Consciously uncontrolled: a psychogeographic approach to urban mapping

Nadia Bertolino, Ioanni Delsante, Shirin Haddadian

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This paper focuses on the potentialities of mapping urban spaces through a ‘consciously uncontrolled’ action of walking, observing, recording an unknown place. In particular, the paper is a reflective narrative of a particular technique developed by some postgraduate students at Sheffield School of Architecture to interpret Debord’s theory of drifting as a qualitative tool for mapping the “unexpected” within the post-industrial neighbourhood of Holbeck, in Leeds. Located south to the river Aire, Holbeck, is known for being the centre of industrial revolution in Leeds. In the late 18th century, Holbeck developed from a small village into an important industrial site with a large number of mills and foundries manufacturing flax-based textiles. The prosperity however, did not last for long and from the late 19th century Holbeck saw a decline in heavy industries and consequently experienced a huge decrease in its population, becoming a ‘wasteland’. Within a range of investigative spatial tools developed within the MA in Architectural Design, it seems particularly consistent with the aim of this workshop the method elaborated by Haddadian and Zhang who used a double-view recorded walk to discover simultaneously the place from multiple observation points, using their bodies as a recording device (Fig.1). At first, the idea was to use multiple cameras installed on different parts of the body at different heights and directions. The idea was to give a multidimensional image of Holbeck and come to a new understanding of the place by putting all these movies together and comparing them. However, during the design of the recording technique, the number of cameras was reduced to two: the front and the back camera. While the front camera was recording images and scenes consciuolsy selected by the holder, the rear camera was not focusing on anything deliberately. This status of ‘not being consciously controlled’ lead the walkers to see things that they rarely pay attention to or – actually - never do. While the movie recorded with the front camera was showing the glorious façade of an historical building, the one from the rear was an unxepcted close-up of brick texture. In other words, using the rear camera was an invitation to see differently (from another perspective) or an attempt to remember scenes that are replaced every second by the rush of new ones. The paper will finally introduce a reflection on the possibilities and challenges to use the data collected through this method to shape the design process.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMapping urban changes
EditorsAna Plosnić Škarić
Place of PublicationZagreb, Croatia
PublisherInstitut za povijest umjetnosti - Institute of Art History
Number of pages607
ISBN (Print)9789537875459
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Nov 2016
EventMapping Urban Changes - Dubrovnik, Croatia
Duration: 1 Nov 2016 → …


WorkshopMapping Urban Changes
Period1/11/16 → …


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