Elements of historical knowledge about urban spaces: Reflections on the requirements for a dynamic map

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Various interpretations of Barcelona’s urban space are presented in this paper in connection with the city’s key structural changes during the early modern period. In line with certain utilitarian perspectives, the contemporary actors at various points in time came up with diverse models of spatial structurisation. In addition to the apparently natural division of Barcelona into two parts, an administrative division into four quarters had been established since the Middle Ages. However, this division was not directly linked to the pre-dominant, binary interpretation. Both in descriptions of the city by German speaking authors and in artistic depictions, binary structurisations of the city remained in the forefront. However, alongside the dominant perception of the city as being divided along the inner city wall and the Ramblas, alternative interpretations made their appearance, based on the old Roman city wall or the city’s later extensions. Modern maps of historical space should not depict merely established and pre-dominant interpretations, but their task is also to present alternative and minority structurisations. In addition, there is an indication in this process of the danger which is inherent in the mapping of urban spaces: complete mapping of the historical city often gives the impression that the whole of the city space is covered by our knowledge. We are, however, confronted with huge informational gaps as far as the historical general image of the city is concerned. This is because generally only a select number of building types are depicted or described, or, alternatively, these depictions and descriptions refer only to a narrowly defined area. This information gap should also be recognized in maps portraying the historical city. Just as the representation of our knowledge is essential, it is also equally important to represent our information gaps.




Schönherr, E. (2014). Elements of historical knowledge about urban spaces: Reflections on the requirements for a dynamic map. In Lecture Notes in Geoinformation and Cartography (Vol. 0, pp. 195–209). Springer Science and Business Media Deutschland GmbH. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-00993-3_10

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