OPERATIVE MAPPING

Maps are excelente mediation devices, allowing interaction between different languages and sources of information. The expression of ideas, critical positioning, or ways by which one can read the world is fundamentally bounded by its symbolical addressability. Consequently language heavily delimits what can be addressed – and known – or not.

As one gets closer to this “frontier” the landscape of available concepts grows more abstract and complex to grasp – such as when Ruth Glass coined the word “gentrification” in 1964 – by then the innovative concept required more detail to be understood than nowadays. Maps by allowing different languages to intersect, comfortably operate on these “edge” states – an exploratory quality that got more attention in the post Second World War, were increasing disenchantment towards highly idealized – and often state aligned views of societal issues was common.

As design gets less moved by heroic Modern Movement ideas realism gains ground via directly addressing emotions and the ordinary is seen as markers of human activity. Such properties in objects become signals for architects to identify man with environment – constituting as well an ethical and political approach towards society.

One evident aspect in these approaches is that the surveying act intrinsically implies a design action and cannot be seen as an unbiased moment – revealing that there is no such thing as a neutral observer or observations without consequences, therefore all mapping operations fundamentally constitute actions that matter. As the exploration of these new processes gains autonomy from established norms, maps and architectural projects can be addressed as versions (or interpretations) of reality often contrasting with other aspects of the real.

Therefore when dealing with the unknown, mapping actions/processes can make more sense than using positivistic approaches. This brought renewed curiosity in older mapping practices also dealing with large amounts of uncertainty such as aboriginal song lines or shamanistic journeys. And by working on the level of actions (or reactions) or rules of engagement one achieves potentially infinite uses (or outcomes) from finite means, the map transforms into a tool, an operational kernel that contributes to discover new design practices and find knowledge.

[ Tiago Rosado for the Master in Ephemeral Architecture and Temporary Spaces ]

We start with devising a system to map human activity in a medieval square. Later we used The Name of the Rose from Humberto Eco for a performative theater experience where actors audience share the monk’s cloak. 

 
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As the narrative progresses different areas of the square are activated. Sometimes multiple actions take place at the same time: the monks (audience) decides which to follow.

 

I developed a formula system to trace how main actors could relate to the audience ensuring that main plot moments would not overlap. A literay piece is transposed into a chain of narratives that the participating audience living under the monks cloak can decide to follow or not. Interactions between actors – that follow a script – and audience – that does not – are codified.