mapping our world

Treehugger just posted ‘22 Most Amazing Maps Changing How We See The World’ which is very timely as I’ve been writing a mapping assignment for my 8205 studio. I’ve been thinking a lot about the act of mapping and creating indexes to sites in trying to figure out how to teach transcending the typical McHargian analysis.

Since McHarg brought site inventories and analysis into the 20th century, mapping has gained a central place in the profession of landscape architecture. For many large-scale projects, the act of mapping the constraints and opportunities has become the entire design process.

But I’m interested in using maps to reveal the latent forces that influence a place – this enters into a world of poetics that breaks from the scientific ‘just the facts’ branch of McHargian geographies that most of us know. I have to credit Dilip Da Cunha & Anu Mather, David Turnbull, and even Chris Reed with providing my foundation in transcending the banality of information and finding the poetry in diagramming complex systems.

There are many types of maps and indexes that can be made to describe and explore these hidden relationships through maps.

  • Literal: what is where (i.e. road maps, topographics map);
  • Analytic: why are things where they are (i.e. plant communities);
  • Temporal: diagrams charting changes and development of process or place.
  • Hybrid: a combination of analysis techniques to reveal a specific aspect

The other aspect of mapping that fascinates me right now is: how to define the limits to energy model the landscape. Modeling a building is simple – there is the inside (which you model) and the outside that you limit your inputs to generalisms about climate (temperature, wind, sun). In the landscape, the inputs and variables are much more complex and don’t just end at the property line. This is the same situation with most LCA calculations, do you just model the direct emissions, or how many layers of indirect emissions do you include in your calculation? Do you calculate the fraction of the entire watershed that sustains your site, or look at the entire regions transportation infrastructure that brings people to the site? You can take a building off the grid, but a city IS the grid. Not much research and effort has been dedicated to solving this conundrum.

I’ll be posting more on both these topic when I have more time.

Further readings include over on Archinect, there is a thread about ‘fun with diagrams, indexing, and mapping’ that I have been heavily contributing to.

Another favorite geographer worth linking to is Dennis Woods.

situationalism brough us the derive

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