Thursday, June 26, 2008


In this seminar students will engage in a research project on a particular “place” located in the Auckland region, and will explore and evaluate different possibilities for recording and representing this place. This seminar will traverse practice and theory and will weave together discourse from an array of disciplines; architecture/design, planning, geography, philosophy, information design. The particular formal outcomes of this seminar will be that of the map and the diagram, and it is anticipated that these will operate across a range of media. In the seminar students will be encouraged to work collaboratively on projects and these projects will be publicly exhibited. The seminar will draw on the expertise of a range of experts, both internal and external to the university and from practise nationally and abroad.

The seminar centres around two provocations. Firstly the call for complex forms of notation to meet the contemporary form(less-ness) of the city and second the contention that discursive forms such as drawing and as image-making are powerful and persuasive in the setting of agendas for the design of the city. A “key” prompting discussion into each provocation follows.

Complex notation:
Stan Allen calls for new forms of notation in order to engage with the contemporary city. He says, "traditional representations presume stable objects and fixed subjects. But the contemporary city is not reducible to an artefact. The city today is a place where visible and invisible streams of information, capital and subjects interact in complex formations. They form a dispersed field, a network of flows. In order to describe or to intervene in this new field architects need representational techniques that engage time and change, shifting scales, mobile points of view, and multiple programs" (Allen, 2000, p. 40).

For Allen architecture requires a continual shuttling “between the abstraction of architecture’s graphic instruments and the unyielding concreteness of the building” (Allen, 2000, p. 36), and it is this shuttling that, “makes it possible for architecture to work within the complexity of the real, and to engage the shifting field of the contemporary city” (Allen, 2000, p. 36).

Drawing and image making:
muf are an art and architecture practise committed to working in public space. They describe their practise as engaged with the limits, edges and limitations of a brief (Ainley, 2001, p. 9), and that these provide the clues and content for their urban place-making strategies.
muf operate with an awareness of the powerful role images play in the design process. In their drawings muf gather together a range of ideas for a project, from the imaginary or strange to the technical, in effect giving this wide range of ideas a formal representation, a place. The making of images in the practise of muf could be seen as a political device whereby all parties in the project can have their needs and desires for the project articulated and represented with equal weight. For muf, "making images that acknowledge the imaginary, the unexpected and the unofficial is an attempt to value the kind of knowledge that is often marginalised or ignored; it is an attempt to say to the people who are the larger client body, "your most weird thoughts are socially relevant". (Ainley, 2001, p. 91)

These two positions act as starting points for the seminar. To summarise the seminar contends that new forms of notation are required and that all forms of notation and drawing convey an agenda in terms of the place represented.

The seminar will commence with three weeks of discussion lead by key readings. The themes for these sessions will cover the “why”, the “what” and the “how” of the seminar. We will begin by considering WHY new forms of notation are called for why diagramming and the mapping might fit with this call. This will be followed by a discussion of WHAT place is, through differing disciplinary lenses. Finally we will discuss HOW various forms of research and design can be used to convey particular agendas or points of view.

In the next part of the course we will identify places (physical and digital, contained and networked), that might prove useful and engaging in terms of a mapping/diagramming/notation project. To pursue these further project teams will be formed and a collaborative in depth research period will follow. Finally a series of maps/diagrams in a range of media (still and moving image) will be prepared, critically analysed and publicly exhibited.

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