The Agency of Mapping: Speculation, Critique and Invention – James Corner, edited by Denis Cosgrove (1999) – Divyarajsinh Rana

James Corner is landscape architect and theorist who mainly work on developing innovative architectural landscape designs and urbanism.

“Make a map not a tracing!” – Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari

Above lines describes what this book is all about. James Corner differentiates the ‘art of mapping’ and ’tracing’ in this book. He describes mapping as a cultural project and collective enterprise which can reveal hidden potentials. Tracing is simply making or rather say reproducing what is already known while mapping includes hidden attributes such as activities, local stories, flow of people, economic conditions, etc. He says map surface is doubly projective- “It both captures the projected elements off the ground and projects back a variety of effects through use”. He is interested in the creative activity (process) of mapping rather than the finished product of the map.

He describes about the efficacy of technique. Here he compares the Mercator’s map with Buckminster Fuller’s map which shows the same planet in two different ways and yet both equally true from their particular point of view. He also describes techniques of aerial- oblique and zenithal views- palnimetry, iconography and triangulation which became primary tools for analyzing cities and landscapes from early 16th century.

About map and reality, he says “For architects maps are means of finding and effectively working what already exists”. Today sites are very complex and including the surrounding around that piece of flat land add much more meaning to that place. For him mapping is doubly operative- “Digging, finding and exposing on the one hand, and relating, connecting and structuring on the other”.

He explains the four techniques for mapping in the book as follows-

Drift- This are the maps which are created using series of explanations and participatory acts with no rules to it. This helps in mapping some of the hidden topographies in the city.

Layering- In this the city or the place is divided in terms of layers which are superimposed on one another, each of the layer here shows a different mapped aspect of that place.

Game-board- Maps are kept as a game board with particular game rules and anyone can take part in this game, it’s like a competition which helps in negotiating some of the complex planning decisions.

Rhizome- It has a concept of open ended maps in which a point connects to any other point, this type of maps always be in the middle with no beginning or end to it. This is a continuous process and different aspects keep on adding to the map in terms of point connections.

He aims for explorative maps made creatively using mind which can be used by architects to better understand cities and places in it, and then designing with keeping cultural, political and social aspects of it in mind.


Published by


This website is a compilation of work done by students of INDUS University, Ahmedabad. The course was a two week long module where they engaged with mapping and unfloding the many layers of small public spaces in Ahmedabad city. This course was taught by Mansi Shah

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s