We have used mapping as a tool in our work in many different ways, first with Supertanker and now with CiTyBee. Read more about the background for how we work with mapping here

In our prototype in Hedehusene in 2012 we used no high tech GPS or smartphones. Even though we would like to do that, we think that mapping starts  with just being in public space using the best sensor for the rich sensory and emotional diversity of the city: ourselves and our senses.

We do 1 : 1 Mapping, Street Map and Patterns of Possibilities

1 : 1 Mapping

Our Street tool Box is an important instrument in our 1:1 mapping. It allows us to get around and be in public space, talk to local people and start to map the space through narratives and dialogue.


The mapping became both a way of documenting stories “in about urban spaces” but it also allowed us to meet the people on their “home turf”, giving importance to a particular space. Many of the people that we met through this interaction would later go on to being involved in future dialogue and offshoots.


By instantly putting up new signs or “Street Whiteboards” we would create a 1:1 map that documented the dreams, needs and interests for that space.


With the new signs and the Street Kitchen we also want to create a situation that shows how a space can be taken or appropriated in order to inspire people to dream of other ways this space could be.


Street Map

We use a big transportable map that can be moved around and stickers that function in a similar way to the “Street Whiteboards”.


The Street Map became a feature on the monthly market in Hedehusene. It was a popular occasion for people to tell stories and point out the places related to the stories. Again the stickers are used to immediately document what has been said and encourage those who arrive later to react on what has been said earlier.


Patterns of Possibilities

By the time of the first public meeting the map has become quite full with keywords that document the many stories. (This is where technology might come in handy)


The map shows how many views and stories different places have and that these stories often see the same place in different ways. The map visualises the many different voices of the community and most importantly gives people a way of acknowledging these other voices. This gives a more nuanced and constructive discussion based on a better mutual understanding…hence a dialogue is created!!!


People are given little blue stickers to mark what they think is important. The result is that “Patterns of Possibilities” start to emerge on the map showing the important areas and themes. This is the starting point for the rest of the public meeting that will look at what to focus on and how to act on it. Finally the new ideas and suggestions are documented on the map.


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.

Urban Process Design

For a number of years Supertanker has organised a workshop for 1st year Students at the University of Roskilde. The workshop tries to include a number of elements into an intensive 2 weeks: Sensing, talking and taking space, from appropriation of their own space (here the old train station in Hedehusene) to spatial interventions in public space.

We also started (again) to work with mapping using technology. In this case we let the students use Twitter and a mashup with bing maps

Sensing Hedehusene

The Project “Sensing Hedehusene” was not a Supertanker project but by the UK mapping artist Christian Nold. We were engaged in a parallel participatory process that should ensure, that the results were relevant locally. That part was very important since it resulted in the seed for a local offshoot: a monthly market that began the year after.


In short the project placed a number of sensors that measured pollution and noise – and had three buttons that made it possible to vote.


The results of the pollution and noise measurings where shown as colours on a big balloon.


The technology did not really catch on locally but all the buzz created by involving the local mayor and important persons from the culture industry in Copenhagen created a “critical mass” of local people that started discussing the future og the small community.


And the outcome of that discussion was to work for 2 ideas: a local market – this idea was made real the year after in 2010 and is a good example of a local offshoot :


The second idea was to create a local place to meet in the old train station – which is slowly becoming a reality:


The whole process – both the part run by the artist and the involvement of local people is documented on this website (in Danish)

See a short video here – both in English and Danish