Mapping landscapes between the formal and the political.

Rural landscapes in the German Democratic Republic and Fascist Italy.

Paper at the International Conference

Visualising significance: Mapping as common denominator
6th International Conference on Heritage Conservation and Site Management

Berlin and Cottbus, 5 and 6 December 2018

ABSTRACT:

by Vittoria Capresi, Emily Bereskin, Aine Ryan (TU Berlin, Habitat Unit)
How can we conceptualize the complexity of landscape? How one can approach mapping, in order to include the visible and the invisible, the cliché and the reality, the marketing strategies and the political problematics? What does this mean for the process of heritagization?

This paper presents the mapping methodologies developed by our team to analyse two modernist rural landscapes realised under top-down, politically-authoritarian contexts: the Pontine Plain south of Rome, drained and resettled with new towns under Mussolini, and the farmlands of the southern Oderbruch, an area radically transformed through the agricultural collectivization of the GDR.

These landscapes, as complex configurations of tangible and intangible elements, are difficult to conceptualize, define, delimit – in short, to comprehend. In both case-studies, the sites are valorised as unique forms of cultural heritage exceptional for their convergence of modernist principles within the traditionally idyllic realms of the rural. However, this valorisation tends to be seen in technocratic terms, with both political histories and contemporary social realities removed from the picture.

In order to investigate the complexities of these landscapes in terms of cultural heritage, we developed a set of mapping methods that would enable us to process diverse types information gathered during fieldwork.* Our maps combine the use of ordnance maps, archive documents with qualitative information collected via interviews/oral histories, mobility tracking, and individual observations. This potential of mapping to ‘uncover’ the invisible rather than ‘trace’ the known (Corner, 1999), is born out by the distinct solutions for each set of methods in the two study areas.

In this paper, we present our methodology based on five different mapping approaches, highlighting their usefulness as well as their limitations. We show how in these political contested landscapes, the emerging picture remains incomplete, and how in both cases unpleasant situations (illegal workers) and the political past (Fascism or the GDR) are not actively included in this image. A holistic approach which can merge the tangible and intangibles data offers a new perspective on the constitutive elements of cultural landscapes as well as their surrounding heritagization.

* Fieldwork was conducted in collaboration with design-studios in the Bachelor architecture curriculum at the TU Berlin, Habitat Unit and in cooperation with the EU-HERA project, “MODSCAPES: Modernist Reinventions of the Rural Landscapes,” which investigates the legacies of large-scale agricultural development and colonisation schemes of the 20th century. For more info, see: http://modscapes.eu

Corner, James. The Agency of Mapping: Speculation, Critique and Invention. In Denis Cosgrove (ed.), Mappings, Reaktion Books, London, 1999, p. 231 – 252.