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The cartographer's dilemma

The cartographer's dilemma

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  • Lorens Holm
  • Paul Guzzardo
  • Geddes Institute for Urban Research

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-35
Number of pages3
JournalUrban Design Quarterly
StatePublished - Apr 2010
Event2nd International Conference on Sustainable Architecture and Urban Development - Amman, Jordan


The city is quickening. We hover between built space and media places. Place making that takes no heed of the knowledge environment is no longer sustainable. In the era of pervasive computing we need better maps to manage the built environment. The Cartographer’s Dilemma proposes a new place making action plan for a withering public sphere. We need to develop new epistemic assemblages - street probes - for navigating a landscape of space and information. The city as site and form of knowledge begins with Patrick Geddes, the evolutionist/planner who celebrated the Greek polis, who was a pivotal link in an intellectual lineage that extends from Darwin to contemporary media theorists. With projects like the Outlook Tower and the Cities Exhibition, Geddes left behind a tool kit on synthesis, gear to map sites and record knowledge, and assemble places where mapping persists. He saw the city as an evolving search engine, a tableau you drifted through, synthesizing as you move. For Geddes, you became a citizen when you glimpse the future and humanize it. Mindful of Geddes - and wedged between a data space and a hard place - this paper will explore how place makers can begin to rethink the neighbourhood enclave and reprogram them as precincts for knowledge creation and creative action. This paper uses Geddes' work on the city to rethink the implications of the digital environment for the space we call Civic. It recalls projects in the UK context, that address this space as an archive of knowledge and identity. The Cartographers Dilemma is relevant for the re-cabled megalopolis that will need strategies for capitalising on this status. It will argue for a new definition of the sustainable city, by projecting the urban planning theories of Patrick Geddes onto the evolving 21st century media environment.

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