studying the city (Annette Koh)

Public space, the right to the city, and civic engagement. How can we improve equity and access through participatory urbanism? Ph.D. student in Urban & Regional Planning at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. Former resident of Seoul & San Francisco.
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Posts tagged "map"

For the record, being on multiple, international academic listservs just means there are even more seminars/lectures that I want to teleport myself to.



Conventional cartographies are good at depicting the visible surface of the world but tend to obscure or exclude its deeper layers of meaning, especially those associated with natural and cultural histories whose material traces may be difficult to decode. This seminar will explore some recent ‘archaeological’ strategies designed to excavate and put these hidden histories on the map.

Memoryscape: Site Specific Oral history in a Community Context
"For several years I have been interested in mapping memories and have created several oral history trails, or memoryscapes, in and around London. In this talk I will be exploring the potential of mapping memories for building connections in communities in spatial, historical and social terms. I will be discuss the trials and tribulations of community-based mapping projects from my own work involving artists and community groups in trail making around the Royal Docks in East London ( and experiential mapping work with Italian-Canadian children in Montreal, Canada.”

Digital Experiences of Limehouse Chinatown
"The ‘Wander East through East, project is an audio trail exploring the hidden history of Limehouse Chinatown, the original London based Chinatown, which was prominent in London’s East End between the 1880s to the 1930s. Although small in scale compared to Chinatown districts around the world, Limehouse has had a great impact on the perception of Chinese Diasporas within the Western imagination. As a result, Limehouse Chinatown becomes a site of urban spectacle in London by the 1920s. Inspired by the Situationist approach to urban exploration, ‘Wander East through East’ encourages the walker to critically engage with ‘Limehouse Chinatown.’ By using digital platforms, oral history and a creative approach to presenting history, the ‘Wander East through East’ trail critiques a homogenous, racialised, and sedentary characterisation of place and suggests an alternative way of re-imagining and experiencing place."

Re-walking London
"There is a story in the pattern of our streets, in the names we have given them and in the weeds that grown on their fringes. They are the stories of the people who have lived and worked there and the communities from which they have come. They are the echoes of lost landscapes; and of past associations reasserting themselves. This talk sets out to explore the lost, or hidden, stories of our locations and to explain, with practical examples, how we can ‘read’ an area. It also looks at the connections between ‘natural’ and ‘social’ history: how our transport systems affect the spread of wild plants or what the weeds of a waste land can tell us about world trade or our agricultural or industrial past. It will argue that human community depends on connections: with time, with place, with other people, and with the other species with which we share our space. Faced, however, with the power given to developers and with the demands of a growth-at-all-costs economy, we are in danger of robbing our streets of all meaning and of destroying a sense of place. Understanding where we are is essential to understanding who we are and we should view it as an act of resistance."

Image sources: Lego London Tube MapRichard Bram’s photo of a commuter at High Street Kensington; Living in the Tube during the London BlitzUnderground Writing: The London Tube from George Gissing to Virginia Woolf; Tube Centenary posterStraw MapBeck’s original London Underground map

Quoted from Simon Parker’s Urban Theory and the Urban Experience.

Beck’s Underground Map can be considered from a number of theoretical angles, each of which is discussed in more detail in later chapters: 

  • As representational space (the imagined city of the Underground provides us with a powerful mental image of London to set alongside other familiar place markers such as Big Ben, Nelson’s Column, St Paul’s Cathedral, Buckingham Palace, Piccadilly Circus, Tower Bridge and so forth).

  • As symbolic space (the London Underground circle and bar motif immediately conjures up an entire system of destinations and rail networks in a single instantly recognisable sign).

  • As a narrative space (each station stop and each tube line tells a different story for each passenger – ‘where I go to work’, ‘where I go to shop’, ‘where I go to watch sport’).

  • As cultural trace (the classic quality of Beck’s 1930’s ‘map’ incorporates with it nostalgic associations of that period – such as families sheltering on Underground platforms during the wartime bombardment – stressing the ‘unity’ of London and Londoners).

  • As commodity fetishism (wear the T-shirt, drink tea from the mug!). As an example of state intervention in the urban economy (the London Underground was one of the first examples of a publicly owned wide-area mass transit system).

  • As a hidden map of the ‘dual city’ (for example, seventy years on from the Underground system described in Beck’s map, one of London’s poorest boroughs, Hackney, is still not served by a single underground station, while wealthy Kensington and Chelsea have six within a short distance of each other).

  • As a product of the rational design of high modernity (Le Corbusier would have appreciated the spur and grid-like quality of Beck’s design, although he would have deplored the complex engineering required to protect the city’s ancient foundations from crumbling).

[Andreas Gursky, Chicago Board of Trade II]

Nicky MarshPaul Crosthwaite, and Peter Knight, “Imagining the Market - A Visual History,” Public Culture (2012)

Perhaps the best-known visual document of finance capital’s contemporary ascendance is German photographer Andreas Gursky’s Chicago Board of Trade II (1999). An icon of contemporary photography, which enjoyed a long spell as one of the most prominent exhibits at London’s Tate Modern gallery, the image is part of a series of shots of trading floors — in cities ranging from New York to Singapore to Kuwait—taken by Gursky since the early 1990s. While works like Hong Kong Stock Exchange, Diptych (1994) display spaces entirely given over to desk-bound, computerized exchange — oversize versions of the open-plan offices that are now the standard trading environments in financial districts across the world — Gursky’s visits to the Chicago Board of Trade (first in 1997 and then in 1999) allowed him to capture scenes of traditional open outcry trading in all its drama, dynamism, and energy. As such, Chicago Board of Trade II recalls nineteenth-century illustrations of stock exchange panics, in which human passion and frenzy are seen to animate the market. At the same time, though, one can hardly ignore the massive presence of technology in Gursky’s image: technologies of representation, recording, calculation, and transmission — descendents of the stock ticker that already, in the late nineteenth century, endowed the functioning of the market with an impersonal, placeless air. 

[Mark Lombardi, World Finance Corporation, Miami, c. 1970–79 (4th version), 1997.]

Comparable attempts to provide what Fredric Jameson calls “cognitive maps” of the occulted realities of global finance were made by the American neoconceptualist Mark Lombardi in the 1990s. From the early years of the decade until his death in 2000, Lombardi used a carefully archived file of news reports (eventually running to some twelve thousand entries) to produce meticulous pencil-on-paper diagrams of financial and political scandals ranging from Whitewater and Iran-Contra to the savings and loan and Vatican Bank affairs. World Finance Corporation, Miami, c. 1970–79 (1997) (fig. 8) charts the hidden webs of influence, investment, money laundering, and embezzlement that linked this company, founded by a CIA-backed anti-Castro Cuban, to Colombian cocaine smugglers, Floridian realtors, and banks and to government departments in the United States, Latin America, and elsewhere. Also produced on a large scale (World Finance Corporation measures about two feet by five feet), Lombardi’s drawings, like Gursky’s prints, enact an interplay between proximity and distance that may well be integral to representations of finance in general. For the viewer confronted with work of this kind, to focus in on the details of individuals or institutions is to lose sight of the whole, while to survey the whole is to allow signifying detail to blur into formalist abstraction.

A further point of commonality between Gursky and Lombardi is the ostensibly neutral, impassive quality of their images. Here, though, the two artists also diverge, for if Gursky’s stock exchange images carry a “critique,” then it remains “implicit” and “inscrutable,”25 while behind the scrupulous, methodical tabulations that make up Lombardi’s work there clearly lies a critical, activist impulse. Like the charts produced by the Pujo Committee, Lombardi’s images use the resources of abstraction to reveal patterns and connections that are indiscernible at the level of direct personal experience.

Via @sumayyaka: First indigenous map of its kind: Continental U.S. map displays “Our own names and locations” A project by Aaron Carapella to map the nations of North America. 
[Edited on 2013/5/29] I stumbled on this thoughtful discussion of this map’s shortcomings that is important to include here. The critique may seem harsh for a project that is a labor of love, but it is an important reminder of the limitations of maps and the danger of being seduced by what feels like cartographic completeness.
placing a photo & tribal name on a place on a map… says nothing about the tribe’s history, the extent of their land claims or usage, or anything at all really except that they were there at some unnamed point in time.
I miss the smell of the fog and the little electric thrill of coming up that curve on 101-N when the city pops up like a pastel present in front of you.


The Streets of San Francisco

This is so perfect

I miss the smell of the fog and the little electric thrill of coming up that curve on 101-N when the city pops up like a pastel present in front of you.



The Streets of San Francisco

This is so perfect

Ran across a 2008 project called Chang Chun Dong: Memory, Dialogue, Scape in which residents were asked to draw their individual maps and tell their specific memories of a particular neighborhood. The documentation-as-book includes both their maps (pixelatedly scanned) as well their photos and interviews. Onebluepenguin pointed out the boy who only plotted out four spots, including the corner store and his hagwon, as well as the girl who denoted her favorite restaurants. On the inside back cover is the quotation “I experience myself in the city, and the city exists through my embodied experience. The city and my body supplement and define each other. I dwell in the city and the city dwells in me.” (Juhani Pallasmaa, 2005)