Mapping Spatial Relations, their Perceptions and Dynamics: the City Today and in the Past

Internationales Begegnungszentrum der Universität Erfurt, Michaelisstraße 38, 99084 Erfurt; Fachgebiet Kunst, Am Hügel 1, 99084 Erfurt, SR 406
Prof. Dr. Susanne Rau, Universität Erfurt
Ekkehard Schönherr

Cities have been producing their own maps, e.g. for purposes of representation, control or orientation, right from the beginning of the 15th century, if not before. The introduction of geo-information systems and Google-maps has given rise to the firm belief that it is possible to represent, in an objective way, our spatial environment, especially with regard to the cities we live in. While mapping and representation technologies have been constantly changing, the results have mostly remained the same, i.e. static and objective (or misleadingly objective) images of a city. These kinds of maps would seem to fail to take two major aspects into consideration: firstly, the evolution of urban form for which a dynamic map, a film or a dynamic 3D-model might provide more adequate means of representation and secondly, socio-spatial relations, i.e. the significance of forms and places, including perceptions of cities (as well as their perceived changes) which will always differ according to social, gender-based, internal/external or other points of view.

Current research into historical and cultural studies on people’s perceptions of sites and spatial arrangements, together with their discourses and interpretations, have proved to be essential for a deeper understanding of cities. If we take these findings into consideration, i.e. concerning the diversity and evolution not only of urban morphology itself, but also of spatial relations and people’s perceptions of these relations, the following question arises: how should we design maps? Are geo-information systems the road ahead or are they a cul-de-sac?

The workshop’ s focus is, therefore, not on the mapping of (static) urban space (past and present) but on the following topics: the potential mapping of perceived urban space, spatial hierarchies as a consequence of social usages (by a variety of active participants) and spatio-temporal changes as a result of factors such as demographic urban growth and decline, urbanization projects especially in the peripheries, shifts in the center-periphery relationship, destruction after fire or earthquake and, finally, subsequent reconstruction etc. (both at present and in the past). The workshop wants to bring together historians, cartographers and geographers to present and discuss their models and ideas. Contributions will include new methods of spatial analysis and modes of representing changes in perceptions. The main aim of the workshop is to exchange ideas on the following three topics: the epistemology of spatial change; the question of (historical) media and how to present spatial change adequately. These considerations may result in the production of a new model for mapping urban changes and spatial relations referring to the past, present and future. This new model would, therefore, be an appropriate reaction not only to the fact that the majority of the world’s population will be living in towns and cities but also to the consideration that cities are social spaces as well as being perceived and represented spaces.


9.00 – 11.00 Introduction, first lectures:
Susanne Rau (Erfurt): Welcome and Opening

Manel Guàrdia Bassols (Barcelona): Long-term structures of urban space. Barcelona as a case-study.

Ekkehard Schönherr (Erfurt): Elements of historical knowledge about urban spaces. Reflections on the requirements for a dynamic map.

11.00 – 11.30 Coffee break

11.30 – 13.00 Lecture and discussion:

Bernard Gauthiez/Olivier Zeller (Lyon): Lyon, the spatial analysis of a city in the 17-18th centuries. Locating and crossing data in a GIS built from written sources.

13.00 – 14.30 Lunchtime

14.30 – 14.45 Meeting at venue I, joint change of location to venue II

14.45 – 16.45 Lectures and discussion:

Richard Rodger (Edinburgh): The VUG-Project – Visualising Urban Geographies. (via Skype)

Leif Scheuermann (Stuttgart): On co-productive web-based digital mapmaking. Preconditions, risks and chances.

16.45 – 17.30 Break, Change of location to venue I and Coffee

17.30 – 19.30 Lecture and discussion, Conclusion:

Georg Gartner (Vienna): Putting emotions in maps – The wayfinding example.

Wolfgang Spickermann (Erfurt): Commentary

Final Discussion

Susanne Rau (Erfurt): Summary and Acknowledgement


Ekkehard Schönherr

DFG-Projekt "Geschichte und Kulturen der Räume in der Neuzeit"
PF 900221
99105 Erfurt

Mapping Spatial Relations, their Perceptions and Dynamics: the City Today and in the Past, 18.05.2012 Erfurt, in: H-Soz-Kult, 30.03.2012, <>.