The image of the divided city through maps: the territory without territory

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The image of the divided city through maps: the territory without territory Luigi Farrauto – Paolo Ciuccarelli Politecnico di Milano Indaco Department (Industrial Design, Arts, Communication and Fashion)


Abstract Throughout the centuries cities have been constantly changing, together with their image, their imageability, therefore their graphic representation is being constantly adapted to those changes too. The evolution of digital technologies enables now new forms of visualizing the city: from the geo-referenced representations of data to dynamic cartographies, that describe cities displaying in real-time flows of data, information, things and people. The tools that once allowed the cartographer to make maps have radically changed: the empirical analysis of the environment has been transformed into a true work of digitalization, in a data flow, led by the evolutions of technologies and tools, such as gps and gis; inks and prints on traditional media are now visual representations obtained through computers and softwares. Cities can be represented on a three-levels model. The level of the territory, which can nowadays be described in detail; then the layer of activities, which shows the city through the analysis, the elaboration and the visual representation of data; and the level of sense, in which the subject is no longer external to the map: it is the centre of the visualization, the main point of view. In particular, the first level of territory becomes a political problem once the represented city is divided, segmented. For the sake of visualizing the divided city through maps, the dimension of the territory can be overtaken. Showing a city without its territory can lead to a different focus: the meaning of a place in the construction of identity, the values shared by the population, its habits, its everyday life. Mapping a divided city to obtain a ‘different’ visualization can be a way to deal with its complexity, with its layers of sense, generating a new idea of the territory.



“This is an atlas, but it’s not the atlas” (Baghat and Mogel, 2007)

Urban environment is a whole of people and activities, physical elements and established con-

nections; it is a mix of human relationships, different identities and values to be shared. All those elements interacting with each other, either in harmony or in conflict, make the cities where we live an extremely complex environment, hardly representable on a map through linear schemes: defining causes and effects can lead to oversimplification, superficiality. Multi-dimensionality is an intrinsic characteristic of every territory, it is the result of secular sedimentations, both historic and sociocultural: not only geographic. For the sake of communication and the sharing of a multi-dimensional and complex phenomenon, such as a city, there’s a strong need of visualization methodologies that can make the complexity a value added, - instead of an obstruction to the understanding of a system. The goal of cartography is to give voice to the different elements and layers composing a complex environment, to organize knowledge and thought and give them a rational structure: in critical situations, such as segmented and disputed cities, communication design tools can be key to the comprehension of social phenomena. Maps, in particular, are graphic artefacts conceived to visually organize information on a synoptic space; they are meant to make comprehensible and usable what they are depicting. In modern society maps are everywhere; their production is constantly rising, due not only to the technological improvements concerning mapping techniques, but also to an increasing interest in cartography within the society. Mapping the modern world has became a daily process: in magazines, newspapers, televisions... proving how cartographic language is an effective and compelling tool. The contribution of this work is to define a method for representing the city and its complexity, through the survey of several case studies, from antiquity to recent time, and propose an approach for the segmented cities’ visualization. The focus of our analysis will be the cartographic representation of the city throughout the centuries, as a background for some reflections on how to depict the divided


city through maps: some existing graphic techniques can be usefully combined in order to reveal their everyday life, their values. This paper consists of six sections. In the first section we will focus on the symbolism of the first cartographic attempts and we will provide some reflections about the role of the territory in ancient maps in terms of abstraction or iconicity; in the second we will analyze the relationships between the subject and the object of a map in the map-making process, through the dichotomy “experience-measurement”, in order to explore the various ways to represent a city; afterward, in the third section, we will define a three-levels model of looking at the city, to tell different stories about places according to the mapmaker’s concerns. Then we will turn to the segmented cities, reflecting on their differences with the united cities in terms of map-visualization: in the fourth section. After that, in the fifth section we will propose a ‘non-territorial’ graphic approach to the divided cities’ representation, inspired by Alford Korzybski and Gregory Bateson’s ideas about the impossibility of knowing what the territory is. If “map is not the territory”, it probably means that in some cartographies the territorial component can be irrelevant: absolute space can be transformed into a relative space, and its visualization can be based on diagrams, anamorphosis, proximity etc. Finally, in the sixth section, we will summarize the results of our study and point the future developments of our research.



Abstraction and Iconography

The relationship between the territory and the graphical way to represent it on maps has not

always been as linear as a projection, the result of a mathematic calculation. We are used to thinking of cartography as a precise depiction of what the world looks like. A kind of photography of the territory: the recent proliferation of tools such as Google Maps to discover and explore virtually the world in real time makes that metaphor very appropriate. In some episodes of the history of cartography the real shape of the territory has been deliberately set aside by the map-maker, though: willing to show different elements of the depicted land such as particular connections of sense, or even trying to convey symbolic meanings through the visualization. Medieval maps were not meant for finding the viewer’s bearings. The so called T and O maps used to depict only half of the known Earth. The division of the world into three segments was the reflection of the vision of the world at that age, which was considered inhabited only in particular climate areas: so the T refers to the sacred rivers dividing the known earth, and the O to the encircling ocean which was thought to surround every land. Jerusalem was always the centre of every narration, the centre of the world (Magnani, 2003). This idea of the world has been inspired by the works and thoughts of Isidore of Seville1, who gave an interpretation of the Scripture in describing the shape of the earth, and influenced all the Christian cartography until the age of discovery. Unlike the Greek’s traditions of world depicting, which were spread around all Europe and have laid the foundation to modern cartography, christians maps of the Middle Age were a tool of understanding and reflecting about the world: they were designed to convey moral and religious matters. They actually were very conceptual, a mean of contemplation, therefore they were all but an iconic representation of space. Territory was a minor, secondary aspect: it was visualized in a very schematic way, as the goal of maps was to show God’s creations and their meaning for the churchgoers (Scafi, 2007). That is the reason why most of the christian maps were either appearing in holy texts in very small size versions, or were a huge church decoration (fig. 1). In the Hebstorf ’s map (around 1300 a.d.), for example, the entire world has a circular shape and it is represented to be Jesus’ body, in a compelling and fascinating allegory, full of biblical


recalls and images (Barber, 2006). It is important, thus, to mention one of the main properties of a map: to reflect the author’s perspective and concerns (Turchi, 2004). Through those eyes it is easy to determine the reason why some cultures have preferred a diagrammatic graphic language on maps rather than a geographic-oriented one. They wanted to convey a particular message, to tell a particular story. “To ask for a map is to say: ‘tell me a story’” (Turchi, 2004), therefore as in a written novel, maps describe a plot, using different styles as every writer is used to doing throughout his narration. Every writer has his own peculiarity; as every cartographer has also. Looking back to the XI century, the history of maps has faced a kind of golden age, in terms of noniconic ways to represent the world. Beyond the Christian T-O maps, the wide islamic cartographic tradition can be considered one of the most effective examples of the abstract way to depict cities and territory in general. Well-known for being experienced sailors, Islamic populations had to face long distance travels on sea, in order to sell and exchange their products. To be able to find their way on the sea they needed accurate instruments which could allow them to not get lost: sometimes wayfinding was a matter of survival for entire populations. One of the most productive Islamic map-makers, AlIshtakri, drew a large number of maps of the Mediterranean sea, of the Middle East and of their cities, in which itineraries do not represent real distances between different places, but prossemic relationships. Most of the Islamic cartographic tradition of the x-xiv centuries has, thus, those properties of territory’s abstraction (fig. 3). From a syntactic point of view those cartographies are very similar to the recent Harry Beck’s metro map of London (1931,

fig. 4),

a diagrammatic visualization of the different

metro-lines, whose graphic elements are not linked to the territory: each station is not georeferenced, for the sake of making the map more usable by the readers; those were the concerns of the author. Showing the different metro lines enables a procedural knowledge: the passengers only need to know what is before and what is after this or that metro stop, to complete their journey and arrive at a precise destination. This is an efficient way to overcome the complexity of the urban environment of a big city like London, in terms of mobility and mutual spatial relations. A similar consideration can be made concerning the Islamic cartography: sailors only needed to know which city was before and which would have been after the one they found while sailing along the coast. This way of creating spatial


correspondences through a particular diagrammatic graphic device, in which abstraction overcomes iconicity, leads the viewer to infer new knowledge, as space is represented in a subjective way. […] To make maps is to organize oneself, to generate new connections and to be able to transform the material and immaterial conditions in which we find ourselves immersed. It is not the territory but it definitely produces territory” (Mendez de Andes et al., 2006)

Another interesting example of abstract map-making is the cartographic production of Heinrich Bünting, who used to depict the world in a highly symbolical way. In his maps the vision is not given only by a merely spiritual intention, but by personal perspectives in terms of topophilia (‘Love of a place’, Yi-Fu Tuan, 1974): as the symbol of the coat of arms of his beloved city was a cloverleaf, he decided to give this shape to the world, still keeping the city of Jerusalem in the centre of his most famous map (fig. 2). So this abstraction is a kind of tribute to his hometown, Hanover, and a recall of the Christian map-

ping tradition (for the structure and hierarchy given to information). Bünting’s world is represented through his own abstract way, full of personal meanings. On that topic, Abram Moles defined a ‘scale of iconicity’ of representations, going from the object itself, the highest degree on the scale, to the verbal description, the lowest degree. In his description identity is the highest degree of iconicity (Moles, 1981). Analysing those abstract maps it is possible to argue that the shape of the world is not a real bond to its visualization, it can be modelled for many different purposes, according to the story the map wants to tell, to the context in which it is used, to the target of the communication. There is a complex relationship, though, among the real shape of a city and the perceived, experienced or visualized one. Whether abstract or iconographic, in cartography there is no form of superior representation to convey particular messages. It is always up to the mapmaker to face this complexity, to tackle its nodes and its linked elements, to understand which sense to convey, which technique to adopt, by impressing his point of view into the narration, like a book writer with his novel. Once again form follows function. Those observations lead me to an analysis of the role of the subject in map-making: the eyes through which we actually experience cartography. 6

Fig. 1: Left: T-O map from the Etymologiae of Isidorus, 1472 (Kraus 13), cropped version from Foundations of Western European Cartography in Texas Collections. Right: Psalter-fragment (The Hague, KB, 76 F 5), Courtesy of the Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts Project. Koninklijke Bibliotheek Š National Library of the Neth.

Fig. 2: BĂźnting clover leaf map. A woodcut made in 1581 in Magdeburg.


Fig. 3a: The Mediterranean sea, from Emilie Savage-Smith and Yossef Rapoport (eds.), The Book of Curiosities: A critical edition. WorldWide-Web publication. ( (March 2007).

Fig. 3b: Countries depicted in the map.


Fig. 4: Metro Map of London, Transport of London,



Experience vs. Measurement

Looking at cartography and focusing on one of the criteria which lead to map production, direct

experience turns out to be the first, intuitive way of map making modalities. In ancient time maps were either the result of a direct observation of a territory, or a reflection of the emotional experience of the map-maker (Vallega, 2006). Some examples of the “direct observation” criteria are all maps designed by people while sailing along the coasts, or while traveling on land (fig. 5). For some of those sailors, mapping the world was a lifelong project. A kind of intellectual mission: being part of a long tradition of world-depicters, adding a personal contribution to it in every new map. Centuries ago some map-makers used previous works of others as a basis to start with. Some others just literally copied works that had been inspired by others beforehand. And so on. It was a choral project, a collective job. This kind of cartography brought along a sort of inner memory, a hidden knowledge which was the result of years of attempts and mistakes. Centuries of overlapping layers of sense, being transmitted from person to person, from map to map. Has that memory been perhaps forgotten during the age of digital cartography? Was this memory a real value of sense? As the author was influencing the visualization in every new step of map production, and as cartography was an endless traditionbased tool, we can argue that maps could have been the graphic portrayal of a society, of a culture, of the context’s complexity. They were carrying both an individual empirical vision of the world, and the sum of all the previous experiences, out of the former map-makers’s works. So those maps were transmitting a kind of synchronous – asynchronous message. Hic et nunc, but also ante. The degree of iconicity of those maps is quite high, even though the technical limits in terms of cartographic tools were preeminent in ancient time. Shapes of country and cities were not as accurate as they are now, but nonetheless lands are recognisable. During several centuries world-depiction has been a personal matter. What was not known by the author’s cultural background and traditions would have not appeared on maps. World was depicted out of an ‘experience’ filter. Unknown or unfamiliar lands were marked as “the lands of lions”2 (fig. 6). But in some iconographic maps of the territory the subject is key too. As mentioned earlier, T-O maps were a symbolic way to say something about the


world. They were, for some aspects, speculative texts. Therefore depicting the world from an empirical point of view had the power to place the writer inside his own text. He used to tell and visualize how he reacted to a particular experience of a particular territory. Other typologies of maps had an interesting way of dealing with the experience lands and territories’ commonplaces. Allegorical maps, for instance, were a particular and successful way of describing lands and their shared reputation, overlapping different layers of sense and using geography only as a contextual macro-level. Countries and cities had a human shape which was used as a symbol of what characterized that place (fig. 7). Allegorical maps were an ironic way to tell stories about the territory, but without using the territory as a real information. Analogies with it were meant only as a recall-element. Those maps were thus a way to get into an experience of the place. The experience of a community who shared a particular idea of that place. Such experience with a place, that makes the visualization possible, could also be part of an interior afflatus. The example of Jerusalem’s cartography is one of the most striking. Jerusalem used to be one of the most important cities in antiquity. Considered for centuries to be the centre of the world, its navel, the place all monotheistic religions have in common, Jerusalem has been depicted, described and shared much before the first travellers had gotten there to report its real topography. The first description of Jerusalem was inspired by the Scripture’s text: it was therefore an ‘imaginary plan’ (fig. 8), where elements of the city has been taken from Biblical captions. Streets and roads on maps were made-up. The gap with the ‘physical’ experience of the city was filled with graphic deduction-exercises: trying to visualize a territory out of its written description. Besides, being an ‘imaginary plan’ helped to make Jerusalem to be considered as an enigmatic city. Moreover, its distance from Europe made this city even more fascinating. The Middle East was not so easy to reach, in terms of travel distances and accessibility during the Middle Age. Only Crusaders and priests had the opportunity to visit the Holy Lands. Nevertheless, maps of Jerusalem were spread all across Europe much before the age of leisure travel and tourism. Their iconicity, thus, was expressing a completely fictional relationship, meant to be the reflection of a written description. Iconicity did not match with identity. In those imaginary maps the map maker is modifying reality in order to make it look like his description. As cartography is a tradition-based art, in some parts of Europe the shared image of Jerusa-


lem had been produced out of imagination. People’s ideas about its morphology was totally influenced by a ‘fantastic’ plan. This sort of ‘fake-iconicity’ did not compromise the idea and the emotions that people used to share about Jerusalem. It was a bridge connecting two levels: the world of emotions and their projections on space. Localization, map-organization of thoughts make them getting clearer to our knowledge: moreover, people relies in maps. As we actually do not experience the world from a bird’s eye view perspective, we are not really able to have a one-to-one map of the world instantly (cfr. Borges, 1949); any image of the world could be adequate, once we are able to find our bearings. None of us has ever tried to demonstrate, without the use of technologies, that the world has exactly the same shape maps used to depict like, for example. We simply trust maps and tools such as satellites. We learn about space on a two-dimensional plan, we do not experience cities in the whole, as we are used to doing through cartography. “The world is flat” (Farinelli, 2007). So we can argue that iconicity of the territory is not overlapping with the sense conveyed by cartographic language. People could experience the same feelings about a city while looking at a fake map as well. What generates sense is the relationship between the content of a map and the viewer. The context makes the difference, the same as the complexity of human kind when experiencing any visual elements. In modern cartography the idea of map-maker as map’s subject has been put aside. Every map became the product of a measurement, the elaboration of a tool. The Mercator map (1569) was the first attempt at creating a conformal image of the world, done out of a cylindrical projection; real equations determined every point in the map (fig. 9). Mercator’s work has given birth to the Modern Cartography: using tools to elaborate and visualize the world. Throughout history tools have became more and more accurate, and the precision of the details for describing the world on maps have risen to highly technological levels. What once forced sailors to navigate and track the world during all their life, the huge traditional knowledge-heritage that made that effort more simple for new travellers has surprisingly became a real-time operation. Nowadays, while experiencing the world, cities and attractions have the same distance. We are not a part of the map, we are simple map-users. Maps nowadays are the tool which allows us to get to a destination: they are no longer the goal of our journey itself. In modern times maps are not anymore the result of an


empirical process; cartographic thought has changed from being subjective to become completely objective. Iconicity turned into proximity. Direct experience is now an instrumental measurement. Space in which we live is not anymore a whole of human and environment in a dynamic relationship: in recent times’ cartography space has became an absolute space (Farinelli, 2003 and Vallega, 2006). Space is only what the tool detects. The former experience of the territory itself, either physical or emotional, has became a process of data mining, the visualization is now the output of an automatic or semi-automatic elaboration of data. Digital cartography has reduced the mistake-factor intrinsic to human being-made artefacts. It actually placed a digital tool in between us and the world, so that the above-mentioned memory of cartography is probably going to be lost. Now we can talk about “real-time knowledge”. So this event, on cartography’s history, has meant for mankind the beginning of as a sort of cartographic alienation: through projections men were not an active part of the map-making process anymore. So our question is: is it possible to operate, on city visualizations, a kind of ‘return to the experience’? (fig.10) Starting from the direct experience of a city and of its everyday life, and passing by an instrumental elaboration of it, therefore, is it possible to produce a visualization that can give us the sense of a city? To answer this question, it’s necessary to set a methodology to identify different layers of a city-visualization, in order to understand on which ones to focus.


Fig. 5: Part of the map of the world by Piri Reis, 1513. The map has been drawn from many different previous maps, including one by Christopher Columbus.

Fig. 6: Anglo Saxon World detail, © The British Library Board. On the upper left side the text “Hic abundant leones” (cft. ‘here be dragons’) describes the borders of knowledge.


Fig. 7: Humoristische-oorlogskaart’ (Humorous War Map)Published in Haarlem by J.J. van Brederode in 1870 © University of Amsterdam.

Fig. 8: Imaginary map of Jerusalem. On the lower left side we can see the Golgota with the three crosses. © The Jewish National / University Library - The Hebrew University Dept. of Geography.


Fig. 9: Planisphere made by Rumold Mercator, 1587

Fig. 10: Experience-Measurement loop scheme



Territory, activities, sense

Physical space is a complex and multidimensional matter. It is not simple to have a complete,

holistic visualization of it: “no maps can show everything” (Turchi, 2004). So as an initial approach we could define the layers of meaning that can be overlapped in maps (fig.11). Territory as the first of those levels. It is the dimension we can explore with the highest degree of iconicity; looking at its territory is the easiest and most explorable way to understand how the world looks. Once we navigate on Google Maps we can actually fly over the cities and decide to look inside them as quickly as a double-click of the mouse (fig.12). Recent technologies have made digital cartography the most accurate way to depict lands. And there is seemingly no limit to this digital evolution. gis and gps are the new frontiers of territory visualization. The empiric mistake is nearly set to zero. Digital cartography went beyond the limits of body and experience, and time too. Through laser, territory has recently been analysed in order to reveal what was hidden by the vegetation on a Maya site, in Belize, in order to reconstruct the ancient urban landscape (John Noble Wilford, New York Times, May 11th, 2010). So digital cartography can actually see what is not visible to our eyes. Some maps have the capability of seeing, others of foreseeing too. Being a frame of reality, these maps of cities and lands do not visualize neither what happens or what has happened inside those territories though, nor are they depicting the values shared by the population. There is a second level of representation of a space, which is not in conflict with the one of the territory, but only an integration of it: the level of activities. Activities performed by the population in a delimited area can also be visualized. This level of analysis uses the territory as the background to georeference what is happening inside it. Sometimes in terms of statistical data, some others for sociologic or demographic analysis. Information about the activities generate a superstructure of data, being elaborated by computers and visualized on maps. Experience is now a crowd-sourcing process, made possible by huge amounts of data collected by tools. The mental elaboration of space that the first cartographers used has been replaced by an automatic action. The layer of activities is a very efficient tool for ‘social analysis’ of the space, allowing people who expe-


rience those kind of maps or infer particular meanings, to formulate hypotheses or conclusions about a particular space-use which were not evident on the graphic visualization. Maps history is full of such visualizations, portraying a specific population’s behavior. A very famous example of activity’s map concerns the connection between cholera’s spread and tap water: the connection between the two has been inferred thanks to a visual georeferencing of the cholera’s cases on a map. In John Snow’s map (1855) every single cholera case is represented by a dot on a map, placed exactly where the disease happened (fig. 13). What was possible to infer thanks to the visualization was the proximity of water pumps, drinking water, and ill people. A simple analysis of the diffusion of the illness has led therefore to an unexpected discovery. John Snow’s map is considered one of the first cases of using a map to get social knowledge. Starting from that moment mapping and cartography have been conceived with a new task too: to analyse society. Mapping the level of activity of a place means considering the web of connections, actions, habits of the population, as an important factor for the creation of a city-identity. As technologies allow us to do so, we may want to know about who is using what kind of tool and for how long. We may want to know more about people’s movement inside the city: not only its geographical space. We may want to understand how is a particular space lived in by people, and whether there is a connection between space and people. The level of activities deals with those factors. At the mit Senseable City Lab cities are analysed through a sensor lens, which allows the gathering of data about people’s habits, movements and communications. Connecting the data from sensors with computer based-software, the laboratory produces a large amount of city-visualizations, whose peculiarity is to provide real-time feedbacks. So instead of depicting a part of the world, on a flat surface, Senseable City Lab’s maps provide information on every moment of a given amount of time. The methodology is the automatic acquisition of data, followed by their software elaborations and eventually leading to a graphic representation of the data sets (fig. 14). The last level of a place representation is the level of sense. In the multi-dimensionality of every place there is actually included the dimension of all the shared values by people also living in the place; the cultural elements intrinsic to any context in every historical era. All kinds of ‘personal geographies’


belong to this area, which is not concerning any real measurements, mathematic calculations or instrumental elaborations of data. This is what Giuliana Bruno defined as “Tender geography” (Bruno, 2006). This kind of cartography is merely subjective, emotional, and it can actually be merged with the territorial-dimension: the layer of sense is expressed by a graphic representation of the feelings connecting the author to the mapped place. But emotions on a map can even generate a new territory, using the cartographic metaphor to indicate and visualize a particular emotional realm, its interconnected elements, such as in the “Map of tendre” (fig. 15), first appeared in Madeleine de Scudéry’s novel “Clélie” (1654-61). In this map the dimension of the territory is only part of the analogy with an interior land. It’s a way of elaborating a particular thought, giving it the shape of a land: every specific emotion has its place in the map, they all are connected to each other in a geographic metaphorical way. Emotional cartography opposes a mythic representation to the usual logical one: maps of the emotions have different goals if compared with digital cartography (Vallega, 2006). Instead of being a portrait of the territory, the map becomes the visual expression of the relationship between the author and its emotions, whether for a place, a person or a condition. Out of those maps we can identify values and feelings, instead of geographic connections, distances or behaviours. Emotional cartography proposes a subjective description of any space; everybody can make his own. Christian Nold’s bio-mapping is a compelling example of this kind of cartographic explorations. In his maps territory is visualized through particular parameters, such as the emotional people’s responses to place experience, detected through a tool called Galvanic Skin Response. So the idea and image of the city is obtained out of georeferenced information, emotional feedbacks, personal witnesses (fig. 16). In Nold’s cartography the level of the sense is connected to the level of territory, the degree of iconicity of his maps is still high. This separation of layers of territory, activities and sense can be useful to set the borders of a cityvisualization analysis. A three-levels scheme shows how the three dimensions can be strictly connected, as they communicate and integrate each others. Overlapping does not generate contrasts among the layers though: their visualization depends on the map’s purpose, on the story to tell. Is it possible to completely separate the different layers of a visualization, or at least to select one and decide to try and get rid of it? We are more interested in trying to look at the city through a ‘sense filter’. If we focus


our research only on the segmented cities, we can realize how the level of territory is a major issue: where territorial disputes take place, in terms of identity, tradition, culture, language difference, we may wonder how is it possible to visualize segmented cities’ trying to overtake their territorial division. Which are going to be the most suitable layers to be visualized? (fig. 17) Can be the ‘time component’, for instance, be a sense carrier? Can a diachronic visualization of space give us back the memory of cartography which has been lost through the digital age? How does cartography influence the image of a divided city?


Fig. 11: The three layers of a city depictable through maps.

Fig. 12: The view of the Old City of Jerusalem Š Google Maps.


Fig. 13: Detail of the map made by John Snow in 1854. Cholera cases are represented by black rectangles.

Fig. 14: Senseable City Lab, MIT. Map showing the mobile phone traffic in real time. Mobile Landscapes - Graz in Real Time.


Fig. 15: Detail of the Carte du Tendre - Gravure: la Carte du Tendre, Paris, BNF.

Fig. 16: Christian Nold, San Francisco Emotional Map. The red dots indicates a high level of emotion.


Fig. 17: The overlapping levels of visualizing the city.



Segmented cities, unified maps “We say the map is different from the territory. But what is the territory?” Gregory Bateson, “Steps to an ecology of mind”

Drawing the map of a divided city is a difficult task. In this kind of cartography the rhetoric

component is highly important: those maps are not meant for helping finding people’s bearings, they are conceived to set borders, to limit people from going from a place to another, to state their geographic status

(fig. 18).

This ‘restrictive cartography’ (Monmonier, 2010) is a very authoritarian tool of

exercising the power. That is why during socio-political crises cartography can become a matter of enforcing a community’s identity. Mapping the Middle East, for instance, has always been problematic. In a constantly changing political environment the role of maps has always been connected to geographical disputes. In a divided context, being able to recognize ourself on a map can often be more than a personal issue. To mention an example, the maps of Israel-Palestinian territories, which have been released after the peace negotiations of Camp David, raised significant controversies amongst both parties (fig.19). In the Israeli-Palestinian debate the question of mapping has provoked many complaints. Palestinians could argue that cartography has been used as an authoritarian tool of depicting identities. In some maps the West Bank is not even shown. Geographic solutions such as two nations in one land has been discussed many times, but still each faction has proposed its personal reading of the peace agreements’ plans, as they were very difficult to interpret: borders between Israeli and Palestinian lands were described on a text instead of being directly visualized on maps. More recently an article appeared on Haaretz, pointing out how the importance of cartography can influence the breaking of a division, towards a two-state solution: “If Israel supports a two-state solution, it can start by redrawing official maps that ignore internationally recognized borders and major Palestinian towns”. (Daoud Kuttab, Haaretz, May 10th 2010)


The polemics about identity can involve cartographic topics because of the strong and immediate connection between space and its representation. Certainly maps will not help any segmented city to get rid of the internal struggles. Cartography will not change the world either: it is a powerful metaphoric tool though. It can actually convey messages or meaning about itself, beyond the territorial information alone. Through cartography individuals may focus on the city’s unity, by observing and giving a graphic shape to the city’s everyday life: people’s communications, movements and habits. Maps may help the reader discover new territories of analysis, as Snow’s ones about cholera in London, but it can also reveal divisions in apparently ‘united’ cities. It depends on the point of view. So, apart from political or ethnical reasons, how can we define whether a city is really segmented or not? Can cartography show elements of unity or division? Everyday life is a good element to analyse in order to understand the real fragmentation of the city. Visualizing its activities, or the sense every person assigns to a place, can make emerge union where there is division, and vice-versa. In some maps of Israel and Palestine, for instance

(fig. 20),

the point of view involved into the narration is the population density: through

a digital elaboration of the data, it can be possible to visualize a distorted cartogram of the territory which can reveal the areas with the highest density of population, and therefore it can lead the viewer to infer some knowledge of the territory, which is not explicitly mentioned in the map, but still popsup through the map-narration. Some other diagrams can subvert the common view of the territory, in order to show information which could not have been visualized through the top-projection of a standard map

(fig. 21).

So mapping divided cities from a different perspective can be interpreted as a

way to reflect on them, and about their everyday life. It can be a deliberate way of shifting the viewer’s attention, beyond the territorial issues. In this perspective our goal is not to deny the existence of critical issues, solely by making them disappear from maps. It can be a sort of graphic “exercises in style”, similar to Queneau’s ones (Gallimard, 1947): try to depict a story introducing contextual constraints. The goal of those reflections is in showing the city from another point of view, based on people’s experience and on their everyday life, instead of on the territorial hindrances they may experience. In order for this sort of graphic exercise to be possible, it will be necessary to analyze what is implied to visualize a territory without showing the territory itself.


Fig. 18: Maps of the divided cities taken from the book of Jon Calame and Eshter Charlesworth: Divided Cities. Belfast, Beirut, Jerusalem, Mostar and Nicosia. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009.


Fig. 19: Maps of Israel-Palestine reflecting different positions and proposals, taken out of the book of Dennis Ross: The Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace.Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York 1994.

Fig. 20: Left: Israel and Palestinese Territories seen from the Wall point of view. Centre: The archipel of Palestine, map designed by French cartographer Julien Boussac, where israeli territories are marked as water. Right: population-based map of Israel and Palestine, From


Fig. 21: Diagram of heights of the Jerusalem-Amman path. From the book of A. Briscoe Moore, “The Mounted Riflemen in Sinai and Palestine� , Whitcombe and Tombs, Limited, 1920.



Territories without the territory

If we decided not to visualize the territory with its normal shape on a map, or if we chose not to

show it at all, we could focus on different meanings of space, on different units to describe the space and organize our knowledge (fig. 22). So it could be suitable to find more subjective parameters to experience and represent the physical space, for the sake of finding an image of the city which can go beyond its territorial constraints and contrasting elements. “We usually consider space as being structured by absolute units. A meter is considered to have a constant length regardless of its position in space. However, in our daily life we often use units that are relative in nature: we measure space in minutes, costs or memories.” (Offenhuber, The Geometry of Relative Distance, 2005)

So daily life is a good parameter to map the ‘real’ city: it is not only related to the territory, but also to the relationships between people living and acting in the space. Time, costs and memory are some of the many units that can be usaed to give space a structure. By ignoring the territory, city descriptions can become a matter of data-flow or statistical charts; an information layer which must be included in the narration, once the given geographic data are intentionally discarded. Concerning a time oriented way to represent space, several graphic visualization have been realized using this kind of a point of view. In many anamorphic maps, for instance, the territory is stretched in order to generate a timebased visualization, no longer a territorial-oriented representation of a given space (fig. 24-25). Every territory, connection, transport system can be visualized through the lens of time. Through diagrammatic languages the existing territory is not represented; it is taken for granted as a background for the map narration. Or it is stretched until its shape becomes hardly recognisable. In the architecture of graphic elements, space is a macro-dimension, and it can be modified and oriented for several purposes: designer must only choose one. “It’s a personal choice” (Turchi, 2004). “A map is not the territory it represents, but if correct, it has a similar structure to the territory, which accounts for its usefulness” Alfred Korzybski, Science and Sanity An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics.


Looking back at all the attempts made by many architects to depict a kind of ideal city, it’s particularly interesting to observe how many of the abstractions about the perfect city’s shape are very diagrammatic, giving the cities an unusual image, as if the real shape of existing cities could not really face the complexity of connections and needs. So the idea of a perfect city has mostly started from a new composition of the territory, in a way trying to overtake it or giving it a function (fig. 26-29). A city can therefore be visualized with a body shape, it can be a geometric pattern, a symbol of cosmogony etc... Proposing to discard all the territorial information from a map can be seen as a pointless superficial way to solve a real problem which involves hundreds of thousands of people in many countries. Yet focusing the cartographic analysis on different dimensions of the territory can raise new issues and generate new thoughts about the geographical space. Rhetoric of maps can create new territories of digital or hand made knowledge. Or simply drawing a place from a personal filter. Our intention is to get to a cartography in which people and their everyday life stand above the ethnical divisions; a cartography which can depict the relationship between the environment and individuals’ emotions and behaviours, defined as psychogeography by Guy Debord (1955, fig. 23). So after setting the theoretical background and the methodological approach, the future steps of this research are to actually try and depict a city’s everyday life without depicting the real territory, or at least a fully iconographic image of it. To do that, we will cross many graphic roads, aiming to visualize the city completing an experience loop that passes by personal feelings about a place, and then can go into a technological tool-based data elaboration process and eventually return to a personal interpretation and to a visual elaboration of the data. One of the possible actions required to obtain this could be to focus on a specific sense, such as for instance phone communication among individuals (which can be monitored and georeferenced through sensors): by analyzing the results we may draw a non-territorial diagrammatic map of the city which shows, according to this particular point of view whether the divided city is really divided or not; or using the same process we may understand whether there is a real segmentation on an apparently united city. After analyzing sensors’ data we may decide to assign a particular shape to the city, according to our feelings about it.


Fig. 22: Typography meets cartography, by Angela Detanico and Rafael Lain.

Fig. 23: Guy Debord, cover of “Psychogeographic guide of Paris�. The territory is fragmented and depicts only the emotional connections of different places. Edited by the Bauhaus Imaginiste Printed in Dermark by Permild & Rosengreen - Discourse on the passions of love: psychogeographic descents of drifting and localisation of ambient unities.


Fig. 24: Metro Map of London where stops overlap their real space-position, Transport of London,

Fig. 25: Metro map of London showing the time distances from the Ravenscourt Park stop. From Travel Tube Time Map, www.tom-carden.


Fig. 26: Territorial map of London compared to a diagrammatic re-gridding of the city, from “London as it Might Have Been�, of Felix Barker.

Fig. 27: On the left, the city as a body. Illustration taken from the Trattato di Architettura of Giorgio Martini, 1470, Biblioteca Nazionale, Turi. On the right, a Chinese schematic map of the city. From Joseph Needham, Science and Civilization in China. Cambridge University.


Press, 1996

Fig. 28: Two diagrams of ideal city. Left: The Garden City Concept by Ebenezer Howard, 1902 Right: Filarete, Plan der Idealstadt Sforzinda, 1457.

Fig. 29: “The of the pedestrian” and “The (anti-)City of the motorcar”, of Léon Krier, MIT Press 2010.


7. Conclusions

It s hard to get rid of the territory though. Surely iconicity of territory will always be the main

sense carrier of any map, essentially for the ease of connecting the idea of a place with its image. Whatever kind of visual technique, rhetoric metaphor or language we could use to describe it, the image of territory seems to be more compelling when linked to a geographical description. Maps have a kind of atavistic captivation amongst our culture (Farinelli, 2010), that’s why it seems very challenging to depict territories without the territory. As shown through the examples, some of the communication design tools can allow us to build a non-territorial metaphor of the space, giving a specific sense to the map. Visualizing data, information and knowledge through maps is a way to draw a more detailed portray of a complex situation though. Besides, the use of metaphors in maps is an effective way to convey sense, which is not strictly connected with the territory: using rhetoric leads to an emotional approach. After analyzing the relationship between experience and measurement in maps’ history we may argue that nowadays there is probably no limit to the technological way to depict the world’s anatomy. So communication design should focus on showing the cities’ complexity, which is not always visualized through digital cartography in real time. In the segmented cities, in particular, the complex relationships between territory, people and culture generates several layer of sense which appear to be shown in one sight only. Once individuals are ‘divided’ in their own town, it is convenient to place them back at the centre of the (graphic) attention, by depicting what their real surrounding territory and connections look like. That’s why we consider, from a cartographic point of view, that experience and subject should be reconsidered in the map-making, in order to get rid of our alienation from map-processes, and have a closer relationship with space. A return to experience thus can lead to a more personal, psychogeographic perception of space, which may probably be more fitting to describe a complex environment such as a divided city.

We wish cartography could also influence people’s view of themselves, through this focusing

on their relationship with territory and space, obtained by personal everyday life maps. We wish maps could return to being an interior experience object, that leads to meditation about the sense of a city.


Fig. 30: Rain Chart of the United States, from the Statistical Atlas of the United States based on the 9th Census 1870, Francis A. Walker.

Fig. 31: Al-Istakhri, Kitab al-masalik wa l-mamalik (Book of roads and kingdoms) Leyde, University Library, Or. 3101


Fig. 32: Chart of the ratio of Church Accomodation in the different states of America. From the Statistical Atlas of the United States based on the 9th Census 1870, Francis A. Walker.

Fig. 33: Fiscal Chart of the United States, showing the course of the public debt. From the Statistical Atlas of the United States based on the 9th Census 1870, Francis A. Walker.


Fig. 34: Personal map of Bari realized using physical objects as a metaphor of the city’s street distribution. Project realized during a workshop at the Poliyechnic of Bari, “Visualizing the Sense” (L. Farrauto, M. Ferrari, ff3300, Lalalab). Bari, March 2010.


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