Wednesday, August 29, 2007

chris dobosz_reading response

from the Oxford English Dictionary:

map, n.

I. A chart, plan, diagram, etc.

1. a. A drawing or other representation of the earth's surface or a part of it made on a flat surface, showing the distribution of physical or geographical features (and often also including socio-economic, political, agricultural, meteorological, etc., information), with each point in the representation corresponding to an actual geographical position according to a fixed scale or projection; a similar representation of the positions of stars in the sky, the surface of a planet, or the like. Also: a plan of the form or layout of something, as a route a building, etc.

A quite-rough first pass at organizing my thoughts:

Surface & Projection

Mapping is tied etymologically to the idea of surface. However, Corner writes early about the “surface of the map,” implying that the map is not solely a surface and that data reside in relation to (i.e. above, below, before, after, during) that surface. Along with a metaphorical layering, or projection, of data onto the surface to create information, there may be a tangible component as well, such as “natural processes” and “historical events and local stories” - notably, Corner doesn’t explain his distinction – that resides beyond the surface. Conceptually, is indeed the surface where these meet? And how does one pinpoint histories on a map? Later, he acknowledges this depth, in how a “map permits a kind of excavation (downward) and extension (outward) to expose, reveal and construct latent possibilities within a greater milieu."

Data, Information, Aesthetics & Form

Based on Corner’s premise that mapping is a speculative, efficacious, under-recognized and under-utilized tool for architectural and urbanistic production, it seems like a fundamental area of inquiry is the analysis of any such mapping. Specifically, its relationship to architectural form and the processes by which gleaned information and/or relationships are aestheticized. Datascape-type projects, among others, seem to literally translate data into a spatial field, which can be directly become architectural form. A literal example might be MVRDV’s “maximum zoning envelope” city. Likewise, I believe that one of Libeskind’s conceits for his (first) Jewish Museum was that the architectural form was, at least in part, determined by mapping addresses of the deceased in Berlin - in this case, data become information and architectural form.

Corner quotes the philosopher Brand Blanshard, ‘space is simply a relation of systematized outsideness, by itself neither sensible nor imaginable’ and asserts “it is created in the process of mapping.” (229) When analyzing a mapping, are you creating spaces or relationships that need to be further translated – spatialized – by some other process? Essentially, are you taking the form of the map or the idea of map? Do what the data look like, or what they mean?

Do the notions of the analogous and abstractness figure into this, in how a mapping has a requisite structural similarity to reality, but is inevitably different?

Role of the Spatial Designer in Today’s Milieu

Corner advocates for mapping as a catalytic tool that facilitates a wider understanding of site and potential of latent physical and mental connections. Less clear is what role the architect, or more broadly, the spatiotemporal designer can occupy in today’s society. Corner relays Koolhaas’s assertion that the shackling of planning (in historic city centers) or that the generic city condition has rendered planners impotent.

Is mapping a way to reassert the architect’s place in society? Does the technique change the role of the designer in a way that universal-planning could not? He notes how humanity has reached a point where “local economies and cultures are tightly bound into global ones, through which effects ripple with enormous velocity and consequence” and cites an “excess of communication.” A Manhattanite, (Kansan or New Yorker) might plausibly be more familiar with French politics than local school board debate.

However, in Corner’s seemingly familiar call to arms about a networked interconnectedness, I wonder how Harvey’s utopia of process, of which mapping is a promising tool, interacts with a world where “ten-mile linear cities are built in southeast Asia in a matter of months, seemingly constructed out of nothing…”


Fuller’s 1943 Airocean mappings look a lot like the developed elevations of HdeM’s Prada Tokyo and are morphologically similar. (219)

Corner doesn’t mention William H Whyte nor Kevin Lynch – are they too clinical?

Can you (deliberately) mis-map?

The notion of a wind-shadow is incredibly evocative. (247)

Does a mapping have to be planimetric?

How do you discern the thresholds between so-called rigorous mapping and willful composition? How did Peter Eisenman do so at Long Beach, Wexner, Galicia, etc.? (239)

Did Nolli make a map or a plan?

Are you fast or are you fasting? If time is so fast right now, where and when and how is it slow?

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