CHOREMATIC DIAGRAMS AND THE SIMPLIFIED REPRESENTATION OF GEOGRAPHIC SPACE
(1) Territorial dynamics (Espace géographique, tome 9, n°4, p 253-265, 1980) / (2) Brunet’s choreme table with English labels (Van Elzakker, 2004) / (3) Scheme of the community of Vichuquén from the organic to the geometric © Cristóbal Lamarca for LOFscapes / (4) Scheme of the community of Vichuquén separated by specific coverages and their corresponding chorematic icons © Cristóbal Lamarca for LOFscapes
Currently, the technique of cartography and traditional planimetry loses resolution and spatial synthesis when addressing scales that require a global use, intangible dynamics or content hidden from view, but that affect physical space. In response to these contingencies, the text explains a system that reduces the complexity in the representation of geographical space to facilitate the physical and virtual reading of a specific place.
In the second decade of the 21st century, we are witnessing territorial and social dynamics that go beyond the political-administrative limits agreed upon and recognized by us, its inhabitants. These new dynamics respond to a global use of the terrestrial surface and to extreme natural phenomena of magnitudes that have no recorded history. In this context, the technique of cartography and traditional planimetry lose resolution and spatial synthesis when dealing with scales of larger size and dynamics that act as intangible layers but that have an impact on the physical space. In response, this text aims to report upon a system called Chorematic diagramming that reduces the complexity of phenomena by means of the representation of geographical space to facilitate the physical and virtual reading of a specific place, both to the users and to the governmental entities, diverse organizations and private entities, that make decisions on territorial transformation.
The French geographer Roger Brunet, founder of the magazine L’Espace Géographique and promoter of the approach to the discipline of geography as a “Science of the social organization of space,” between 1970 and 1980 published the concept of Chorematic Diagrams defined as the alphabet of space. It is a tool through which spatial analysis models can be generated using a graphic synthesis of structural hierarchies − natural or artificial, dynamic or static − that act on space or a defined physical site, as shown in image 1. (1) In this way, choremes function analogously to morphemes; the parts of words that are small elements of language capable of expressing meaning, both audibly (through phonemes(2)) and in written form (through graphemes (3)). These choremes were popularized through their application in the work carried out in the Public Interest Group (GIP) RECLUS, founded in 1984 under the direction of Brunet (4).
(1) Brunet, Roger. La composition des modèles dans l’analyse spatiale. (Espacegéographique, tomo 9, n°4, pp. 253-265, 1980)
(2) Definition of the phoneme according to Merriam Webster: any of the abstract units of the phonetic system of a language that correspond to a set of similar speech sounds which are perceived to be a single distinctive sound in the language. For example, the word “peace” is made of three phonemes, i.e. [pis].
(3) Definition of a grapheme according to Merriam Webster: Minimum and indivisible unit of the writing of a language.
(4) Ormeling, FJ. Brunet and the revival of French geography and cartography. (The Cartographic Journal, The World of Mapping Volume 29, Issue 1, 1992)
More specifically, choremes are understood as a tool for structural and iconic representation of complex geospatial scenarios (5). Their structures are shaped by terms and graphics that generate a language that synthesizes a condition observed in the reality of even greater abstraction than the cartographic symbols, characterized by seeking precision in the representation of territorial forms and phenomena. To facilitate the reading of this representation, Brunet distinguishes seven classes of spatial configurations, each composed of different organizations of points, lines, areas and/or networks, displayed in image 2. (5) This method of spatial analysis allows the most relevant coverage in the use of space to be organized in a hierarchy, responding with simple and expressive products to any question or research problem that involves a specific space, as shown in image 3. This system translates the relationship between urban and natural systems into a scheme which is simple to understand.
(5) Reimer A y Dransch D. Information Aggregation: Automatized Construction of Chorematic Diagrams. (Geovisualisierung, 2009)
The process of beginning the composition of a choreme always responds to a question, a problem, or proposal with a specific case in a specific geographical space. In this way, the conceptual coverage to be represented is established, first cartographically and then synthetically following the iconic structures generated by Brunet. These structures build a series of graphic icons without scale, which must be superimposed and adjusted with each other for a clear simultaneous reading of the coverage represented. In this way, a mental geographic space can be visualized that is not possible to demonstrate by means of the tools of exact science, which is also why the choreme leaves the numerical category to enter an area close to an abstract representation that is not precise but that many times is more exact than the same reality (image 4).
The composition of choremes is little known in the field of professionals who work with space, territorial dynamics, systemic processes and the built environment, mainly because this method of analysis was suspended between science and the art of representation, i.e. interpretation. This has led to the system not always being accepted as a scientific argument, and also not recognized as a cartographic method because of its scalar imprecision. However, I believe this tool, which focuses on processes and relationships more than forms, could again become valued by professionals with greater affinity to the area of representation and large territories. Professionals such as landscape architects and urban planners could use this system to communicate with professionals who are not familiar with the study of spatial dynamics and the diagnosis of urban and rural space in our national territory. (Image 05)
Cristóbal Lamarca García. Architect of Finis Terrae University, holds a Master’s degree in Geography and Geomatics from the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile and is Executive Director of Activa Valdivia, NGO for sustainable urban development.