situationist literature review

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situationist theory applied to site analysis
michael delillo
Copenhagen Denmark
Blankenship
16 April 2010

Purpose Statement
Maps are an important part of everyday life, most maps have to be read using critical thinking
being that it uses a minimal amount of words and the user relies on the images to guide them
safely to their destination. There are road maps (and road stories that go along with them),
subway maps, drainage/grading maps, and there are maps that trace memories associated with
spaces. These maps are born out of the derive which can be traced to flaneur, the man about town
of the 19th century, and sauntering, strolling through the urban fabric (Vroom 124). Where the
derive is different is there is no set destination, you are to follow what is interesting to you there
by creating memories that can be associated with the space essentially the entire city is your play
ground.
This study sets out to use the derive to experience two facets of city life, one being the way the
city is organized - how buildings and open space sit next to one another. The other being the
people that have added to the city's as a being. The ultimate goal is to gain a deeper perspective
of how site analysis can be used to form ideas and shape decisions in landscape architecture.
This study will investigate how Situationist theory can be applied to site analysis.
The study will focus on strategies to effectively re-represent the city's fabric based on mapping.
The purpose of this study is to link Situationist theory to landscape architecture.
Terms to be familiar with
actualization, derive, existentialism, genius loci, insideness/outsideness, ontology,
psychogeography

Key Literature Reviewed

Ivan Chtcheglov (1953)

Formulary for a New Urbanism

Internationale Situationniste #1

http://www.cddc.vt.edu/sionline/presitu/formulary.html
In his essay on how a city can be restructured he touches on several topics that landscape
architecture focuses on the first being the spirt of place. "All cities are geological. You can't take
three steps without encountering ghosts bearing all the prestige of their legends"(para.7) he says
that the layers can only be read by the "magical locales of fairy tales and surrealist writings:
castles, endless walls, little forgotten bars, mammoth caverns, casino mirrors" (para.7). At this
point an entire debate over wether a city has a spirit could begin. This is because a city is
constructed by a planner and not by nature, however if the planner studied the context that the
city is to sit in then the planner could potentially say that the spirit of the place helped to guide
them during the process. Conversely as new additions to the city are incorporated within the
existing fabric, as well as existing spaces being redesigned it is more than likely that the original
intention will drift from the original intent. Therefore his conclusion "The various attempts to
integrate modern science into new myths remain inadequate."(para.8) is completely valid.
He also touches on the idea of awareness and proving ones existence. He goes on to say
"Everyone wavers between the emotionally still-alive past and the already dead future." this is
alluding to the history that is embedded into a space i.e. social protest in public squares or the
memory of a particular bus station where you said goodbye to a friend, and the contemporary
architecture that is built without looking to the spirit of the place. he gives his vision of how the
city should be restructured in the following

This city could be envisaged in the form of an arbitrary assemblage of castles, grottos, lakes, etc. It would be
the baroque stage of urbanism considered as a means of knowledge. But this theoretical phase is already outdated.
We know that a modern building could be constructed which would have no resemblance to a medieval castle but
which could preserve and enhance the Castle poetic power
(Chtcheglov, 1953, para26)

this can be seen in landscape terms and even by the public at large as kitsch or even themed but
he puts such a utopian spin on it that one cannot help but smile. He proposes that a city be set up
into quarters the historic quarter would have museums and institutions and a useful quarter
would have municipal buildings (para28) this could be taken even further and you could have an
agricultural quarter thus bringing the country into the city. He ultimately states that the only
actions that are required by those that live in this new city would derive. Furthermore he realizes
that eventually the derive would get monotonous and at least for founding residents it would
leave their life(para 30). It is assumed that those memories that a person has of their city would
never leave them and would continue to grow and add to the layers. He goes on with his utopian
vision, as new intellectuals flock to the city new art movements would grow from living in this
new type of urban center.(para31)

Guy Debord, (1955).

Critique of Urban Geography,

Les Levres Nues #6,



http://www.bopsecrets.org/SI/urbgeog.htm
In his Situationalist essay on what was going on in Paris, rituals and every day life was like he
give his definition of the term psychogeography. Debord (1955) states "[it] sets for itself the
study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, whether
consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals" (Debord, para 2).
This can be summed up as the response a person experiences when entering the outdoor
environment and finding a new meaning to surroundings. His critiques of Paris focused on the
the advertisements sent out by big corporations, the hedonistic lifestyle of the public at large and
the car by becoming a main mode of transportation, taking away from every day citizens from
experiencing the geographic environment (1955), essentially the genius loci.
In his essay he introduces ways of experiencing psychogeography. He gives meaning and an
example to the term psychogeographic maps. He proposes that by taking a map of the region you
are in and following a map of an unrelated region you would break the chains of "habitual
influences" (Debord, para 15). An example of this is taking a Copenhagen, Denmark map and
walking through Syracuse, New York. By experiencing the familiar landscape with something

new, it would bring the person who underwent a wander a new meaning of their surroundings
because they uncovered something that they were originally unaware of (1955).
It appears to me that in its most basic form psychogeography is a near parallel to the genius loci
it is the exploration of spaces that man has created and continually morphed opposed to the
"spirit" doing that work. It is being lead by one peculiarity after another constantly wondering
why this or that was done.

Guy Debord (1956)

Theory of the Derive

Les Levres Nues #9,

http://www.cddc.vt.edu/sionline/si/theory.html
A derive otherwise known as drifting can be interpreted as allowing all inhibitions of chance and
decisions to be disavowed and to let the terrain of the region guide you (1956). As Debord puts it
"let themselves [participant of the drift] be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the
encounters they find there." (Debord, para 2). A derive can be done alone, departing with a
group, or even meeting a group in a in a selected place. A derive can take place at any time
normally lasting from sunrise to sun up, last any amount of time, and there is no telling when one
will end and another one will begin. Ecological communities and the way pieces of the urban
fabric meld into one another are important paths to follow on a derive if presented during the
process. The path a derive takes you on can be any size in scale from a single avenue to a whole
city. He even sets forth the notion of a static-derive of standing in a train station and letting life
move around you. it only has to be interesting enough to document. Documenting a derive
resorts to mapping out the path that you were lead on through either re-imaging existing maps or
drawing it out from notes (1956). Debord presents the reader with the notion that a derive is
meant to break the monotony of routine and break the classes out of their usual ruts.


Guy Debord (1967)

Society of the Spectacle

http://bopsecrets.org/SI/debord/index.htm,
Society of the Spectacle gives us an overview of the philosophies that the situationists followed.
Written by Guy Debord and formatted into 221 maxims he quotes from Hegel, and Marx. Before
delving into the text we have to have a basic understanding of what these philosophers believed
in. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, according to the Philosophy Dictionary, formulated the idea
"that to have value in my own eyes I must achieve value in the eyes of others." This is a very
existential statement meaning that to prove one's existence a person would have to interact with
external forces. Hegel also formulated the idea that freedom "is living self-consciously in a fully
rational community or state" what he is asking of the person reading is philosophical writings is
that they be aware of their surroundings and question why their city is organized the way it is.
Not to take their surroundings for granted because they are not living in nature, an area that is
created by an unseen entity, but essentially by a city planner - someone who is another conscious
being who had their reasons for the final set up whether it be political, social or economic. He
was influenced by Karl Marx and his writing of the Economic and Philosophical Manuscript. As
cited in the Philosophy Dictionary "Marx introduces the pivotal concept of alienation, and takes
issue with the tradition of political economy that takes inequality as a natural fact" Here the main
idea was that the working class, the laborers, that created products could not essentially afford
them leading to feelings of alienation and potential discontent. This can be broken down into a
more simple phrase of if "they" can have it why can't "I".
Debord states in maxim 24 that "the spectacle is the ruling order's nonstop discourse about itself,
its never-ending monologue of self-praise..."(1967) The spectacle is to be understood as the
marketing schemes that businesses put out to entice the greater portion of society into thinking
that the items advertised are needed, otherwise why would other members of society go through
the trouble of producing these products and the subsequent images. He goes on to say in maxim
127 that "When a society settles in a particular location and gives space a content by developing
distinctive areas within it, it finds itself confined within that locality"(1967). This is to be
interpreted as the tie in of his his idea of the derive - the only way to awaken the masses out of

the mundane and monotonous lives they have been living. His ideas are deeply interconnected
into the roots of Landscape Architecture and urban planning in maxim 174 he lightly touches on
how the city is slowly creeping out into the country side essentially urban sprawl essentially
harkening Hegel's thoughts of alienation. In maxim 179 he states that "urbanism ... is the project
of reconstructing the entire environment in accordance with the needs of the power of workers..."
This is the vision of the revolution; to reconstruct the city in which society lives in, not based on
what the 1% sees as the ideal but what the general population that serves the 1% needs.

William Least Heat Moon (1991)

PrairyErth: A Deep Map
Heat-Moon wrote a novel based on his travels through the industrialized american landscape in it
he focuses on the technique of deep mapping. He defines deep mappig as focusing on a small
area of earth and then by interweaving autobiography, archeology, stories, memories, folklore,
reportage, weather, interviews, science and institution in to a format to record your drift (1991).

Kathryn Moore. (2003).

Genius loci: hidden truth or hidden agenda.

Landscape Design, 321, 44-49.
In Kathryn Moore's (2003) paper she gives several reasons why Genius loci should be removed
from a landscape designers vocabulary. Through her research she cited Dewey and he looked at
the issue of genus loci through a pragmatic lens, in that the designer as well as the users would
have to believe in a higher power to apply meaning to the place and the user would have to
believe in the same higher power to get the intended experience. She is right however if you use
the true definition of Genius loci then it would rely on a spirit or higher power to guide you.
Moore says later in her argument against the concept of a sense of place that it is also based on
subjectivity and not all users or designers would see the genius loci the same way as found in a
tangible design solution. (2003). Still on the topic of subjectivity everybody has a different taste
and that affects the visual projection of genius loci onto a site.

Despite her detailed argument to denounce genius loci she give a good definition of the
profession of landscape architecture as well as how this paper will define genius loci

To understand what we see in the landscape...requires a strong feeling for our culture and traditions. It
requires
critical,
analytical
skill
and
knowledge
of
the
visual
and
conceptual
medium
of
our
practice
an
intellectual
understanding
and
appreciation
of
why
things
Look
like
they
do,
given
the
time,
place
and
context.
This
kind
of
understanding
is
not
something
just
reserved
for
the
critic.
It
is
what
we
need
in
order

to design places of meaning and significance.


(Moore 2003, 49)
Thinking of back over my yet to be finished education in the field of Landscape Architecture
these are most of the issues that I learned have to be touched on in some phase of the design
process to have a successful design. Learning about the demographic of a site- cultural and
traditional, understanding that a site is made up of a larger system- analytical, working within
transportation sheds and understanding the soft and hardscape materials that are introduced on to
a site- visual and medium, "knowing that the environment has already been formed by mother
earth and is continually shaped by the earth and its organisms" (Bryant, Margaret)- time, place
and context. To sum it up knowing and understanding the holistic nature of a site. By my
assumption then this is a perfectly good way to go about researching and looking at Genius loci.

The Practice of Everyday Life (1980)

Chapter 9: Walking in the City

Michel de Certeau
Certeau touches on many of the already talked about points pertaining toExistentialism applied
to the everyday and the derive. First is the quote "the construction of a fiction that creates its
readers"(102para2) this is interpreted as people occupy a space they make experiences which
affirms their existence. this is later echoed in later pages when he says "[a user] dooms certain
sites to inertia or to decay, and from others he forms "rare"...or illegal spatial shapes"(107para1)
again this emphasizes that when someone interacts with an object in a space the user proves both
their and the objects existence. The user has given a meaning to a space and it is now imbedded
into their memory. As cited in ibid "there is no special place; except for my place that is
all....There is nothing."(113para2) This idea of "my place" can be interpreted as the home and if
it is looked at in that light then you acknowledge others as well as your own existence when you
leave your home. Leaving "my place" forces you to interact with the rest of the context around
you and while you may be more comfortable if the in-sidedness of your home was reflected on

the out-sidedness this is not always the case if you are not a native to the articular culture to
which you are living in. However Certeau does say that by mere walking you are not interacting
with a space "To walk is to lack a site. It is the indeterminate process of being both absent and in
search of the proper, of ones own"(110). To clarify Certeau says that walking is a passive activity
in that you are not yet wanting to be in that particular area you are not associating memory to a
particular corridor or path. However you do start to begin active observation when you reach
your destination for example a meeting with friends.
This can be seen as the point where the derive comes into mind. Even though he does not
directly mention the derive he does touch on some of its principles first is "walking...creates a
mobile organicity of the environment...echoing the labyrinth"(107para2) Certeau is saying that
their are stories that are layered on top of the corridors and paths that you are walking through
that other inhabitants of the city have used the space for a particular reason, i.e. meetings with
friends/a first kiss. Again Certeau makes a reference to the layers of a city in the quote "the
narratives of sites are makeshift"(113para4) what he is implying is that everyone sees the site in
a different light and experiences a space in a new way. Certeau implores users to look around
them "the walkers..., whose bodies follow the cursives and strokes of an urban "text" they write
without reading."(102para3). The public should be questioning not only why is the urban fabric
laid out this way, but why and how are others using the space that they are also occupying.

Websites
Searching through a wealth of internet sites it is evident that the term psychogeography is still
being practiced in our modern digital age, and the advances in technology are changing the ways
we can represent psychogeography.
Today there are conventions that host interventions in our cities so that the dream of breaking up
the monotony of every day life still lives on. It can be thought of that even if you do not part take
in the intervention your self and you happen to pass someone in a psychogeographical pursuit
you are adding to their experience therefore you essentially are still part of someone else's
interpretation of a space.
In a 2004 article by Hart about psychogeography he interviews Christina Ray, an active member
of the psychogeography community, about the definition of the term Ray states, "It's about the
psychological and the geographical, it is about how you feel when you are being affected by

being in a certain place - the architecture the weather...it is the general sense of excitement about
a place." http://www.utne.com/2004-07-01/a-new-way-of-walking.aspx.
During the summer of 2004, before Harts article was published, New York City welcomed
people from around the world to use one of the worlds most populous city as the stage for their
psychogeographic experiments. Some of the more notable experiments that took place are
detailed below. Algorithmic walking is a strategy that sets up a repeatable walking pattern. A
dutch group called social fiction experimented with this technique at the convention. Their
algorithm was two blocks turn right, two blocks turn right, one block turn left, repeat. While the
algorithm was monotonous the experiences that come out of this are generally new and help the
user see the city in a new light http://www.socialfiction.org/psychogeography/algoeng.htm.
Another experiment that took place was named New Cope York Hagen. This can be summed up
as taking another cities map and exploring the city you live in. At the psychogeography
convention, a pair of Scandinavian artists took a map of the NYC area and of a Copenhagen map
similar in scale, super imposed the two and marked the map with a Copenhagen landmarks. The
participants at the convention were to map out their route and journal their tour of Copenhagen
while being in NYC.http://glowlab.blogs.com/psygeocon/2004/02/participant_06.html
Another technique that was practiced at the convention was called One Block Radius. This
project takes a single block and looks for all of the facets that make it unique for that particular
block opposed to the next block over. The site that was selected was going to be demolished and
given new life as an art museum. All snapshots that are taken are categorized and all of the
elements of the site are captured. Ranging from debris, signage, to architectural and landscape
details. Interestingly enough their may never be a stopping point since new items are added as
people use the space. The project is still going strong and a website was dedicated to this
particular project http://oneblockradius.org/obr.html.

The Social life of Small Urban Spaces (1974)
William
H
Whyte
William Whyte made it his passion to study what makes the success of a public space. Factors
that he and his team of researchers studied and concluded to be what drew people to use a space