Urban Mapping

Urban Mapping is a result of trying to imagine an ideal way of taking mapping to a more active and catalysing level. In many ways it is no longer possible just to talk about mapping since the mapping part is just one of several elements. Below is a number of inspirations in the “food chain of ideas” for “Urban Mapping” (which again became the frontrunner for CiTyBee)

One inspiration was the story by Borges where he talks about the Chinese emperor who wants a map of the country that is so precise that it becomes a 1 : 1 map where traces still can be found today.

A Universal History of Infamy* (Penguin 1984), its
title is “Of Exactitude in Science”

In that Empire, the craft of Cartography attained such Perfection that the Map of a Single province covered the space of an entire City, and the Map of
the Empire itself an entire Province. In the course of Time, these Extensive maps were found somehow wanting, and so the College of Cartographers evolved a Map of the Empire that was of the same Scale as the Empire and that coincided with it point for point. Less attentive to the Study of Cartography, succeeding Generations came to judge a map of such
Magnitude cumbersome, and, not without Irreverence, they abandoned it to the Rigours of sun and Rain. In the western Deserts, tattered Fragments of the Map are still to be found, Sheltering an occasional Beast or beggar; in the whole Nation, no other relic is left of the Discipline of Geography.

Another inspiration was Lefebvre and his talk about Maps as “Instant Infinity” – see the quote here on the Polis Blog

I went to a conference, Moving Maps,  at the EPFL in Lausanne in 2011 where among others Bruno Latour and Carlo Rotti presented. They were both inspiring but in very different ways.

The presentation of Latour was in french and I didn’t understand much (and a friendly person told me that understanding french might not even help) but it made me read his text “Give me a gun and I will make all buildings move”. In the text he argues for a more dynamic representation of architecture since drawings or 3D animations didn’t really show the dynamic process of buildings. He compares the architect with a juggler and the text really applies to the urban scale and “Moving Maps.”

Carlo Ratti and his presentation on Smart Cities with sensors everywhere made me write a short text that argued against his fascination of technology and instead “just being in public space using the best sensor for the rich sensory and emotional diversity of the city: ourselves and our senses”

The contact to EPFL in Lausanne led some inspiring talks with André Ourednik who wrote a text on “Urban Heterostasis” that tries to see the balance between the “hands on” mapping and the power of technology. He also sees his thoughts on Heterostasis as the (only) alternative to – I guess – the Starchitect way of designing the city.

In urbanism, the only alternative practice to heterostasis is the would-be “esthetic” tyranny of the architect, of the drawer of Sforzinda, of the builder of cities in the (social) desert, of the egocentric demiurge only eager to gather fame in the service of dictators. Urban heterostasis is everything  except that type of urbanism. Heterostasis is the open possibility, for all the inhabitants of a city, to play the role they are able to play in producing a desired urban space.

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