The Cartography of Ambiance

The paper entitled “The Cartography of Ambiance” that I wrote for the Third International Congress on Ambiances that happened in Volos from September 21 to 24th semester gives a glimpse of my current research on mobility.

Abstract. This paper explores the cartography of ambiance as a means to parametrically generate ambiances that enable “wayfounding”, i.e. the ability to “keep your bearings” in contemporary hypermobile environments. It presents a process of architectural experimentation led by the author at the Ecole Spéciale d’Architecture (2013-2015) and the Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Paris-Malaquais (2016) in France and Kyoto Seika University (2015) in Japan, that explored the cartography of ambiance as a spatial practice through iteratively “practicing the landscape” (Thibaud, 2015), drawing from memory, gathering data, decoding and encoding parameters of ambiance.

Keywords: Cartography, Ambiance, Liquid Architecture, Wayfounding, Psychogeography, Parametric


1954 Robots Are Here

Yesterday I have invited Anne Chaise to present her work on Technologies And The Future As Represented By The Feminine Press From 1945 to 1968 during the Technologies, Architecture, urbanism course that I teach at l’ESA. Not only Anne is a pearl, but she is also a mine of information and the awesome librarian in chief at school.

Anne had gone through 1200 ELLE and 196 Marie-Claire back issues to find out that in these times, the magazine, which was already a strong medium of advertizing, had the goal of transforming the mentalities, to reconcile people with progress and science (invented/used during war time), eyes focused on the USA where technologies of the temporary, prefabrication, and standardization was being developed. I spoke already about how Buckminster Fuller envisaged post-war housing, free from infrastructure so people could pack and leave easily in case of war. That was the mindset.

ELLE and Marie-Claire had for mission to educate the good “manager” of the house (the word share the same root with the word “ménagère” in french) – the woman who had to be “clean, economical, efficient, ingenious, managing her own budget,” etc. Anne found that 31% of the magazine related to home improvement, the Salon Des Arts Ménagers, individual housing, préfabrication, mobility and flexibility (even featuring the work of Buckminster Fuller!). ELLE was participating (they had a stand) to the Salon Des Arts Ménagers as the magazine was at that time selling prefabricated houses designed by then young (and promising) architects such as Ionel Schein and Claude Parent. ELLE was also touring France with a mobile home to sell this new way of living.

In the ELLE issue 435 of 1954, the magazine shows a table summarizing how “authors of science-fiction, philosophers, scientists, visionaries or even imaginative individuals announce with a charming precision” the “everyday life of tomorrow’s man”. What was thought to arrive in 2500 has almost all already happened:

4-1954 ELLE 435 p.24-25_smallScreen shot 2013-04-20 at 9.50.01 AM

Here below are a couple of picture of Anne Chaise showing her preparation work with the time line in relation to the articles of interest she found:



Via a close friend passing by NYC on March 6, 2013. This is how he calls these closets with a bed (and weird art work) in it. The microtel only takes online reservations.


TEACHING / LEARNING ECOLOGIES: Spaces and Politics of Education

DEADLINE for (abstract + short bibliography + short biography) = September 20, 2012
Publisher: Cambridge Scholars Publishing – Post-­intercultural Communication and Education series.

Fred Dervin, University of Helsinki, Finland, multicultural education
Yasmine Abbas, Research Associate ENSA Paris-­La-­Villette, GERPHAU LAVUE 7218; Research Associate University of Geneva, Institute of Environmental Sciences – Globalization, Urban Planning, Governance

It is the intention of this volume to tell a narrative about what makes successful learning/teaching ecologies and thus education effectiveness. In the contexts of compulsory education, higher education, further education and lifelong learning, the design of spaces and the built environment matter as much as the politics of education. As such spaces and buildings do have social, political and educational functions, which cannot be ignored: they are never impartial. With the increase in online education, learning ecology becomes even more complex. What key aspects should actors involved in education (not) take into account?


Links of interest:
The best school in the world (Finland)
The whole city as a classroom (Japan)
Mobile school (Africa)
The open classroom (UK)

Digital – Biodigital

A diagram for a class I give at l’ESA on digital architecture based on the teaching of Antoine Picon who writes that digital culture caused architecture to enter a crisis of scale and tectonic and that architecture is seeing a renewal of ornament [1]. The ornament versus cosmetic argument comes from a text by Jeffrey Kipnis [2]. My interest in mobility and ecology leads me to believe that architecture is actually going beyond ornament, and that we have integrated to our digital manipulations molecular scale and structure. This is what constitute biodigital architecture. You see how both are linked. To be continued!

[1] Antoine Picon, Culture numérique et architecture – une introduction (Birkhäuser, 2010)
[2] Jeffrey Kipnis, “The Cunning of Cosmetics,” El Croquis 84 (1997): 22 – 28

Kevin Lynch’s method #imageability

An old post that I am unearthing – I should say unclouding – as it is quite relevant to the course I am teaching at l’ESA this semester. Here below is a summary of the method lynch undertook to analyze the imageability of Boston, Jersey City and L.A.!

Lynch developed his system of rules for analyzing cities by looking at three urban case studies, Boston, Jersey City and Los Angeles. He interviewed for about an hour and a half a sample of citizens and observing their habitat. The goal was to test his concept of “Imageability” – of which he distinguishes five elements: paths, edges, districts, nodes and landmarks.


Researchers interviewed 30 people in Boston, about 15 in Jersey City and Los Angeles. Lynch thought of this sample to be “inordinately small.” He writes that “clearly, a retest with a larger sample is needed, and this requires more rapid and precise methods.” (p. 152) Respondents were primarily from a middle class background (hence omitting some areas of the city), which might have skewed the results.

During a first interview, respondents were asked to sketch a map of their city, describe in detail some of their city travels (for example the trip they normally take from home to work and inversely), and tell what their strongest connection to the urban environment was.

The interview was recorded on tape, and then transcribed (carefully recording pauses and inflections). Some of the respondents were willing to be interviewed a second time.

During the second interview, researchers showed respondents photographs of their cities and of other cities (the photographs of the respondent’s cities covered “the entire district in a systematic way, but given to the subject in random order.”). Respondents – the “subjects” – had to identify and classify the pictures: “The photographs recognized were then reassembled, and the subject was asked to lay them out on a large table as if they were placing them in their proper position on a large map of the city.” (p. 142)

Researchers went with some of these respondents to the field and enacted the city travel they described during the earlier interview. This was also tape-recorded. “The subject was asked to lead the way, to discuss why a particular route was chosen, to point out what he saw along the way, and to indicate where he felt confident or lost.” (p. 142)

Researchers organized the data collected. They checked it by running informal interviews (asking directions) of four to five passersby in each of the chosen places in the city – 7 destinations and 5 origin points.

The sketch map had a strong correlation with the “verbal interviews” yet bore differences when it came to connection and organization.


The researchers who covered the field survey were conditioned, taught the concept of “imageability” before hand, prepared accordingly a map of the area to study. They hence came back with a structured set of information. During the field analysis (three to four working days), researchers tested the concept, assessed what were really landmarks and what were not for example.

The field analysis corroborated with the interviews conducted for the cities of Boston and Los Angeles, less so with the city of New Jersey.

“The field analysis done on foot developed two faults: a tendency to neglect minor elements important for automobile circulation, and a tendency to pass over certain minor features of districts that are especially important to subjects because of the social status they reflect. Our field method therefore, if supplemented by automobile surveys seems to be a technique that can predict the probable composite image with some success, allowing for the “invisible” effects of social prestige, and for the more random fixing of attention in a visually undifferentiated environment.” (p. 144)

The method described was meant to develop urban design directions. Lynch thought on complementing the study of the five single elements of “imageability” with an understanding of “element interrelations, patterns, sequences and whole”. (p. 155) Lynch even suggested using the method for city areas of different scales: buildings, landscapes, and transportation systems etc. According to Lynch, the study could also be used to understand how strangers or children build their personal image of a city, so to anticipate urban city design. He also writes that “as our habitat becomes ever more fluid and shifting, it becomes critical to know how to maintain image continuity through these upheavals [external changes].” (p. 158)

Kevin Lynch, The Image of the City (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1960)