Above ––
A tsunami inundation marker in Kamaishi-shi, Japan. Location: 39° 16’26.2”N, 141°52’53.5”E. 10 metres above sea level. Photograph taken by Elise Hunchuck (2015).

Cartographies for Cities Yet to Come: 
Points, Lines, and Fields

The geologist distinguishes between stones, and in distinguishing connects them. Each becomes different from its fellow but in differing from, assumes a relation to its fellow; they are no more each the repetition of each other – they are parts of a system, and each implies and is connected with the existence of the rest.
–– John Ruskin[1]

In April 2017, Elise Hunchuck was invited to present her research at the Architectures, Data & Natures: The Politics of Environments conference in Tallinn, Estonia. Organized by Maroš Krivy and featuring keynote talks by Matthew Gandy (Cambridge, UK) and Doug Spencer (AA, Westminster, UK), the conference interrogated the “two themes that stand out in contemporary architecture and urbanism: ecology, revolving around sustainability, resilience, metabolic optimization and energy efficiency; and cybernetics, staking the future upon pervasive interactivity, ubiquitous computing, and ‘big dat­a’.” The hypothesis discussed at the conference asked what if these “are really two facets of a single environmental question: while real-time adjustments, behaviour optimisation, and smart solutions are central to urban environmentalism,” does “the omnipresent network of perpetually interacting digital objects becomes itself the environment of everyday life?”

The Incomplete Atlas of Stones was presented in collaboration with Christina Leigh Geros (Harvard GSD) in a talk titled “Cartographies of Residence for Cities yet to Come: Points, Lines, and Fields.” Reassessing the terms of engagement with sustainability and resilience through her field work in northern Japan, Hunchuck presented her survey and mapping of historical environmental data for community-based resilience in the form of tsunami stone markers along the Sanriku Coast. A network of historical data at the scale of 1:1, Elise asks what the epistemological status of these markers might be; what kind of knowledge do they produce; and, what is the effect of these markers on the way communities and governments understand the always present risk of an earthquake or tsunami?

Presented as a case study alongside the PetaBencana & MITUrbanRisk Lab initiative (in which the power of citizen cartographers is harnessed by the gathering, sorting, and displaying of geotagged tweets; each tweet sharing individual information about flooding, inundation, or critical water infrastructure in Jakarta, Indonesia), the Incomplete Atlas asks increasingly urgent questions while proposing transferable, multi-scalar, multi-centered approaches as a way to think in relation to our environments.

Both presentations will be made available online by the Faculty of Architecture, Estonian Academy of Arts, Estonia, in cooperation with the Department of Geography, Cambridge University, UK (the research project Rethinking Urban Nature).

[1] See Ruskin, John. O’ Truth of Earth (1903).

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