Saturday, September 1, 2007

cmd_million dollar blocks

Generally, Corner would be supportive of this mapping, which mines latent extracts from the field to reveal new relationships that may exist through plottings. He would also concur with the sentiment that “There is no such things as raw data,” and that no data collection and mapping (or exclusion) can be neutral or objective.

The plottings generated suggest a discussion about public policy, urban planning and zoning. The key finding, that criminals are more physically concentrated than crime itself, seems plausibly relevant to those fields. It’s less clear to me what the role of the architect would be in interpreting and taking action (operating in Corner’s parlance) with this new information. The planner, policy wonk or geographer would all seem to be respondents. The author acknowledges that the designer is a stakeholder in this, remarking that “The maps pose difficult ethical and political questions for policy makers and designers; they also suggest new strategies for approaching urban design and criminal justice reform together.” It’s unclear what the authors have distilled that would be of use to a designer? Their conclusion -- “The maps are both a picture and a design strategy…build, incrementally, new networks which might inform this crippled urban infrastructure.” (13) – leaves me similarly puzzled. I agree that the mappings have revealed a pertinent yet latent reality. But what precisely is the divined design strategy for the architect or urban designer? And is this a problem which architecture can address?

Of course there is a relationship between physical and social infrastructures, but I wonder if they are being conflated here. How would a designer act differently with knowledge of the maps? Does the morphology of areas with high concentrations of criminals differ significantly from others, which may be even poorer? My sense is that it probably does not; Peabody Terrace uses the same skip-stop organization as Pruitt-Igoe did, to obviously much different ends.

This observation from Corner seems critical: “In addition to geometrical and spatial plotting, taxonomic and genealogical procedures of relating, indexing and naming can often be extremely productive in revealing latent structures. Such techniques may produce insights that have both utility and metaphoricity.” (230) More generally, beyond the Milllion Dollar Block project, is Corner advocating for mapping as a technique to extract knowledge to suggest metaphorical relationships to architectural organizations from the data? Might this address the question (for me) of how data may be aestheticized vis-a-vis architectural form?

1 comment:

nicholas said...

good analysis, especially of the lack of immediate direction in design.