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[...N1-N9-N10...] THE KAROO disPLACEd

Part 2 Dissertation 2009
Christoffel J Meyer
London South Bank University London UK
This dissertation is the result of my life-long interest and fascination with the making of place. My first ever memories are those of me playing in the open-air semi-desert(ed) place, formally known as the Great Karoo in South Africa. Within its womb of sun-filled skies and terra firma, only divided by the never-ending horizon, I demarcated my territory, built my fortresses and defeated my imaginary foes.

This dissertation takes as its subject a site-specific study of the N1-N9-N10 route through the Karoo at the hand of an explorative narrative. In revisiting the route and place(s), the objective of this dissertation is to focus the discourse on some of the theories advocated by Martin Heidegger with reference to phenomenology, Francine Houben through the ‘Mobility Aesthetic’ and apply it to an explorative narrative, as generated by travelling along a specific route through a specific place(s) or context, in this case, the N1-N9-N10 route through the Karoo.

PART ONE investigates the theories of Heidegger and Houben as polar opposites and sets the framework from which the discourse evolves;

PART TWO analyses and documents the given route and context at the hand of the outcomes discussed in Part One and investigate further site-specific theories;

PART THREE investigates the phenomenological aspect of the given route and context by means of a short film and thus balance out the somewhat static analytical documentation conveyed in Part Two. The reason for using this medium is to relate to the sensory (albeit cinematic) experience of the site-specific event and acts as a direct commentary on the memory of time and place.

Much is written on the subject of mobility and even more on the meaning of being, place and route. To my knowledge, very little is written on these themes in the context of the Karoo. Furthermore, none is written with direct reference to the themes and theories of both Heidegger and Houben bearing on the specific route and context discussed within this dissertation. It is thus the intention to make a definitive and original contribution to the latter by means of this dissertation.


Christoffel J Meyer


The premise, established by the author, of this dissertation, is highly original; it is also profound and, most importantly, it is utterly relevant to the general, perhaps universal, human condition which is currently being shaped by powerful forces at the beginning of the 21st century.

The subject of the dissertation is a landscape in South Africa - THE KAROO. This landscape, until recently, was undisturbed by development and, therefore, should be regarded and valued as a unique natural place.

A primary question is explored; namely, the shift in the meaning of this place, consequent upon human intervention. Has a total transformation of the Karoo been effected by a new transport artery? A road, the N1...N10 route has been inserted into, or onto, this landscape.

Thus, the natural properties of the Karoo - its meaning, its spirit, perhaps, have been altered into a new permanence.

But arising out of this new, permanent, inscription there is also the matter (crucial for some, not so crucial for others) of human perception prior to, and subsequent to the construction of the road and its associated facilities and structures.

To examine this subject and primary questions, the author has developed a convincing methodology; a sharply delimited and relevant portion of the work of the philosopher Martin Heidegger together with the ideas of Francine Houben are utilised effectively as tools of investigation.

So, notions of place, path, route and mobility are applied to the Karoo. Insights are generated as to how these timeless notions are, in fact, subject to change because of the powerful new forces that are shaping human societies.

This dissertation, in the development of the key ideas is relevant to some of the big issues addressed by philosophers, psychologists and cultural theorists; globalisation, communications, advanced technology and nature.

These issues also arise for architecture and landscape and urban planning through the mediating concepts of place, route, mobility as structured by economy, technology, demography and nature.

The presentation of the dissertation is splendid. There are many, varied, illustrations which are integral to the direction and dynamic of the narrative. The highly atmospheric video is also a vital component of the whole.

An excellent and distinctive dissertation, it is original in its treatment of place and innovative in its methodological design.

Tutor(s)
Dr Norman Bayldon
2009
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