2.2.1 Mapping as Research-through-design
Mapping as a cultural project, creating and building the world as much as measuring and describing it… mapping is particularly instrumental in the construing and constructing of lived space. In this active sense, the function of mapping is less to mirror reality than to engender the re-shaping of the worlds in which people live… uncovering realities previously unseen or unimagined, even across seemingly exhausted grounds.
James Corner, The Agency of Mapping: Speculation, Critique and Invention
(Corner, 2011, p.213).
The complexity of working with the challenging site of the urban landscape-seascape continuum requires designers to read and understand the existing context and then interpret and evaluate the situation in question, taking into account its entangled and changing conditions (Langner, 2019). According to Seggern (2008, p.72), “grappling with what exists intensively and creatively can promote the process of understanding.” For the design disciplines, this deep understanding is a crucial step in design work, aided by mapping to arrive at “new perspectives and projections of the urban landscape that serve as a basis for discovering new opportunities for its development and actualisation” (Langner, 2019, p.59). Mapping is not only a representation of a spatial perception of a place but also an iterative and performative way of understanding the complex relational nexus of spatial relationships (ibid.). Thus, mapping helps foster new ideas and knowledge in the design process, especially for challenging large-scale context-specific situations that lead to speculations about the future impact and course of actions they can reveal (ibid.).
Furthermore, maps are an established communicative visual medium in the LUDP disciplines and a legible and well-distributed medium for other stakeholders (Corner 2011). As such, “[a]rchitects and urban designers, with their abilities to draw information out of diverse stakeholders and delineate spaces, are distinctly suited to lead this kind of (mapping) spatial inquiry.” (Gang, Cahan and Kramer, 2016, p.87). Thus, maps are a recognised way of addressing the dynamic, complex and large-scale landscape-seascape continuum that can help envision new frameworks, territories and realities (Corner 2011). The potential for design mapping as a research method is not just to (re)interpret and (re)present an urban landscape-seascape condition but also to analyse, transform and (re)configure it. Thus, mapping is also a self-reflexive activity for the researcher in telling stories from various angles, such as, for this research, the conflicting interest between humans and nonhumans in the urban realm (Heise, 2019).
Corner (2011) and Gang et al. (2016) argue that experimenting with alternative and new forms of mapping is needed. However, the method remains largely understudied if not repressed. Thus, the role of mapping in this project is to explore further the current lack of representation of the fluid and invisible world below sea level and engage with the complex spatial nexus of the landscape-seascape continuum in the Anthropocene. Moreover, the changing role of mapping as the main medium of engagement by the spatial design disciplines addresses the need for new ways to represent, curate, connect, analyse, experiment, project and synthesise the increasing need for complexity and transdisciplinary knowledge. Departing from this notion of mapping as a projective medium, the research adopts mapping as the basis for research-through-design. Therefore, the next sections outline the potentials and limitations of different types of mapping as an investigative and explorative spatial-visual medium/method. The methodology chapter divulges the myriad reasons why a new form of hybrid mapping was developed for this research (i.e. the Kumu mappings).