In September 1967, land artist Robert Smithson took a tour over Passaic in new Jersey* and created a short photo-essay to report his journey, entitled “A Tour of the Monuments of Passaic, New Jersey” later published in “Artforum” magazine, December edition. Interestingly, he names profane objects such as pipes and derelict spaces as monuments:
The bus passed over the first monument. I pulled the buzzer-cord and got off at the corner of Union Avenue and River Drive. The monument was a bridge that connected Bergen County with Passaic County (…) Along the Passaic River banks were many minor monuments such as concrete abutments that supported the shoulders of a new highway in the process of being built (…) As I walked north along what was left of River Drive, I saw a monument in the middle of the river—it was a pumping derrick with a long pipe attached to it (…) Nearby, on the river bank, was an artificial crater that contained a pale limpid pond of water, and from the side of the crater protruded six large pipes that gushed the water of the pond into the river. This constituted a monumental fountain that suggested six horizontal smokestacks that seemed to be flooding the river with liquid smoke (…) The last monument was a sand box or model desert.
Smithson, says Maarten Overdijk in his ‘Monuments and Mental Maps‘ article in OASE 98, rejected conventional ideas about perception and cognition precisely because they did no justice to his experience and offered him no method to analyze or describe it. Instead, he had a preoccupation with space and the changing relations of place, location and map. In his ‘literary’ narrative of the Passaic, continues Overdijk, Smithson attempts a montage of descriptions; observations and reflections while shifting between different layers of time: “the psychological time of the individual, the social time of culture and its symbols, and the time of geological change.”
* Ellen Mara De Wachter revisited the locations captured in the photo-essay through a short film
The author claims the need of a systematic approach “that brings together the design of built environments with the best scientific knowledge of processes of change in complex natural and social systems.” Urban planning must work within these systems that require local info (through participatory practices) and the creation of technical solutions. He thinks the challenge is mapping informality as cities grow in unpredictable ways. He also claims that cities are about connections: “the socioeconomic and physical links that allow each one of us to make a living, obtain services that make our lives easier, and learn and invest our time and resources.”
The effects of connections can be traced as the concentration of social networks in space and time where the value of a group is not proportional to the group’s numbers, but to its interactions. GPS tracking, and smart phone technologies can help track the networks.
New methods from urban science allow the accelerated evolution of these neighborhoods to follow natural urban processes. They are based in part on the mathematical analysis of detailed maps, including the development of algorithms to optimize building access, delivery of services, formalization of land, and taxation, with minimal disturbance and cost.
Planning through the development of detailed maps at the neighborhood level is also an effective way to capture local, person-centric knowledge, providing a clear vehicle for better local politics via the coordination of priorities and action from communities, local governments, and other stakeholders. The convergence of a networked science of cities, quantitative methods of spatial analysis, and information technology tools is key to allow users to participate.
Luís M. A. Bettencourt (2019) Designing for Complexity: The Challenge to Spatial Design from Sustainable Human Development in Cities Technology|Architecture + Design, 3:1, 24-32, DOI: 10.1080/24751448.2019.1571793
Social Maps Definition/History: maps whose purpose is to represent specific aspects of society at a given time and place, (usually statistical data put on a map)/ they emphasize the power of space in shaping society over time/ in its earliest incarnation, the social map was concerned with epidemic disease, particularly cholera/ later in the nineteenth century the perceived problem of mass migration to the growing cities led to the application of segregation as a political device to separate disparate populations/ the use of mapping as a tool of social investigation reached its peak with the emergence of a science of social investigation in the 1880s/ maps shifted from having a symbolic power to having a descriptive (arguably scientific) power/ they used dots and circles or cloropleth maps of different shades/ these helped hypothesize on the actual causes of diseases or crime and poverty/ London was forefront to cartographic innovation due to mass urbanization and the need to manage a diverse, densely crowded population
Maps are social constructions, whose integrity as scientific objects is limited to how precise they are when taking account of their scale and similar measurable parameters. As soon as decisions start to be made on selection of data and the way in which those data are to be presented on maps, the social and political context in which they were created will start to influence how they are read. Once this fact is recognized, one can get beyond the traditional criticism of maps and start to consider what they are in reality: objects laden with meaning, which reflect the context of their creation. Yet maps continue to be incredibly useful for capturing data as well as for providing a starting point for analyzing those data statistically.
Inherent weaknesses: stat errors/ positioning can affect how the world is viewed/ they are influenced by the social and political context they are created in/ their study in rapidly changing populations impose a false appearance of stability/ as records it is essential to take into account the historical time they were created in/ iconographic: color can carry powerful moral connotations, it can also be used for propaganda/ by drawing boundaries around people other from themselves, European powers defined the separation of the center from the periphery/ the complex use of space belies the normal approach to interpreting segregated social space, which tends to focus on the residential location of a minority group, overlooking their opportunities for movement across the city, throughout the day and the week/ not all spatial arrangements are a direct reflection of the societies: more complex societies are normally comprised of a structured non-correspondence
Notes and excerpt from Laura Vaughan’s: “Mapping Society: The Spatial Dimensions of Social Cartography,” UCL Press, 2018
This was captivating! Professor Michael Scott in collaboration with ScanLAB Projects uncover the subterranean infrastructure of Roman cities such as: Naples, Venice, Rome and Florence. I’ve just watched the Naples episode: Scott visits a series of the city’s underground tunnels and follows how the volcanoes’ eruptions have altered the city’s morphology.
High-precision laser-beam is used to read solid surfaces and, rather than building up an entire 3D model, it processes this image of an area as a series of points that make an overall cloud of how an area appears (…) 3D images are made possible using FARO 3D scanning equipment. The resulting point-clouds are also used for 3D virtual reality experience that can be viewed on the BBC website in browser or through a VR headset
The images and the VR is breathtaking. Especially the ones retrieved from underwater. Image 2 belongs to the visual reconstruction of an ancient Roman villa that has been submerged. These were made possible through 3d scanning during an underwater dive to its remains. A must watch.
Jan Rothuizen loves to map his surroundings, drawing more than streets and buildings: he shows how people experience the city and visualises the atmosphere and the diversity of the population. He also includes economic and social changes of neighbourhoods. Amsterdam is a wonderful playground, as the city changes every day, on a large and small scale. Rothuizen witnesses and documents these changes with his very personal wit and enthusiasm.