Urban Design

Sustainable Cartographies: Organic, Gentle, and Hybrid Maps in Urban and Rural Design

Sustainable Development, Ecological Design, Smart Cities, BioArchitecture, BioMimicry, Green Urbanism. Noble terminology, yet empty concepts. They are, if not accompanied by credible roadmaps to upgrade and sustain biodiversity (non-human and human) in thousands of cities and villages of the world. If we want to validate and apply these terms in the public debate, we must speak in languages that are understood by people in sciences, political orders, and the media. Not an easy task at all, getting the focus steady when using the ‘speaking codes’ of contrasting, even antagonistic audiences; those who deal with Facts, Power, and Discourses.

In 2010, the earth hosted 4,231 agglomerations with populations of 100,000 or more people. Each of those habitats requires a new ecological consensus, almost a new environmental constitution to enrich non-human and human life, not only within their borders but also in their surroundings. As the German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk comments, there is no need to create a new religion to dissuade us from ecological suicide:

“(the history of culture changes) is nothing but a long line of people who have taken the imperative “You must change your life” literally, and read it according to the circumstances of their time, as Brahmans, Buddhists, Stoics, Christians, aestheticians, politicians. In today’s situation, “You must change your life” means that the old model for civilization of Western, now global, industrial culture has to be turned completely upside down an replaced by something entirely new. This can be thought of as a spiritual requirement but also as pragmatic advice. …  The absolute imperative of our time demands an ethos and a technology compatible with the advanced state of cosmopolitan, ecological consciousness.”
Architecture of Change 2: Sustainability and Humanity in the Built Environment, 2009. Kristin Feireiss (Editor), Lukas Feireiss (Editor)

If I aspire, at all, to contribute to the challenge of changing our ecological consciousness, it will be via the construction and application of Sustainable Cartographies. This is a concept and a method of representation that I have been developing since 2011 when I started my Ph.D. at the University of Edinburgh. This idea has mutated; in part, because we deal with ever-changing upgrades of digital platforms and analog apparatus-mediums of representation. Also, because I aspire to widen the practical application of this way of mapping to a broad network of cities and villages around the world.

It is time to update the framework of Sustainable Cartographies (SC), a kind of 2.0 version. I will define these ideas here on this webpage. Here are a series of 5 triangulations that will help the reader to follow the theory behind Sustainable Cartographies 2.0.

1. Ecology, Semiotics, Architecture.

2. Technocentric Landscapes (Techno-Logo), Non-Anthropocentric Landscapes (Eco-Logo), Anthropocentric Landscapes (Human-Locus)

3. Pragmatism (Application of SC), Hermeneutics (Interpretation of SC),  Visualization (Representation of SC)

4. Soft Infrastructures (carriers of matter), Ecosystem Networks (flows of matter), Hybrid Maps (representation of these flows)

5. Actors (Human & Non-Human), Actions (Intervention in the Built Environment), Consequences (Eco-Utopias & Eco-Dystopias)

What to do when we scratch our heads and ask ourselves how to reduce global warming at a planetary scale? how to increase spatial justice in thousands of cities and villages across the globe? how to represent the sustainable development of these places? Here is my modest proposal: through organic, gentle and hybrid cartographies of human and non-human habitats.

Mexican Map, 1947. By Miguel Covarrubias. Museum of Popular Cultures, Mexico City

Mexican Map, 1947. By Miguel Covarrubias. Museum of Popular Cultures, Mexico City

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