Category Archives: research & consultation

Linkage

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Filed under research & consultation

A chance encounter on twitter this morning (with @concretepost)  revealed some wonderful stuff. Go explore:

http://arcadespromenades.wordpress.com/

http://particulations.blogspot.com/

http://jameskennell.com/

What’s in a name?

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Filed under research & consultation, the map

Some neighbourhoods have names that have their roots in the history of the area, for example ‘Ramshill’, which evolves from the area being sheep pasture (originally the larger area of ‘Rams Dale’).  Some evolve over time through colloquial use – the ‘Old Town’ surely developed in this way as people sought to describe different areas of the ever-growing Victorian Scarborough. Some names are invented by councils, developers or other groups, often with an aspirational edge.

One such area is that centred around The Crescent which hosts the municipal Art Gallery, Crescent Arts studios and Woodend Creative Workspace/Gallery and extending either side to include Westwood School of Arts, down past the Rotunda museum and probably taking in the Spa and the Futurist theatre/cinema. Add the SJT and you almost form a pleasing ‘S’ shape linking these key cultural landmarks.

When Scarborough’s Renaissance programme kicked off about 7 years ago this stretch was referred to as a potential ‘cultural quarter’ – a phrase that’s very much late 90′s / early noughties town planning speak but at least suggests the importance of culture to the renaissance of Scarborough.

So is the label still valid? The Crescent didn’t quite expand culturally as intended although Woodend is a renaissance success story. An idea for a sculpture trail through the gardens linking the main locations didn’t come to fruition. But there’s a definite arc from the top of town to the seafront that takes in at least 7 culturally significant venues.


[current council-produced town centre map - i've marked the cultural venues with a pink dot]

Some stakeholders in the CHART Scarborough project think the label shouldn’t be used. Our focus groups thought it should, even if it is still partly aspirational. One person suggested it might even prompt renewed focus on the area to finish the job.

Maps have long put names to places, often turning the vernacular into the ‘official’ in the process. Should ‘Cultural Quarter’ become an accepted name for this part of town?

A bit of philosophy

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Filed under research & consultation, what is...

As promised, a teeny bit of philosophy. A caveat first though – I know nothing about philosophy. But this project has prompted some fascinating background reading to help inspire and define what we were trying to achieve and one route I found us heading off on kept bringing up the same names – Debord, Benjamin, Lefebvre. So light up a Gitanes and prepare for the map as political act (that’s a smidgen of Walter Benjamin right there for you).

The theory of ‘the production of space’ (Henri Lefebvre) suggests that as we shape the world around us, in return we are shaped by that world – we become what we experience. Therefore a map that communicates a strong sense of place says ‘this is who we are’. We’re not just saying ‘this is Scarborough’, but ‘this is what creates a Scarborian’. With my town branding head on I’m thinking there are also positive image implications of producing this map, with my creative coast head on I’m thinking about making clear the impact of cultural activity on economic regeneration (over to Richard Florida on that one but Scarborough was, after all, declared the Most Enterprising Place in Europe as a result of activity in which culture played a pivotal role).

Clearly we’re heading into urban space territory here – if you want to change the mind, change the geographic conditions that shape it.

Further to this, if we accept that anything created has to be inserted into a living social content (Walter Benjamin), and that cultural production and production of space cannot be separated (Lefebvre again), then such a map is a political act as it will change the space it is mapping and thus change the lives of the people who move through that space (Guy Debord).

That’s all either pretentious crap blogged here to justify the project, or reveals some of the impulses that drive some of Scarborough’s cultural activity which are/will be illustrated on this map.

Ok, I’ll stick to design in the future. But the beauty of CHART Scarborough is that it has no end point – this first version of the map is intended to be a catalyst. And this research reading and the subsequent conversations with various people about the project has set me off on a real psychogeography tip that I hope to explore as one of many people engaging with CHART Scarborough post-publication of the map. Which, by the way, is pencilled in for mid July.

(The image at the top is a model of part of Scarborough that’s currently in the Renaissance Centre. I snapped it on my phone when we were running one of the project’s workshop’s there.)

Of cartographers and philosophers

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Filed under design, progress, research & consultation, the map

We’ve been getting some feedback on the map from cartographers who draw a lot more maps than we do. Very useful it’s been too, highlighting some key aspects that have slipped past us as we’ve developed that design-blindness that sometimes happens on a long-running project. But something I’ve detected in the resulting discussion and from observing others is that are sometimes two distinct trains of thought about map-making.

One is that maps have developed their own visual language over the last few centuries and a map that follows in this tradition is the best a map can be. It’s tried an tested and refined and it asks that potential users learn how to understand and use such maps.

The other train of thought is that maps are fluid and that cognitive mapping theory, usually in relation to urban maps and particularly in the context of city centre wayfinding, is rewriting the rules. Maps can be far more intuitive that most currently are. This isn’t to deny that cartographer’s skills are just as valuable as before, but that a map can have a different theoretical starting point to which those skills are applied.

Under challenge from the former perspective and a wealth of cartographic experience it’s given me cause to stop and question some of the non-traditional decisions we’ve made, even going back to the theories and philosophies that underpin this project. So buckle those mental seatbelts, and whilst we make some design tweaks, my next post on here will be a whistle-stop ultra-condensed look at situationist theories and whether a map can change place. I bet you can hardly wait.

Interventions 8

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Filed under progress, research & consultation

Interventions 7

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Interventions 6

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interventions 5

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Filed under research & consultation

This one is in the Scarborough Renaissance Newsletter.

Interventions 5

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Filed under research & consultation

Interventions 4

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