"Cogito Rotam"

  Abstract Marlies Vermeulen Copyright: © Marlies Vermeulen

Ph.D. Thesis "What about spatial anthropology, cartography, metaphors & mapping/drawing?
And the undisciplined way of combining them."

In collaboration with University of Maastricht & hogeschool Zuyd, promotors: Sally Wyatt, Carolin Stapenhorst & Ruth Benschop

Candidate: Marlies Vermeulen

Architects have a quite inventive way of communicating plans and sections of buildings, structure and construction. Although they seem to forget one kind of map within architecture. They no longer consider the actual place and how it is used. They are still looking for how to structure, organise and document that part of ‘hidden knowledge’.

Not only in architecture but also in a more general context we tend to forget the narrative value of maps and stress only on their ‘objective’qualities. Maps and cartography always acquired a privileged position as an art and science at the same time but if we look at the most commonly used maps of today (Google Maps) we hardly see that dual position. Ancient maps (i.e. the world map of Joan Blaeu) were much richer and multiple techniques were used to represent the ‘hidden knowledge’ of how a place is used. Added illustrations gave a privileged and supernatural view of the world. Within these illustrations, the cartographer got absolute freedom to tell a story. He did so with as much precision as the indication of national borders or other geographical and factual information. Inspired by those ancient maps, their techniques and the position of a cartographer, the purpose of this research is to bring the hidden knowledge back on the floor plan within the architectural field and beyond.

The only way of coming closer to document those hidden stories and experiences is to live on site as a participant and function as an observant. Fascinated by Stefan Hirschauer’s description of anthropology as a field that focuses on the voiceless, the silent, and the indescribable, I adopted this antropological way of working within my own practice. Being on site for a relative long period to understand a place, to capture the speechless and to ‘see’ what is ‘hidden’, which is inextricably connected with daily life. This will provide sufficient information to then turn that information into drawn maps that thus contain another type of knowledge about a place.

Making or drawing maps doesn’t only provide knowledge but immediately seems to raise questions at the same time. Maps are fascinating pieces of information that rise out of a complex process. It is a thinking process and at the same time also a documentation of that process. Ingold, Pallasmaa, Motta & Pizzigoni,… They all have been writing about thinking through making and even more precisely through drawing.

Ultimately, I want to use ‘the act of mapping’ as an anthropology-based method to re-examine the ‘purpose’ of a map within the process of artistic research in general and as the forgotten layer within the field of architecture. How can I challenge the currently acknowledged maps in architecture by combining ancient cartographic techniques and anthropological methods in order to understand and document the hidden knowledge of an actual place, and with that, influence the conception of architecture itself?

2017 - Marlies Vermeulen