“The map is a graphic representation which facilitates a spatial understanding of objects, concepts, conditions, processes or events in the human world.
Maps are parallel worlds, rich and powerful out of their own specific properties, producers of new and other spaces, of alternative and unprecedented geographies. Maps and cartographic practices are perhaps more correctly rendered as heterotopic projects, dealing with or seeking or suggesting counter-worlds, other territories, new spaces. Contemporary geography and cartography knows that maps create space, that maps generate the territory, that maps produce or generate the real."
-BB3, Pavilion no. 12 vol. 1
The studio Border Conditions is involved in the research and development of potentially new design tools and methods. The investigation focuses on mapping as a method of discovering and harvesting underlying attributes of the contemporary urban conditions and everyday life; translating these into spatial readings and interpretations able to form a basis for architectural design.
The studio Border Conditions plays with the idea of the blurred reality, of the vague and the indecisive. It is out of this apparently uncontrollable and actually misunderstood notion of marginal that new concepts of space arise. It speculates on the potential of these urban patches where the undetermined still leaves room for interpretation. An interpretation that is transformed into a strategy through a thorough and precise process of mapping.
The studio is set up in three development stages. The first stage focuses on creating an entrance point to the subject city by enunciating a series of problem statements and developing a number of investigational methods. The entire team of students work together in creating these, the collective effort is crucial to the success of the studio and can be seen as a defining aspect of the methods. At the same time students are required to formulate their own theoretical research and start developing it through essay writing and practical testing. The methods are applied on site in the second stage of the studio, extracting information and dissecting the subject locally. Along with the collective research students define their personal area of investigation and start working on the individual projects. During the third and final stage of the research project the data is analyzed in depth and the information is converted through mapping into a design tool. Conclusions are drawn from the collective investigation, while the individual researches are taken further into design proposals.
The first part of this book focuses on the collective effort of the studio. The second part is dedicated to the individual work, comprised of the theoretical essay and the personal investigation and mapping.
Getting up close and personal
During the first stage group effort focuses on creating an image of the city that will allow a certain comfort with the environment prior to the actual contact. Research begins by creating a collection of data from a large number of sources without any initial filtering. The collection was then mapped onto a large scale satellite image of the city in order to create a spatial dimension of the datascape. In the end a combination of the horizontal (the data) and the vertical (the satellite projection) views taken on the city provide the researcher with a three-dimensional impression of which speculations and opinions arise and become investigation topics.
Walking through Kyiv
The studio requires the development of a method of approach to the subject city. Based on the developments of the first phase a navigation strategy was devised and applied on site. The way to approach a city is a key element in grasping it. It is not merely a matter of moving through it randomly or efficiently as much as a matter of experiencing it from an architectural and spatial stand point. The act of moving through a city is re-evaluated and converted into a tool of comprehension. Exact details of how and why this movement is performed are established prior to the site visit. The validity of the navigation strategy and the speculations made are tested during the confrontation with the city itself.
Mapping as a method
The experience of the city is translated into an architectural discourse through mapping. Mapping provides the opportunity to extract and reassemble conventional concepts into spatial ones by shifting the perception of the viewer. It is a translation tool of the everyday language of the city into the complex and sometimes cryptic vocabulary of architecture. It appeals to the pragmatics of language in order to construct a new vocabulary. The specialized nature of the map makes its reading uniquely appropriate to the mapped content rather than the original. That is to say the map generates its own universe accessible to the reader through the map’s particular language. It is selective in its rendering of information and offers a meticulously constructed image out of the thousand images held within the object. Each map can unveil a different characteristic and each map can unveil a parallel universe extracted from the same reality. The map offers not only the precision of a reading but the possibility of interpretation and variation.”
The snowwalk was based on the original idea to follow a trajectory along the Dnipro Riverand see the northern city edge at the Obolon district. Both the riverside, which splits the city in two parts, and the city edge, in large part created by an abrupt ending of former Soviet housing, are defined to be the most physical ‘border conditions’ in the city.
Our primary plan to investigate the river and the city edge by use of different tools: sketching, notation, photographing, filming, proved to be impossible during the walk by a rapid change of weather conditions. From that moment on the weather determined our walk.
With the increase of rain and later snow both visibility and enthusiasm dropped. The weather determined the physical route and the tempo by the stops we made; for dry shoes, umbrellas, shelter and the warmth and speed of the metro. The impossibility of recording with the predefined method actually becomes the recording in itself for this map.
The initial purpose of the train walk was to experience Kiev through the pursuit of the railroad, which encircles the city. Discovering the impossibility of that aim made the walk an attempt to reach by two groups a certain train station from opposite directions.
Two metro stations, one on the north and the other on the south of the specified target, were chosen as the starting points.
During this walk both groups had a similar division of tasks; each person focused on the walk by utilizing one specific tool: sound, notes, pictures and film. As one of the groups got lost, the mapping technique proved to be relevant. At this point the walk and the map get a completely different meaning. Instead of recording information about the surrounding, the surrounding becomes a tool to map the trajectory.
The map of the trainwalk focuses on the route itself and the difficulty of orientation. Connection and displacement lines are used to represent confusion about the actual location and the way the location is read on the map. The two converging trajectories never meet and so they are separated.
Beforehand Kiev was defined as a city of contrast and extreme juxtapositions. The close adjacency of extremely different city atmospheres and their transition zones are investigated through the metrowalk. For this walk the group was split in two, the area of investigation was the metro line on the east west axis of Kiev.
The purpose of the walk was to test the difference in perception of the two groups walking different intervals of the same trajectory, one passing through the transition zone between two stations on foot, the other travelling by metro and just sampling two different atmospheres at the station.
The metrowalk was our first real introduction to the physical reality of Kiev. The method to record this experience aims at dissecting information into distinct sensorial experiences, recombining data in a later phase in order to obtain a complete multilateral image of the walk. Each member of the two different teams was assigned a tool, a specific registration method focussing on a specific perception of the trajectory. The tools that were used per group were photography (view), video (sound/view), notes (smell, sound, touch), and sketch; the team member would be strictly confined to this single method of registration. Together the team becomes a sensing body moving through the city. Afterwards the obtained data is filtered and recombined. The various lines of sensory information are interdependent and should be read accordingly. Both the upper and lower half of the map represent two completely different cities but are in fact samples of one and the same city, Kiev.
This research is a joint effort of the Border Conditions Kyiv students Sara Bilge, Maria Ionescu, Ivo de Jeu, Seongheon Oh, Christian Meezen, Nadine de Ripainsel, Carolien Schippers and Dennis Wasch with the guidance of tutors Marc Schoonderbeek, Oscar Rommens and Raviv Ganchrow.