proposition 2

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Considering that the daily reality and its

spatial context are mutually depended,

people organizing and shaping our spatial

environment and people concerning with

how people live and understand in those

environments could benefit from one



Vast Steppe

A steppe is grassland plains without trees It rains enough for grass

to grow but not enough for trees. The view reaches kilometers and

kilometers far and nothing is else to see than grass. It is an isolated

place remote from any context. The stations in the Vast Steppe are

about distance and being remote from the place at hand.

Canyon of Trying

A canyon is a deep cleft between cliffs resulting from the erosive

activity of a river over geologic time scales. A canyon is characterized

by its steep cliffs and the difficulties to cross to the other side of

what the river cut away. The Canyon of Trying is a place where the

insurmountable bridging is nevertheless made and one tries to get

closer by descending into the deep grooves and fissures.

Ridge of Scenery - Ridge of Accompaniment

Ridges consist of a chain of mountains that form a continuous

elevated crest for an extended distance. The sides of the ridge slope

away from the narrow top on either side. Experienced runners like

to run on ridges. The smaller the better. The two Ridges of Scenery

and Accompaniment allow, in-between them, a valley where it is

impossible to overlook them.


local loop

point to point



In the summer of 2021 I visited Chamonix-

Mont-Blanc in France. (1) After a long run I had a

drink at a bakery at Place de l’église. It is a rather

cluttered square without a clear geometric shape,

with old and much used grey -and beige-like tiles

as pavement. Other people are walking around and

are ordering a drink as well. At the end, it is difficult

to imagine the square excluding people. The one

does not exist without the other, it seems. Even if

the square is empty, late in the middle of the night

for example, the municipality and its urban planners

took care of how the square is designed. People

working for the facility department clean and maintain

it. Policymakers responsible for safety and mobility

care about where to walk to cross the square, where

to cycle and where terraces are located. The café

-and bakery owners take care of their terraces and

clean them daily, the inhabitants living above the

cafés and the tourist visiting the hotels keep an eye

on the square when. The square is made, used and

taken care of by people.

Two other people now are searching for

a comfortable place on one of the terraces. The

covid-19 pandemic makes them wearing mouth

masks but other than that Place de l’église is a quiet

but lively little square where tourists can enjoy the

omnipresent mountains without any concerns. Both

of them are ordering drinks. What could be a good

motive why they are meeting here and having a

drink? I try to come up with reasons. Is it close to

home? Or in the middle between two destinations?

Is it because they like the place and have good

memories of that local bakery? Or is it because they

have a good view on the square and mountains from

the terrace? What do they want do discuss? Are

they friends, colleagues or family? Maybe all those

assumptions are possible, and I can imagine plenty

more motivations for picking exactly that spot. But

that is not the point I would like to make. The square,

the bakery and the terraces indicate that, in every

respect, each of the above reasons summed up

explains that even a habitual thing like two persons

having a drink, cannot be seen without its spatial

context. Everything takes place.

In the middle of the Place de l’église and also

close to the Tourist Information Center, a display with

maps is installed to help the tourists to orientate. Even

since google maps, and other navigation devices,

were installed on the first smartphones back in 2007

those maps often seem to be updated and of use for

the unfamiliar user of the square, the town in general

and to recognize the peaks of the Mont-Blanc-

Massif surrounding the square. Sometimes, these

types of maps point out where you are and how far

you are away from places the mapmaker considered

as valuable to add to the map. Information as the

train station of the SNCF, the train station to goi into

the mountains to Mer de Glace, parking lots, public

toilets, musea, and the Tourist Information Center

itself are on the map in the case of the Place de

l’église. A specific selection of information is shared

with the tourist. And even though such maps can

contain a rich collection of cultural, practical and

consumer-orientation information, a lot has been left

behind too. Inevitable for the mapmaker to make the

map easy and straightforward to read and interpret.

The map on Place de l’église is made from a

different point of view than the maps spatial designers

use for example. (2) But their purpose might be the

same. Namely, to get a better understanding of the

square and its environment. They contain lines for

streets or buildings. Or a line to where a landowner

can build a house, or lines that indicate special

construction concerns like for example, unstable

ground. Coloured surfaces are used to indicate

areas with architectural and heritage quality, natural

or historical quality or risk of inundation etc. Street

-and place names and other pieces of text, a legend

and a North arrow are also part of such maps. But,

the map does not contain the two people searching

their way and having a drink. The map disregards

all the possible reasons summed up earlier why

the two choose exactly that spot on the Place de

l’église. All the sudden, the map only indicates the

spatial, materialised parts and tends to dismiss

the people making -and using the square. Daily life

does not seem to take part on the map. Where did

that part go? Is someone taking care of it? Who is

interested in daily life realities? Someone with an

anthropological orientation would take place on

the square and observe, participate, bring themself

among the people and tries to gain experiences

there themselves, explore the surrounding, its use

and has informal conversations with the two people

searching the way or having a drink for example. (3)

They would take their notebook and intensively try

to describe what happens. They write, a lot. And

sometimes, among other documentation, a little

sketch accompanies their words. (4) These words

mostly demand to get acquainted with the field in

a linear way as you habitually start on the top left

and end on the bottom right of a page. Back to

the map of the square, where to start reading it?

Where do you end? Which part takes more time

to understand? Maps are made according to a

different set of conventions as writing such as

scales, annotation, the use of different line types

-and weight and geographical ordering. Drawing

(maps) is commonly used as a tool for thought and

investigation like diagrams or the little sketches in

a notebook. Besides scale and proportion maps

also allow to explain and navigate a way through the

world, or in this case through the Place de l’église

and the whole Mont-Blanc-Massif.

I wonder, why can’t we have both? If the

two people on the Place de l’église determine very

precisely how and where they sit on the terrace and

how they behave on the square and if exactly that

terrace is the most popular location on the square,

how is it possible disciplines and especially skills that

have so much to do with each other do not speak,

use, benefit from and invest in a common language?

How come an anthropologist doesn’t make maps and

a spatial designer lacks anthropological fieldwork

tools? Apart from the fact that both perspectives

can teach each other a great deal, it is also of added

value to the daily life of the place and the place itself

if both perspectives are taken into consideration.

Because, what actually happens when Place de

l’église is in need of renovation or reconstruction?

Roughly every 30 till 50 year public squares

get renovated, depending on legislation and budget

restriction of the town they are part of. Spatial

designers from the municipality often in collaboration

with an architecture -or urban planning office work

on a future design for it. They visit the location

a couple of times but are quickly focusing on the

future design for the square. They have been taking

in account different studies such as the technical

possibilities and historical analysis of it. Maps are

drawn and plans are made. Meetings between the

spatial designer and the urban planners, architects

and engineers of the municipality take place around

them.(5) Community builders, street coaches

and other people working within institutions and

programs close to the daily reality of the square are

rarely involved as intense as people with a spatial

point of view. Not only is the time spent on location

only a little percentage of the total time of investment

in, and impact on, the project; situated knowledge

and the basic daily life on this square are not involved

equally. The maps in the middle of the table need

rapprochement and the people around it need to

adopt each other’s skills to fill in the gap between

social policy (‘ridge of Accompaniment’ on the

panoramic view), spatial policy (‘ridge of Scenery’

on the panoramic view) and the actual square itself.

The maps and the location represented on

the maps, like the square, suffer under the duality

between social and spatial thinking, but another

facture (‘Canyon of Trying’ on the panoramic view)

also challenges the square as well. As spatial

designers took in account studies and analyses

of the square, the social department responsible

for the square also have been making studies and

reports often executed without being at the square,

remotely, in concept and rather abstract. But the

situated, embodied, contextualized and often

invisible knowledge about the why and how the two

people find their place on the terrace is to be gained

at and from the square itself. The small, local and

intimate that anthropological fieldwork makes visible

is often lost sight of and even less often represented

on maps that serve as a foundation for the spatial

renovation of, in this case, the square.

When visiting Chamonix in the summer of

2021 I must admit that I tried to imagine how it would

be to live on the Place de l’église, with a view on the

cafés and impressive Mont-Blanc-Massif.(6) How

would it be to use the square daily? Would I get sick

of all the tourist, like me last summer? On the other

hand, I would know the best place to spot the sun

on a bright winter day. I would know how and why

each Wednesday in the afternoon traffic get stuck,

for example. And I would know why that café in the

corner changes owner regularly. As an inhabitant, I

would know that because I am part of the square.

I reposition myself again and try to imagine

working as a policy maker for the municipality

Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, in the spatial or social field,

remotely and in theory about the square.(7) Then

my colleagues will maybe know that the Christmas

tree will be put in the middle of the square and that

the finish line of the famous Ultra Trail Mont Blanc

is right at the beginning of the square in front of the

townhall, for example. They will know all the safety

measurements to take to be able to welcome all

the tourists. They will know that the number of cars

passing by yearly is little and the historical value of

the façade of the café in the corner. They will use

maps to mark the place of the Christmas tree or

the finish line. They will measure if the space left is

enough for fire men to pass by in case of emergency

and discuss it with companies placing the Christmas

tree or the finish line. They might think of a heritage

status for the café in the corner of the place. But the

knowledge I have as an inhabitant will stay mostly

unseen. But they will not take in account that the

Christmas tree will put shadow on the best spots of

the terrace on a sunny winter day for example. Or,

safety measures are taken but there are not enough

public toilets so the corner in the back of the square

has been assigned as an informal toilet by tourists.

What if these aspects are also mapped and taken

in account? What if we could know both, from a

situated point of view and from a more abstract

point of view? What if we would bridge the fracture

between social and spatial perspective by changing

position and distances according to the square.

What would that do to the future of the square?

The evening spatial designers organize

for inhabitants to participate comes close to a

nightmare. The plans and maps of the future design

are ready. Printed in multiple copies and placed on

different tables in a local community center where

the participation evening takes place. Also on the

table are often post-it in various colors and thick

pens. Like the map on the Place de l’église, the plans

and maps on the tables are simplified. To make them

straightforward and easier to read. The evening

starts with a presentation on how the design is built

up and why certain choices are made. Sometimes

the spatial designers will add a historical summary.

(8) In the room, some people (most of the time there

are fewer people participating than expected) start

becoming nervous and moving around on their chairs.

They have decided, already before they entered the

room to be against the project. Confidence is low.

‘Why would we believe what they say, they never do

what they promise.’ One of the participants says.

From inhabitants is expected they think as a spatial

designers, fuelled with specific and design related

knowledge. De café -and bakery owner at Place de

l’église are both expected to be able to read those

technical maps and issues. However, their expertise

lies in the intimate, situated knowledge about the

square. It is a pity that the spatial designers have

not learned to take that in account and that social

departments are rarely present on those evenings.

(9) The evening only just started, the post-its are

still unused and I already feel sorry for the square. I

believe that maps and plans that join perspectives,

made from a situated point of view overcome the

above misunderstandings and gather all possible

knowledge our local environment consist of.

1 Place de l’église in Chamonix-Mont-Blanc is a square in

the middle of the city center, situated in front of the church

Saint-Michel. The church was built in 1709 in a baroc style

adapted to the alpine conditions (art baroque Savoyart).

Besides the church and as Chamonix-Mont-Blanc is a known

place in alpinism, the square is surrounded with the ‘Office de

Tourisme de Chamonix-Mont-Blanc’ several hotels and cafés

are part of the square and also the townhall is located at the

Place de l’église. Besides the buildings and the daily activities

on the square that attracts your attention there is the constant

presence of the impressive Mont-Blanc-Massive peaks in the


2 Already during my studies at various faculties of

Architecture, working in architectural offices afterwards and

as a cartopologist for various governmental institutions cards

turned up in all these places. Conversations were held around

those maps, about specific locations on the map. Sometimes

local and specific, sometimes broad, and general, but always

with the aim of making the location on the map better.

3 Through this research project and my artistic research

practice I often encounter anthropologists. For example, I

collaborate with them at Maastricht University, or via a project

assignment for the University of Amsterdam I came into

contact with the cultural anthropology department, or through

workshops and lecture series I set up together with the cultural

anthropology department of Leiden University. In addition,

in presentations about my own practice cartopological maps

appeal to the imagination and are far removed from the usual.

4 Anthropology is a science and a university discipline.

Worldwide, science is mainly excecuted and shared in

sentences and words. The same goes for anthropology. There

are of course exceptions such as visual ethnography that is

taught in Leiden University for example, but language still

plays a large part. Reading a text or reading a map implies a

different approach. Where eyes are guided, for example in an

English paper, from left to right, from line to line, those same

eyes will wander on a map. Sometimes stopping to focus on a

detail to zoom out again for an overview.

5 Working for architectural offices until 2015 and being

active as a cartopologist ever since I have participated in those

meetings from different perspectives.

6 During that summer my partner and I stayed for a couple of

nights at the Hotel ‘La Croix Blanche’ with a view over Place

de l’église.

7 With Dear Hunter I worked for French governmental

institutions in the summer of 2019 in Saint-Omer, France. It

gave me a little glimpse in how French public institution are

organized. It helps me to imagine how it must me at Chamonix.

8 I have witnessed this scenery a couple of times from

different perspectives. Often while doing fieldwork. In that case

I take part as an inhabitant. Lately I attended such a meeting

in the neighborhood Moerwijk, The Hague where people from

several departments from the municipality took the stage and

explained the future plans of the neighborhood. But also in

Valkenburg aan de Geul, Heerlen, Maastricht and Herstal I

witnessed such a participation evenings.

9 For Dear Hunter I was present at an evening organised

for inhabitants of the neighourhood Krottegem in the city of

Roeselare. During that evening the ‘community budget’ was

explained by an external company and civel servant from

the department ‘Neighbourhood and Participation (wijken

en participatie). A budget of € 400.000 is assigned for local

initiatives in the public space of the neighbourhood Krottegem.

Not one person from the spatial department was present

that evening. Another example of how social and spatial

departments are working separately, however impact the same

spot and location in a city or village.

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