Virtual City) are the best we have for now.

One very interesting thing that I found while flying above Montreal was this graffiti (pictured above) painted on the roof of a building downtown.  Traditionally, graffiti writers obviously generally aim to put their work in a place where it can be seen by the greatest number of eyes (while finding a balance of not being too visible in order to allude authorities), which usually doesn’t mean on flat rooftops where only a few people in tall buildings nearby can see it.  However, these writers (ALVENO, KODE, and MP) seem to have the fact that almost everybody now has every rooftop in the city at their fingertips in mind, and have exploited that fact to get the kind of exposure that previously could have only been obtained if one was lucky enough to get their work immortalized in a published photo, or in the backdrop of a film.  With the new technology discussed above, their tags will be accessible by anybody with a computer for as long as the tag stays on the roof and the photos are updated.



  1. This is nice. It would be cool though if they made nice looking art and not those fugly tags that anyone can make. The type of “art” made by most Montreal street vandals is quite an embarrassment for such an artistic city. If you are going to do something bad, then do it well, or at least be creative for gosh’s sake.

  2. That is actually the roof of the Royal Montreal Curling Club’s rinks on de Maisonneuve between St. Marc and St. Mathieu.

  3. Google street wiew ne sera jamais disponible au Canada parce que c’est illégale

  4. Never say never… Canada says it’s “probably illegal,” since people are identifiable and a company cannot disclose personal information (in this case, pictures of them) without their consent, but it hasn’t been tested.

    Similarly (although different laws), a Québec woman already took a magazine to court because she had her picture published and didn’t like it. She won $2,000 (not the $10,000 she was looking for), but more importantly, the court said you need to get permission from people before you publish a picture. In Québec anyway, although apparently the results would probably be the same elsewhere in Canada, too.

    The law does allow pictures of people at events — say, a demonstration — to be published, so perhaps Google with fancy lawyers could somehow find a way to argue the law.

    But if I were them, I’d just hire some programmers to blur the people in the picutres. Voilà, instantly legal.

  5. Best “3D” views I’ve seen short of Streetview in other cities. Sorta glad they took them during the leafy season.

    I wish they could be integrated into (Montréal-only) Navigateur Urbain, which is the most useful multi-layered data overlay map system I’ve seen, with better resolution satellite views than Google’s.

    When Google first published Streetviews, I looked around San Francisco, where I used to live, and it was a bit creepy being able to see people up close, in neighbourhoods I knew well, often multiple shots as the Google van passed by and they looked up at it. I’d just as soon they didn’t show Canadian cities so intimately. Blur faces, yes.

    Technically, a lot of their views, done probably in Quicktime VR or something similar, are a bit slapdash, with poor stitching of frames at the 0-360 transition. I’ve done some 360 panorama stitching myself with QTVR and a camera rig that is supposed to keep the frames around the 360 ring level and well-aligned, and it ain’t easy even when the camera is stationary. (I sold my rig to a photog friend when I left SF.) But there are more expensive systems that can take a single 360 shot without the need for stitching. Google ain’t poor, so it’s a mystery.

    It would be nice to see some murals aimed at the bird’s eye view… (Though I’d rather see more green roof projects.)

  6. Illégal? Comment ça?

    C’est pourtant disponible pour Paris, là aussi où c’est «illégal»…

  7. hey adalfo, those tags were painted on a gravel rooftop with bucket paint and a roller.

    let’s see how artist you can write your name with those supplies and surface.

  8. Stfu, what dyou know about graffiti? Do a little research before you start talking. Search up alveno, youll see what im talking about.

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