research | phd
THE ANAMORPHIC VIEW//
TRACING THE VISUAL PRESENCE OF DEEP TIME
FORMS, PATTERNS, AND PROCESSES IN THE
CONTEMPORARY URBAN GROUND
PhD Dottorato di Ricerca in Urbanistica
XXVI cycle // Università IUAV di Venezia
Advisor: Nadia Amoroso
The main topic of this research is the ground. It questions the role of vision in the interpretation and understanding of its forms, patterns and processes.
The ground is constantly changing even if we cannot directly see it. The ground as we presently see it is a mere instant of a much larger material process that has evolved over the 4.6 billion year history of the earth. Its existing spatial forms and patterns are a direct result of this process.
Geophilosophy, geology, and landscape ecology help us understand the processes that create these spatial patterns and arrangements and how they change over time, but they do not tell us how we physically see and experience them in actual space. In-between science, philosophy, and art, the research therefore questions the role of vision in the obtaining of knowledge and information of the material processes that have formed and continue to shape the contemporary urban ground today. It asks the question, do the forms, patterns and processes of the ground have a visible presence within the contemporary city? If so, what is seen from the ground-level view? How is this way of seeing instrumental to our interpretation and analysis of the contemporary city?
As a direct part of the geologic morphology of the earth’s strata, the contemporary urban ground is a complex palimpsest of its deep past, past, and present forms, patterns, and processes that are in constant change and interacting with one another in various scales of time. Raising questions between appearance and reality, imagination and knowledge, the hypothesis is that the forms, patterns and processes of the geologic ground have a visual presence within the contemporary city but that they are anamorphic. The strata on the surface are incomplete, fragmented, overlapped, and intertwined with one another and can therefore only be seen if looked at in the right way.
The strategic tool is that of an anamorphic view that metaphorically traces over the otherwise unseen visual elements of the ground in the case study site of Catania, Sicily. With the cartographic tools of creative mapping, diagramming, and modeling, the visual elements of form, position, scale, composition, value, colour, texture, depth, change, pattern, and movement are marked out in plan and then projected and confronted in perspective with a series of panoramic views taken on strategically chosen existing sites to determine which, if any, of the elements are actually directly visible in the contemporary urban ground from the ground-level view.
[a]“the bottom; the lowest part or downward limit of anything”. This meaning could be and has historically been used to refer to the bottom of the earth, the sea, a well, a ditch, the heart, and even of hell.
[b] “a base, or foundation”, as in “the solid base or foundation on which an edifice or other structure is raised”, but it could also mean “the condition or basis of which things are founded”, “the fundamental principles, elements or rudiments of any study or branch of knowledge”, “a circumstance on which an opinion, inference, argument, statement or claim is founded, or which has given risen to an action, procedure, or mental feeling”, and a “a reason, motive, or justification”.
[c] “the surface of the earth, or a part of it”, as in “the earth regarded as the surface upon which man and his surroundings naturally rest or move”, “an area of distance on the face of the earth”, “the earth as distinguished from the sea”, “a region, land, country”, and “a space having a specified purpose”, as in a “common place of burial”.
[d] “the soil of the earth, or variety of soils”, referring to “sediment or residue”.
ORIGIN Old English grund, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch grond and German Grund.
fig.1. Etymological study of research topic. Dictionary definition of 'ground'.
fig.2. World map of definitions of the word “ground” and Google Image Search results of the translations of the word “ground” in various languages.
The ground is an autonomous, heterogeneous and formative material process consisting of overlapped, intertwined and interacting layers functioning together on various scales of time and space, and, of which possess an implicit structural logic that can be visually read through form.
fig.3. The Archimedes Palimpsest. A metaphor for the critical definition of research topic.
fig.4. Earth's City Lights. Lights map out urbanized areas of the, arguing for the anthropcene hypothesis. (Image: NASA)
fig.5. The Geologic Time Scale
fig.6. World Tectonic Plate Movement
fig.7. The history of seeing Earth. Altitudes, dates, and technologies.
fig.8. Powers of Ten: A film dealing with the relative size of things in the universe and the effect of adding another zero. Charles and Ray Eames, 1977. Exploring the effect of scale on the way we see the ground and the two-dimensionality of the airborne view.
fig.9. Case study research testing site. Oblique aerial view of Catania, Sicily.
fig.10. Site sensing. Selected images from the on-site visiting, observation and photographic panoramic imaging and documentation process.
fig.13. Site modeling. Regional scale digital elevation terrain model, point cloud, 10m contours, and rendered triangulated mesh of case study site.
fig.14. Site modeling. Regional scale physical elevation plaster terrain model of case study site.
fig.15. Site geo-morphology. Soil Typology Inventory of Catania, Sicily.
fig.16. Site inventory. Landform Typology Inventory of Catania, Sicily.
fig.17. Site inventory. Landform Typology Inventory of Catania, Sicily.
fig.18. Taxonomy of visual elements.
fig.19. [Etna]Volcanic crater site aerial view.
fig.20. [Etna]Volcanic crater site renderings. General view of the site, selected marked out visual elements in plan and their corresponding perspective views.
fig.21. [Valle di Bove] Valley site aerial.
fig.22. [Valle di Bove] Valley site renderings. General view of the site, selected marked out visual elements in plan and their corresponding perspective views.
fig.23. [Nicolosi] Lateral cones site aerial.
fig.24. [Nicolosi] Lateral cones site renderings. General view of the site, selected marked out visual elements in plan and their corresponding perspective views.
fig.25. [Catania] Sloping Plain Aerial.
fig.26. [Catania] Sloping plain site renderings. General view of the site, selected marked out visual elements in plan and their corresponding perspective views.
fig.27. [Simeto] River plain site aerial.
fig.28. [Simeto] River plain site renderings. General view of the site, selected marked out visual elements in plan and their corresponding perspective views.
fig.29. Historical Iconography Comparison Study. Historical images are compared with the digital model to show surprising level of accuracy of representation techniques based solely on vision.
fig.30. Historical Iconography Study Example. Catania e l’Etna da sud-est. Anonimo, 1600-1700 and digital model overlay.
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