Reading Space through Territory

In our encounters with spaces, those familiar and alien alike, we are each time presented with a story to be read. A story of buildings, a story of landscapes, a story of people – a story of pasts, presents and futures. In our short time of occupying the role of the ‘reader’ we have tried and tested several ways of accessing the story. We have questioned the way in which we approach a new site, the way we analyse it and the way we use the outcomes of that research to project towards an architectural exercise, be it for the purpose of discourse or that of design.

There came a turning point to this process when we realised that the manner in which we collect information and lay it out to contribute to the building up of the story was often done through a process of ,layering: the strategy was often to divide and conquer; set up a check list of to dos. Observing traffic flow, pedestrian access, land use studies, climate, surrounding activities, infrastructure, demographic breakdowns and so on. Each time, this attempt at understanding the story by accessing the imagined sum of its parts, left us with little clear direction and anything of substance. So began the questioning of how we could move beyond a system of reading layers in isolation – the checklist – to one which would allow us to map the parts into a whole through a methodology of interactions and interrelations. This is what landed us onto a fondness of the notion of territory.

This is the story of how territory has allowed us to create a thought framework for the Text Catalogue Project and beyond. The process is never finite and always changing – it is applied to our work in practice and in the framing of our discourse. The following is our entry point into the exercise of reading space through territory – it centres on a collaborative project for thesis research on the site of Pieta in Malta, and offers a glimpse into the process at work and its potential affordances beyond.

This research is adapted from a collaborative project worked on by Ella Fleri Soler, Andrew Darmanin and John Bajada whilst developing Master’s in Architecture Thesis Proposals at the University of Malta.