Agency of Mapping

Please post your reading response for Corner’s “Agency of Mapping” 24 hours before class. Thanks!


11 thoughts on “Agency of Mapping

  1. In Mappings, an essay edited by D. Cosgrove (1999), James Corner advocates the concept of mapping as a creative tool use in the practice of “construing and constructing lived spaces”. Following Deleuze and Guettari’s declaration “Make a map not a tracing”, Corner separates “tracing” from “mapping”, where “tracing” only replicate known information as “mapping effects actualization”. There is a double-sided characteristic associated to maps that reveals both analogue and abstract elements. Corner notes that maps re-make territories over and over with “new and diverse consequences”: “First, their surfaces are directly analogous to actual ground conditions; as horizontal planes, they record the surface of the earth as direct impressions.” By contrast, “the other side of this analogous characteristic is the inevitable abstractness of maps, the result of selection, omission, isolation, distance and codification. Map devices such as frame, scale, orientation, and projection, indexing and naming reveal artificial geographies that remain unavailable to human eyes.” “Agency of mapping” explores and reveals the unseen possibilities in existing realities by collecting, sorting, relating facts and conditions to each other and thus, enhances their potential. . American Architect Richard S. Wurnam has contributed to this area of work by “solving urban problem through visual means”. He argues that mapping process help people to visualize elements and factors of the city and structured the information in a way that “is understandable and accessible to the public.” He developed a series of communicative methods through maps and graphics with the Access book, a tourist guide that propose a new alternative to the common guide on the market. Wurnam, for instance, organizes the book according to his own experience of the city and its neighborhoods.

    Corner examines mapping through four techniques or practices – Drifts, Layering, Game-board and Rhizomes – that emerged from the process of mapping intertwined with the on-going construction of space. As an example, Corner states Tufte’s Minard datascape to illustrate visualization as a “key role in the processes of understanding that take place before form-making begins”. Indeed, the map acts as a “rhizome” that opens up to various “entryways” and enables “a plurality of readings, uses and effects”. These new possibilities of action engender new “milieu” as meanings of surrounding, relationships, field of connections, extensions and potentials and bring new perspective to the world.

    While rethinking the 21st century cities in a moment of chaotic growth and expansion, mapping and diagrams become new “models” of studying the city. The emergence of myriads of mapping and diagramming applications to visualize complex networks system is at the heart numerous contemporary practices and has provided a structural and organizational principle that reached a various range of fields. Moreover, spaces are constituted through mapping practices. They become a re-presentation of the world that “activates territories”. Thus, cartographic practices need to focus on mapping actions and effects and not just on the production of maps.

    Josiane Crampé

  2. Corner (1999) in his chapter, The Agency of Mapping observed, older design techniques cannot respond to the complexities of how space is used and perceived today. Through an examination of mapping and design techniques, Corner finds that urban development processes can no longer be represented with the same methods. Corner (1999) observes,
    “Through such urbanists as Reyner Banham, Edward Soja, David Harvey, Rem Koolhaas and Bernard Tschumi, anthropologists such as Marc Auge, or philosophers such as Henri Lefebvre or Gilles Deleuze, it is becoming clearer to architects and planners that ‘space’ is more complex and dynamic than previous formal models allowed. Ideas about spatiality are moving away from physical objects and forms towards the variety of territorial, political and psychological social processes that flow through space“ (p. 227).
    One can begin to connect that designing the physical goes beyond a simple standalone object like a building. Furthermore, to this move beyond the object Corner (1999) writes, “the experiences of space cannot be separated from the events that happen in it; space is situated, contingent and differentiated. It is remade continuously every time it is represented through another medium, every time surroundings change, every time new affiliations are forged“ (p 227).

    Corner’s view of agency through mapping can be connected to the dérives of the Situationists, which were meant to spur “new situations”. These actions came at a time in Paris of large scale top down urban projects and the Situationists sought uncover what these plans were changing and ignoring within the city. The Situationists, including theorists like Guy Debord in the 1960’s explored the overlooked, and often poor, gritty, or dirty, to create a new “situation” or disrupt a first reading of the space, or as Lefebvre preferred, create a “moment” for users (Ross, 1983). This new reading of a space, or rereading/representation of a space, is much like as Corner suggests of experiences of space forging new affiliations/representations with each spatial and personal change for the users or readers of space and objects within that space.

    Other theorists like Lynch, Wurman and Tufte, as outlined in Amoroso’s chapter in The Exposed City (2010) also work with the user experience to better understand how to not only visually represent space, but also to how to think about how users might represent their experiences through space and how they might then read other representations of the same space. This week’s readings evoke the challenges that came out of the modernist movement, particularly from the failings of the CIAM and from the challenges of Team 10, which Giancarlo de Carlo was heavily involved with. De Carlo’s (2005) writings and that of collaborative planning theorists attempt to connect design, space and user experience with the importance of process of design, ensuring there is the public as part of the process. De Carlo’s view that the reading and use of a building continues on and adapts long after the architect and the client have stepped away from the project, highlights that is the users that continuously are interacting, reading, reusing and (re)adapting that space.

    The authors’ of this weeks readings, particularly, highlight this interaction of user and space, where the architect and designer must consider the ever changing experiences and need for experiences in and around built form. Referring back to the Corner (1999) quotation cited in the first paragraph, “space is situated, contingent and differentiated. It is remade continuously every time it is represented through another medium, every time surroundings change, every time new affiliations are forged.” The representations of space go beyond the architect’s renderings or the geographer’s map, but are changed by these representations with every new reading and every new interpretation and experience by users and instigators, like contemporary situationists, challenging the context of the space and the objects within that space.

    Amoroso, Nadia. “Graphic Integrity and Mapping Complexity, the Works of Lynch, Wurman, and Tufte.” In The Exposed City: Mapping the Urban Invisibles. 41-67. London: Routledge, 2010.

    Corner, James. “The Agency of Mapping: Speculation, Critique and Invention.” In Mappings, edited by Denis Cosgrove, 213–252. London: Reaktion, 1999.

    De Carlo, Giancarlo. “Architecture’s Public.” In Architecture and Participation, edited by Peter Blundell-Jones, Donia Petrescu, and Jeremy Till, 3–22. London, New York: Spon Press, 2005.

    Ross, K. (1983). [Interview with Henri Lefebvre]. Not Bored Anthology. Retrieved November 5, 2013, from

  3. In The Agency of Mapping, James Corner reflects on the need to adapt design techniques and process to the way we experience space and time today :
    “A creative view of mapping in the context of architectural, landscape and urban production is rendered all the more relevant by the changing nature of spatial and temporal structures in today’s world . Events occur with such speed and complexity that nothing remains certain. Large numbers live in a world where local economies and cultures arc rightly bound into global ones, through which effect ripple with enormous velocity and consequence. Surrounded by media images and an excess of communication that makes the far seem near and the shocking merely normal, local cultures have become fully networked around the world. Ai travels and or her modes o f rapid transformation have become so accessible that localities can he more closely connected to sites thousands of miles away than to their immediate surroundings”. (p.226)

    For him, the traditional model or sketch can no longer relate to the lived space. Architecture and city planning, as practices, need to develop and use new design tools to respond to new spatial and temporal conditions such as speed, simultaneity and fluidity. Design methods need to adapt to the way our brain register information in term of interchangeable network structures. For Corner, ,mapping as a precise technique emerges as the most efficient and liberating tool to address those new realities.

    A prolific source for theories, studies and discussions when thinking about urban structure today is the investigation of digital and media based networks in the determining of the morphology of our society. In that regard, Foucault’s 1960’s description of ‘ “heterotopia” (“Of other Spaces”, Michel Foucault) envisions and still provides an interesting point of view of the new dynamics in play in the description of today’s “instant” “global network society”. When describing the idea of heterotopia, Michel Foucault describe our age as an epoch of “simultaneity”, “juxtaposition” and an epoch “of the near and far, the side-by-side, and the dispersed”. According to him, our experience of the world is “less that of a long life developing through time than that of a network that connects points and intersects with its own skein”.

    As Corner eloquently points out, designers are now confronted with a need to address the complexity of actors, programs, relationships and networks even in their earliest esquisses. Furthermore, the way city life and building fluctuates also demands to start thinking of the possibility of a “delocalized architecture”.

    Confronted with those new realities and realizations, we can imagine the benefit from more permeable design processes such as mapping. This approach also seems more responsive and critical to our current society and cultural environment as, for instance, a drawing of a cognitive map of the information space could reveal way more than a traditional site analysis.

    Corner cites many examples of mapping processes that deals with similar issues. As examples of mapping techniques coherent with the way the world is structure today, Corner uses some of Bernard Tschumi works such as Parc de la Villette as example. Another of Tschumi’s work that is particularly interesting and striking to me in terms of mapping is the Manhattan Transcripts (1976-1981). Like many of Tschumi realizations, the transcripts aimed to offer a “different reading of architecture in which space, movement and events are independent, but yet stand in a new relation to one another so that the conventional componenets of architecture are broken down and rebuild along different axes”. The architect here, was mostly interested in showing the disjunctions and complexities underlying in social values and a more exploded understanding of typically linked notions of meaning/being, movement/space, man/object, etc. Following on this idea of disjunction, Bernard Tschumi (Architecture and Disjunction) states that “the respective contamination of all categories, the constant substitutions, the confusion of genres” — as described by critics of the right and left alike from Andreas Huyssens to Jean Baudrillard — is the new direction of our times, it may well be used to one’s advantage, to the advantage of a general rejuvenation of architecture. If architecture is both concept and experience, space and use, structure and superficial image — non-hierarchically — then architecture should cease to separate these categories and instead merge them into unprecedented combinations of programs and spaces. “Crossprogramming,” “transprogramming,” “disprogramming:” ”

    Looking at other approaches to diagramming mention in Corner article (drift, game-board, rhizone, etc), we see that in essence all of those techniques share the aim to reconcile design, as a practice, with a more current understanding of our culture and society. There is a real need to have projects that addresses the complexity of our life in their form, function, objective and essence.

  4. In the vast majority of times, maps (and mapping) in the context of a developing architectural design appear in the form of scaled plans, constructed with lines defining formal boundaries , either physical, projected or imaginary and related to some legal document, norm, etc. Most of these plans appear to many of us as objective containers for the relevant, logical and useful information for the gearing of a project.
    I find very interesting (and profoundly troubling) Corner’s examination of this rarely questioned assumption that the “standard” maps we use so often provide and underline the best and most pertinent realities about the territory they are associated with. I think he puts the finger directly on an acquired and historically developed tendency to bring the process of architectural design closer to an almost exclusively formal and geometric frame of development. The complete domination of information about static form traced on typical maps – outlines, lots, widths, lengths, footprints, setbacks, shape, distance – focuses the driving decisions in the design of the future environments on issues of geometry, and on assumptions and deductions about other realities concluded by a superficial and expeditive analysis of the same plan, of the same information, of the same given geometric relationships.
    To me, this echoes notions discussed by Jeremy Till in his book Architecture Depends. Many architects have become expert form-finders, and perhaps the primacy of form in the standard plans they use is one of many culprits. How can information and place-related realities be dismissed if they are not geometrical and static in nature ? So much of what constitutes architecture’s importance and relevance for humans addresses immaterial, amorphous, shifting and complex things. Culture, smells, trajectories, behaviours and many other qualities carry very telling and architecturally rich information and through the act of their mapping and the challenge of its representation, provide very useful information for the designer/mapper.
    I see mapping as a potentially informative activity, an additional instrument to measure the pertinence of a decision or to guide it. Eisenman’s use of mapping to create a geometric basis whose initial meaning and symbolism is dissolved in the process of forming the architecture seems to miss mapping’s ability to uncover relevant relationships and information that will ameliorate a design. To accessorize the findings of a map into a collection of scalable and malleable shapes, molded according to the architect’s subjective interpretation, is to deny the highlighted realities of the mapping and their inherent advice.
    On a different note, the rising importance (or supremacy) of virtual places and cyber space on practically all aspects of human life seems to introduce a puzzling and necessary shift in the paradigm of mapping territorial realities. The shrinking of space and time through computerization has unimaginably deep repercussions on today’s understanding of place, sociality, architecture, identity and culture among others and is changing the way mappings should be represented and what they should render visible. Networks, communications, internet activity, social media and the whole technological world is increasingly defining our lives and our experience as architectural subjects. If maps are to underline the invisible realities of our spatial existence, then we will have to find a way to construct them and adjust them to the complexity of our new environments.

  5. The rhetoric of the Situationalists, created during the 1950’s and 60’s was a response to the increasingly capitalist society evident during that time. This movement becomes even more applicable today, where ideals of this past form of capitalism have been extended with the exponential advances in technology. Debord writes in 1967 that “An earlier stage in the economy’s domination of social life entailed an obvious downgrading of being into having that left its stamp on all human endeavor. The present stage, in which social life is completely taken over by the accumulated products of the economy, entails a generalized shift from having to appearing: a;; effective “having” must now derive both its immediate prestige and its ultimate raison d’etre from appearances.” This statement becomes more applicable today as society is driven by popular culture, which is greatly influenced by digital technology. The rift between people and reality has grown significantly since the appropriation of mobile technologies which allow people to constantly be within the virtual realm, increasingly experiencing the world through that ‘lens’ (this term should be switched to screen in todays world). Debord discusses the separation from reality as a detriment to the quality of life of the people. He describes a world where people are experiencing aspects of life through capitalist culture, for example, people could purchase images of the world and experience a place they would likely never visit. I feel that Debord’s ideals demonstrate an elitist viewpoint, where people should just be able to everything the world has to offer regardless of cost or availability of opportunity. In certain ways our current digital reality could be seen as a detriment to quality of life, conversely it can be interpreted as an enabler allowing all levels of society access the entire world vicariously through some sort of digital media.

    Mapping has undergone a similar process of increasing digitization. As described by Corner a map is more that just a geographic representation of a place, it is a social and cultural tool representing an array of ideas about the place. Today mapping has been largely impacted by the virtual realm where a map is no longer a singular entity fixed on a piece of paper, but rather an amalgamation of digital information which can be displayed in a myriad of ways. Virtual maps are highly accessible to society and allow space to be experienced in a holistic manner by a widespread audience. Digital mapping, with its increased sophistication has developed the ability to generate an almost genuine experience of a foreign or familiar place through the display of geographic information, but also social, cultural, and political realities of various places. It can be said that this increase in availability of maps which allow people to vicariously experience the world is detrimental to our quality of life where people may never actually experience what is digitally represented, however, when considering society as a whole, these digital representations of place allow people to enjoy other societies or places even if they do not have the monetary means to do so.

  6. “Mappings” seem to be recurrent contemporary themes these days. Although, this time, compared to the mapping controversies tools, the mappings elaborated in James Corner’s writings are of ‘physical’ – or graphical – manner and generally precede the project as to inform it beforehand. This is an important distinction between previously studied types of mapping. Although, similarly to the previous readings regarding controversies, the idea of mapping, as Corner mentions, aims at “uncovering realities previously unseen or unimagined;” a deep scrutinization of a subject in order to expose more than what is obvious and skin deep. A sort of reformulation of the already existing is key to the process in order to uncover these hidden realities, or to show them in a new light.

    Delighted I was when Corner mentioned examples of imaginative mappings, such as Rem Koolhaas’ and Bernard Tschumi’s diagrams for the 1984 Parc de la Vilette, or even Charles Joseph Minard’s 1885 diagram recording the French army’s loss in men during the Russian campaign of 1812. These schemes of superimposed layers of information were sufficiently tangible in order to aid my understanding of what mapping could be, could represent, or could depict in a broader, less specific scale (from the urban to the regional and national). As it is represented in the aforementioned maps, a certain abstraction, evoked by Corner, is necessary in order to sustain meaning and utility over time. Does this mean they cannot portray the rigidity of a ‘realistic’ map? Must they show abstraction to the point of being unrecognizable or differentiable from reality? Then, would the tag ‘diagram’ be more appropriate? Or perhaps, as it is mentioned in Corner’s text, the “act of differentiating between the real and the representation is no longer meaningful.” Then, could we assert that, regardless of the ‘realness’ of the maps, meaning and a certain utility would ultimately be achieved? Perhaps this is now a trivial subject…

    Again, Corner’s idea that mapping occurs prior to landscape and urban formations is an interesting one. Interesting because when we think of mapping, we often visualize maps, or tracings – which occur subsequently to changes – but evidently there is more to it when we start to believe that the mappings might actually influence future morphing of cities and landscapes. Furthermore, mappings are not ‘impositions’ of ideas, rather they are searching and “unfolding complex and latent forces” in existing contexts. It is not giving ideas but rather lending information about interrelations in order to inform future assessments or ideas about future urban or landscape transformations. These, I believe, are capital for future development if our desire is to sway away from modern master planning and mass development.

    In conjunction, I strongly believe Koolhaas’ notion of the ‘death’ of planning through contemporary examples such as the ‘genericism’ ensued by the urban sprawl movements. In my opinion, this only accentuates the need for a new type of mapping. A more informative, less authoritarian, mapping that permits future flexibility, change and adaptability – and even personalization! Herein lies the shift from authoritarian to informative, to a just – or ethical – way of foreseeing our landscapes.

    If a majority of the 20th century mappings solely consisted of ‘superficial’ quantitative values, were widely spread and used, but were considered as urban failures, what – or how – would – or could – today’s more complex and comprehensive mappings influence the urban decision makers of tomorrow? If, on the one side, rigidity of concepts were its congenital flaws and constraints, could the extreme opposite – an abundance of flexibility – reproduce similar, but reverse, effects of ‘non-development.’ Through excess of freedom, no change, or difficult change is achieved? Perhaps not, this might simply be a thought of the common struggling artist.

    Truthfully, the interesting thing is that maps, as explained in Corner’s writings, are in a continuous state of evolution. The map that once preceded landscape alterations will eventually become the map that simultaneously proceeds these alterations and, again, precede future transformations, thus rendering timeless circular hyper-drawings.

  7. Even though the maps have been a significant medium of indicating the measured and described environment, they seem to have failed on putting an emphasis on revealing the underlying interrelationships in spatial and social processes. This approach brings forth what mapping presents rather than what it does. Corner in “the Agency of Mapping”, regarding the whole process of mapping as a creative activity, discusses the meaning of mapping by displaying it as an agent of cultural intervention.

    He suggests that “the unfolding agency of mapping” becomes more influential when its potential to define alternative conditions, which revives socio-political and imaginative possibilities rather than already existing universalist ones. What I personally found quite inspiring throughout the text was the definition of the sets of “relationships of maps to world making” not only for architecture and planning but also other branches of art like literature, music etc., which provokes us to question what is reality and what is representation. As architects what do site and context mean to us and how do we utilize maps, regarding these concepts, in order to imagine and project alternative realities?

    Another distinctive aspect of the approach that Corner proposes, in a rather philosophical way, is that it is not possible to separate the experience of space from the events that occur in it. The space is reproduced every time it was represented through another medium or occupied by different people, or surrounded by different elements. By supporting this point of view and by referring to David Harvey’s idea of “advancing more liberating processes and interactions in time” Corner powerfully and convincingly supports his argument.

    According to the author, rather than defining the maps as “passive devices of spatial measurement and description” and attributing a transparent quality to them, accepting their influence in re-shaping the world as “opaque, imaginative, operational instruments” will pave the path for future studies and evolutions.

    In addition, setting a parallel between contemporary urban design and planning practices, this alternative approach to mapping suggests new techniques to conceive the mobility and intricacy of urbanism and cultural relationships. Considering the enforcements of capitalist culture and interest relationships, it is obvious that urban designers and planners’ role in contributing the development of the cities gets harder to fulfill. Utilizing alternative innovative and creative techniques, in order to determine how to do rather than what to, could be a rewarding and strategic move to improve.

    What Corner asserts, in the end is that, the more we break the chains and be freed from limitations and boundaries, the more we can see the process of mapping as an evolutionary practice and as a way to re-create worlds out of the old ones. “ What remains unseen and unrealized across seemingly exhausted grounds becomes actualized anew with the liberating efficacy of creatively aligned cartographic procedures.”

  8. Andrew Brown:

    Over the course of this semester, we have been discussing cases of spatial injustice, cases where the design and manipulation of space create inequalities or reinforce discrimination in our culture. Some of these instances are a result of misguided ideologies, others are a result of ignorance on the part of the designer. A number of those individuals whose work we have covered in the course have turned to mapping as a tool to reveal the social implications of design. These include figures such as Albena Yaneva, Kevin Lynch or Teddy Cruz who all use mapping as a tool for illustrating patterns in the world which would otherwise remain invisible.

    In the piece, The Agency of Mapping: Speculation, Critique and Invention, James Corner articulates clearly the potential purpose of this exercise in mapping stating, “the function of mapping is less to mirror reality than to engender the re-shaping of the worlds in which people live.” Above all, the perception of the map as a benign, neutral and objective document is exposed as false. However, this argument is complex because it is this perception of the map as factual that lends it legitimacy in the public eye. However, in reality, the way in which information is abstracted, edited, framed and oriented is inherently subjective. Ideals and biases are embedded in both the mapping and in the map itself. Corner challenges the idea of the map as a neutral document and in so-doing, also challenges the idea of mapping as a scientific exercise. The popular belief held among Architects that the act of mapping is merely a logistical exercise without creative opportunities is shown to be false. Such a passive approach to mapping is merely tracing. According to Corner, true mapping is an active exercise requiring the willful manipulation of data to raise a specific issue. The map is not neutral. It has the power to alter perception and therefore directly affect an eventual design: “mapping is always already a project in the making.”

    Much of the course material we have covered revolves around the need for change in our cities. But as Corner points out, it is becoming “politically impossible in a mass democracy to do anything out of the ordinary.” The practice of Urban Design, weary of the destructive impact of 20th century renewal projects is gridlocked in community aversion to change. Mapping then presents an opportunity to reveal the need for change in a medium that a rational community might be willing to accept. How does the expanded agency of the map then fit into contemporary design practice? In the field, the role of the map continues to be limited most often to that of neutral technical document, produced by others and used to assess certain physical parameters of a site. Corner’s article suggests that mapping should be an integral part of the design process. A medium used both to generate more appropriate design ideas and also to validate the eventual solution. An expanded use of mapping is to the advantage of both the user and designer in contemporary practice.

  9. In “The Agency of Mapping”, Author James Corner argues that designers have not yet explored ‘nature’ as a cartographic practice because they are still imbedded with the tools passed down from the interpretation and modernist theories. He says, that a map has “agency”, a product of creativity and selection, as well as rejection of knowledge, allowing an improved focus and understanding of the subject being addressed. He restates the significance of maps, despite not being essentially realistic, but more the subject of the creator’s observations and focus. Each map is a different and thus important tool to the start of any project, which he feels are very much underrated and miscalculated especially by designers. Maps are being often used as time machines having the ability to demonstrate whatever might be projecting, as Corner says, ‘alternative worlds’ within a given limit.
    The author talks about how mapping and contemporary spatial design affect its users. He says that maps these days lack creativity and they are not very attractive for its users, they must be user friendly. He also says how designing of maps can play a significant role in improvement of a city. Engaging designers in creative social spaces can result to more useful outlooks of its users. The author talks about Rem Koolhaas, who explored that designer’s and architects, need to plan for its users. Designers should have courtesy towards developing an improved society than conveying their own imaginations alive.
    Now, with new technologies and a generation of young designers such as landscape architects, architects and urban planners, Corner feels the concept of the ‘site’ has shifted from a simple geometrically area to a larger and more effective surrounding. Designers are more involved in attractive and evolving local complexity. The map is now “employed as a means of finding and then establishing new plans”. Our spatial methods and mapping are not yet at an evolved stage where it is able to communicate creatively with today’s time. The method is far too out-of-date to the fast-paced urbanization and communication.
    There are distinctive methods to look at the environment we live in, and the article makes me understand that there are equally as many ways to express these opinions within maps. No one looks at a city, for example, merely as a sequence of building, streets and other environmental features. The pragmatic “tracings” of the landscape filters out the human aspect, and how can we use effectively if they make our existence against this landscape irrelevant? The idea of mapping time is rather interesting. I think possibilities in this arena are quite feasible with the technology we have nowadays. But would we represent time in a direct fashion in the way humans observe it, or as the non-linear object that mathematics has recognized that it is? I believe mapping might have the possibility to resolve these different opinions, the kind of time we experience and the kinds of time we have theorized.

  10. “Architecture is too important to be left to architects” claimed De Carlo in an article we had to read two or three weeks ago. Here, James Corner cites Harley : “maps are too important to be left to cartographers alone”. These almost identical formulas have striked me. It questions the level of expertise in domains of space (conception, representation, and analysis as well). No one would ever doubt the expertise of a neurosurgeon, for example, since his/her patients have never experienced neurosurgery by themselves. The issue highlighted in the case of spatial interventions is that everyone has experienced spaces, but it doesn’t mean that everyone is able to create or analyze space. I don’t deny the importance of participatory design or, in the case of mapping, artistic experiments, but I think that the role of the architect and, to a larger extent, of any spatial expert, shouldn’t be minimized on the assumption that everyone uses space, and thus has an instinctive, basic knowledge about it.

    Even if this point seemed important to me, it is not the subject of Corner’s argument. Corner exposes the importance of mapping in our comprehension of the world, and one of the main ideas he exposes is that maps are not meant to represent the reality, but rather to complete them. There is no point in repeating what already exists. Maps are tools to make the existing visible, perceivable and comparable.
    Mapping can take infinite forms. A tremendous amount of data can be examined, selected, compared, and analyzed. “Issues of framing, scaling, orientation, projection, indexing and coding” increase even more the possibilities. The action of mapping is a very personal process since it implies to make choices of content and representation at every step.
    Mapping today, as every spatial intervention, has become more complex than before. The notion of dynamic spaces is really important in this increasing complexity. Spaces are now ruled by connections between them (with rapid transportation modes), by immaterial networks which transmit information within a second, by punctual events occurring one after the other. While spaces used to be stable, designed to be permanent, they now have to adapt to this new speed, and so have to do the current mapping methods.
    Mapping is not to be mistaken with planning, since these processes do not have the same impact on the design project. Mapping comes before conception, it is a tool to analyze the material or immaterial context, the interactions of all types that are prior to the design project. Planning is a representation of the project once the conception phase is over, limiting its modes of expression and its impact on the design process.

    For Corner, the power of mapping lays in the fact that it is “essentially subjective, interpretative and fictional constructs of facts”. It is a way to elaborate new ideas and concepts, and thus to find new ways to change the world it describes.

  11. In the chapter “The Agency of Mapping: Speculation, Critique and Invention” James Corner describes the importance of mapping as a creative tool in the contemporary landscape. This belief stems from his study of the complexity of relationships that exist within the contemporary urban (and non-urban) fabric. In particular, he looks at the relationships between architecture/urbanism and nature, politics, society, energy, climate, geography, technology, and so on and so forth.

    In the traditional map, Corner describes how these complex relationships, though important, are not recorded due to their ephemerality. Instead, physical objects such as land formations, water formations, roads, buildings, property lines, and tourist destinations are shown to provide basic way finding and geographical information. Such maps are in a sense, directly representative of an ideal static landscape that does not change. This representation, Corner believes, only provides objective and static data, which it in itself lacks the creative potential that architects, urbanists and other designers need in order to make informed design decisions. Instead, Corner describes three new types of maps that feeds this need and provides physical representations of the hidden complexities. Such maps include The Derive map which records the happenings of everyday life of a citizen, the layering map which remixes and layers fragmented information, and the game board map which allows multiple parties of people to input information. Through these new mapping strategies, invisible complexities are revealed and designers have the potential to address the new issues, relationships and connections that they reveal. Corner believes this “revelation” could answer many complex issues facing humanity in the 21st century.

    Though the article “The Agency of Mapping: Speculation, Critique and Invention” is somewhat outdated, I find that it is as relevant today as it was when it was written nearly 25 years ago. With the exponential improvement of technology and communications, the need for advanced mapping has become nearly a necessity in our increasingly complex world. Cameron describes this change as “occurring with so much speed and complexity, (that) nothing remains certain”. This statement, though bold, is far from being untrue. With software like Google maps, Facebook, and Twitter generating and recording new troves of uncharted relationships between people, events and places, the amount of knew knowledge is far beyond what I’m sure was ever imaginable 25 years ago. In addition to social network mapping, new satellite imagery mapping in particular that is provided publicly by Google, have also provided a means to more advanced and complex mapping, opening doors to the discovery of new hidden relationships and connections. Although James Corner mentions the importance of being on site while mapping these hidden features of the site, the advance of technology has blurred the boundaries between the digital and physical world to such a point that one can mine this information from the comfort of their own personal computer. Although limited to static imagery via Google street view for example, the amount of information mined allows for the collection of infinite amounts of relationships and connections, bringing new creative inspiration and realization.

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