The maps. An appropriation of the world | Ignacio Grávalos – Patrizia Di Monte

“I can use a mirror, which the things show since are seen,

or can use a map, which the things show since are well-considered.”

E. Gombrich

A paper world.

The maps constitute a graphical representation of the territory. But also, in turn, always they have constituted an instrument of ideology and power. They answer to the need to locate processes and done, so much spent as futures, speak to us about a social order in a time and in a concrete space.

J. B. Harley, in The new nature of maps1 it defines them as a social construction of the world expressed across the cartography. Nevertheless, it tints, the maps are never neutral, not even completely scientific. He analyzes the pressures that compromise the independence of the cartographer: financial, economic or political limitations.

“Along the history the cartographer was a puppet dressed in a technical language, which threads were handled by other persons”.

The map was turning this way into a document that was going beyond the representation of the physical image of a place. In this discursive thread, the author considers the map to be one more weapon of the imperialism, since, in words of the author,

In the measure in which the maps were used in the colonial promotion and they took possession of the lands in paper, before occupying them really, the maps anticipated the empire”.

This argument is valid so much for what the maps express as for what they silence. They turn into an intermediate document between what it tries to say and what it tries to omit. It invites to analyze these documents as a“search of silences”. A map was containing the royal thing; what one did not see, did not exist.

The own system of representation manipulated the configuration of the world. In this aspect, there turns out to be illustrative the terrestrial projection of Mercator (1569), which though it managed to create a map that was not distorting the angles for the navigation, reflected in the same way an image of the world with a Central Europe in a privileged and hegemonic position but simultaneously deformed and removed from the high altitudes. From the 17th century it was advanced towards a scientific rationalization of the map, in an attempt of translating cartographic truths with a mathematical precision, independent and objective.

Comparison of representation of Mercator and Peters |

An image of the time and of the space.

Italo Calvino, in The viandante in the map2,underlines as the first need of the map it of fixing on the paper a succession of tours, of trips. East to pass of stages, expresses very well in his first representations realized across rolls of parchment that they were showing successively the milestones of the tour. They are images that they were not claiming so much of expressing a physical and territorial truth as a linear sense. They treat of documents that they favour the terrestrial tour: cities, villages, distances, etc. This way it testifies it Peutingerian Tabulates, a map that reflects the possessions, the tours and the connections of the Roman Empire. Calvino sees in these first cartographic representations “the need to include in an image the dimension of the time together with that of the space”.

Peutingerian Tabulates |

Far from fixing a literal translation of the territory, in diverse representations more interested parties appear a few maps diagramáticos in the flows that in the terrestrial or marine morphology. It is the case of the maps of wood of the Marshall Islands, composed by sticks and shells. These appliances were constituting an information encrypted and favoured about the disposition of hundreds of islands, as well as of the marine currents of this part of the ocean that were allowing the navigation of the canoes for the islands of the Polynesia.

Marshall Islands Map |

From the 17th century the production of maps acquired an amazing scientific precision stimulated by Venetian and Dutch cartographers, in an attempt of reflecting a territory where, paradoxically, the borders between the land and the water were uncertain.

A digital world.

Already in full 20th century, the need to classify the world derived in the creation in 1940 of the Universal Transverse system of Mercator’s coordinates (UTM), that sectorizó the planet in sixty precision zones. Later, in 1978, a new revolution took place on there having be thrown the first satellite of the twenty-four that were going to form the Global positioning system (GPS). A network of satellites would replace the cartographic classic vision across a technological skin that it was trying to wrap to the planet. From then, a digital world composed by the precision and the constant update of the information has come to create a series of documents that reflect the continuous and fast changes of the current world.

Satellites GPS |

Already not only mapean territories. There exists an irrepressible will to express graphically actions, flows, situations, desires, etc.; all that that could form somehow the complex contemporary reality. In this respect, we have entered in the age of the massive information (Big Data), of the accumulation of absolutely interconnected information. From 1924, the discoveries of the quantum mechanics “destroyed forever the dream of the exhaustive and perfect measurement 3. The new paradigm of the complexity already does not look for the causal effects, renounces the positivist logic; gently accepted certain degree of imprecision and disorder in exchange for the possibility of correlating big quantities of information.

To half of 20th century irrumpe a will to obtain specific maps that were reflecting the human action. Social, ecological, subjective, emotional maps, etc. Maps that prefer the flows to the materiality of the city. A reality that it began to desmaterializarse across the vectors of desire, since it reflected Debord in “The naked City” (1957), where the urban morphology was literally erased in some zones of the city; or more recently, the planes of Twitter or Flickr that favour more the connections than the territoriality.

Map Tokyo of locations of Flickr and Twitter |

And in this attempt of mapear the reality, two new protagonists appear: Amazon and Google. On the one hand Amazon bets for the digitalization of documents, of containing the information. Google, nevertheless, bets for the datificación, the accumulation of information that, across his dense relations and numerous clicks, contain the key of the world.

From there, there arise a series of agencies (MarketPsych, Thomson Reuters..) that catch innumerable information to generate diverse indexes that they try to reflect, not already truths on the territory, but questions as ethereal as the optimism, the melancholy, the fear, the rage, the innovation, the conflict, etc. And this information already cannot be manipulated not assimilated by a human mind. They are powerful programmed machines those that search

 “inadvertent correlations that could be translated in benefits (…) The states of mind have stayed datificados”.4

Ignacio Grávalos – Patrizia Di Monte. Arquitectos  (estonoesunsolar)

Zaragoza-Venezia-Foggia. April 2015.


1 Harley, Brian. “La nueva naturaleza de los mapas”. Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2005.

2 Calvino, Italo. El viandante en el mapa, en “Colección de arena”. Siruela, 2002.

3 Mayer-Schönberger, V; Cukier, K. “Big Data. La revolución de los datos masivos”. Turner, 2013.

4 Mayer-Schönberger, V; Cukier, K. Op. cit.

Ignacio Grávalos – Patrizia di Monte

Ignacio Grávalos y Patrizia Di Monte fundan gravalosdimonte arquitectos en 1998, un estudio que trabaja en los diversos ámbitos de la arquitectura y del paisaje, participando en proyectos de actividad cultural, estudios de regeneración urbana, trabajos de arquitectura participativa y estudios experimentales sobre urbanismo de no conformidad. En la actualidad alternan la actividad profesional con la docente, así como la presencia en numerosos procesos de investigación en ámbito europeo.

Ignacio Grávalos es arquitecto por la ETSAB (Barcelona, 1994). Es profesor titular de Expresión Arquitectónica de la Escuela de Arquitectura de la Universidad San Jorge de Zaragoza.
Patrizia Di Monte es arquitecta por el IUAV (Venecia, 1995). En 1998 consiguió el título de máster (La Gran Escala) por la UPC y la suficiencia investigadora (tesis doctoral en curso). Ha sido arquitecta colaboradora Fund. Peggy Guggenheim en Venecia de 95-97, miembro de la comisión de cultura del COAA de 2003-06, miembro del comité cientifico Capitalidad Cultural Zaragoza 2016, profesora de Proyectos III de la Escuela de Arquitectura de la USJ de Zaragoza y actualmente es profesora de Urbanismo I. Obtienen el 1er premio concurso paseo marítimo en Torre Mileto, 1er premio concurso de ideas reforma C.O.A.A., 1er premio concurso bloque de viviendas en torre en Zaragoza, 1er premio concurso bloque de viviendas en el Canal Imperial Zaragoza, 3er premio concurso ideas internacional “Oficinas Expo 2008”, adjudicatarios de numerosos concursos de estudio sobre el Casco Histórico de Zaragoza.

Creadores del programa “estonoesunosolar”, iniciativa experimental de intervenciones temporales en vacíos urbanos para uso público, reconocida con 1er premio Saie Urban regeneration and development 2012, 1er premio Eurocities 2011 Participation, 1er premio Innovazione e Qualitá Urbana 2010, mención de investigación XI Bienal Española Arquitectura y Urbanismo, 2º premio SAIE Selection 10, 3er premio SMART Future Minds 2010, finalista premios FAD 2011, finalista City to City FAD awards 2012, finalista Future Cities awards 2012, ganadores convocatoria internacional “Architecture of Consequence” del NAI (ND) , obra seleccionada 6ª y 7ª Bienal Europea de Paisaje, mención XXII y XXVI premios de Arquitectura García Mercadal.

Entre sus últimas obras construidas se encuentra la escuela infantil del Casco Histórico de Zaragoza (en colaboración con S. Carroquino), que ha recibido el accésit premio Children in Scotland’s Making Space Awards 2010.

Han sido arquitectos invitados a: Congreso Eurocities Culture Forum 2009, Congreso Caceres Ciudades Creativas 2009, Congreso Ciudades Creativas 2010 (Kreanta), XIX Congreso Centro Iberoamericano Desarrollo estratégico Urbano en Mérida (Méjico), Reunión Agenda 21 para la Cultura en Belo Horizonte (Brasil), Xunta de Galicia, Ayto. de Sevilla, Ayto. de Vitoria, COAC, COAG, Master Arquitectura Medioambiental y Urbanismo Sostenible PAMUS de Univ. La Salle, Universidad Internacional de Andalucia, Universidad de País Vasco, Master Progettazione Interattiva Sostenibile e Multimedialità de Roma3, Master in Paesaggistica-Unifi/AIAPP/LUS Univ. di Firenze, Univ. Di Trento, Ayto. de Turín, Ayto. De Napoles, Milano Made Expo 12, SAIE 12 Bologna, Politecnico de Milán, Cité de l’ Architecture de París, DAZ de Berlín, Master Public Space Berlage Institute de Rótterdam entre otros.

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