Place as Assemblage: Abstracting, Diagramming and Mapping

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Place is an ambiguous concept denoting various elements of the environment, both built and natural. There are a number of different philosophical approaches which examine the notion of place including those that focus on the morphology of the built environment and those deriving from phenomenology. However, most of the theories agree that place is more than what we can see, more than just a built environment and we can summarise the complexity of the built and social environments into one aspect and quality that we call - place identity. Different theories generate divergent methods for analysing place. Most approaches, however, develop an objective map of a place in which the subjective data are ignored. For this reason, this paper explores analyses that use subjectivity as a tool and asks to what extent the latter is effective in analyses of place? The intent of this paper is not to fully discard the objective mapping of place but to discuss other methods that can be used to fully understand its complexity. The paper also tests the effectiveness of the diagrammatic approach in place mapping. The definition of the diagram, which derives from both architecture and philosophy, is largely based on Vidler’s theoretical explorations overlapped with the definition of the diagram from assemblage theory. The paper highlights two case studies which use diagramming as a mapping process for understanding place. Streets in Tokyo and Canberra are examined to see how objective data could be visualised to generate an objective or subjective place diagram. The paper argues that diagrammatic mapping involves a level of abstraction that is then read in ways that differ from the intentionality of the author. Thus, a diagram allows the process of layering subjective information during which reading becomes distanced from the original intention, standing as a pure visualisation that can transmit the feeling or the atmosphere and capture the complexity of a place.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-76
Number of pages16
JournalAthens Journal of Architecture
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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