The figure from above: on the obliqueness of the plan in urbanism and architecture

Macarthur, John (2013). The figure from above: on the obliqueness of the plan in urbanism and architecture. In Mark Dorrian and Frédéric Pousin (Ed.), Seeing from Above: The Aerial View in Visual Culture (pp. 188-209) London, UK: I. B. Tauris.

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Name Description MIMEType Size Downloads
Author Macarthur, John
Title of chapter The figure from above: on the obliqueness of the plan in urbanism and architecture
Title of book Seeing from Above: The Aerial View in Visual Culture
Place of Publication London, UK
Publisher I. B. Tauris
Publication Year 2013
Sub-type Research book chapter (original research)
Open Access Status
ISBN 9781780764603
Editor Mark Dorrian
Frédéric Pousin
Chapter number 11
Start page 188
End page 209
Total pages 22
Total chapters 16
Collection year 2014
Language eng
Formatted Abstract/Summary
The distinction between vertical and oblique, discussed by Robic, plays a recurring and crucial role in conceptualisations of the aerial view. It is to the fore again in John Macarthur's chapter, which reads a 1919 article on aerial photography by Gordon Holt, published in the British journal The Architectural Review, in light of Louis Marin's celebrated analysis of the maps of Paris by Mathieu Merian (1615) and Jacques Gomboust (1652). In his article Holt describes the techniques of orthographic vertical photography but also sets out the virtues of oblique views, especially those with a steep incidence which are thereby capable of conveying both the three-dimensional formation of the urban fabric and an understanding of its arrangement in plan, in a way that is otherwise impossible when the view is more laterally directed. If Holt's promotion of this kind of view is based on its ability to mediate between 'figuration' (or 'urban character') and abstraction (the diagrammatic overview of the plan), then it resembles the seventeenth-century maps of Paris whose semiotics were analysed by Marin as holding an array of structural oppositions together within a totalising utopic view. And here Macarthur sees a correspondence between the disappearance of the horizon in Holt's steeply angled shots and the utopic indeterminacy of the viewpoint of the maps that Marin discusses. While the image that is constituted as the totality of the city finds its addressee in the eye of the sovereign, Macarthur suggests that we might find a corresponding image for the liberal polity in the fragmented collage urbanism promoted by the English architectural critic, historian and urbanist Colin Rowe, whose compositional position - abstract because 'in the air', as the essay puts it - implicitly secures the distance from tradition required before historic urban form can become material for the procedures of collage.
Keyword Architectural culture
Visual analysis
Urban & built environments
Q-Index Code B1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

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Created: Tue, 29 Oct 2013, 15:31:19 EST by John Macarthur on behalf of School of Architecture