Enacted cartography: testing a methodology for making site-specific architecture
Authors: Weir, Ian
ABSTRACT: Architectural vernaculars provide models for building in a specific place, but in some
recently subdivided areas of Australia such models simply do not exist. Consequently designers
immediately import other typologies to fill this void. I argue that given such conditions, the model for
inhabitation should be the landscape itself.
The paper’s central premise is that sustainable architecture’s main attribute is its ability to connect us in
as many ways as possible with local cycles and processes. This attribute transcends the more
quantifiable, but nonetheless secondary factors such as energy use and low-toxicity finishes. Buildings
which engender such connective-ness are commonly termed “site-specific.” However, it is not the actual
site, but representations of the site (for example, topographic maps) that form the ‘ground’ upon which
designs are conceived. I argue that if designers are to achieve site-specific architecture, then they must
first develop site-specific maps. Designers might achieve such maps through “enacted cartography”:
their direct engagement with site and with site-mapping technologies. This hypothesis is tested through
a series of mapping experiments outlined in the latter part of the discussion.
The paper assumes the audience is familiar with Kenneth Frampton’s theory of “Critical Regionalism,”
and has basic knowledge of CAD interfaces.