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Post nº5 | Why the Dynamic Semiotics of the Territory?

I’ve introduced some notions about Dynamic Semiotics in previous posts. This theory became the foundation for my work as a researcher since an early stage of my formation as architect.

In the year before I finished my architectural studies at the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Lisbon I realized that there were no tools for interdisciplinary reading of the place of architectural intervention.

At the time, I was already well aware that in order to create a concept of space, capable of responding to major societal challenges while respecting our collective memory, I needed tools to read it!

This awareness led me to new readings of various authors, and it was then that I became acquainted with the thought of Michel de Certeau. This experience had a big impact on me as I sensed it like a light at the end of the dark corridor of ignorance. It was when I heard about semiotics as a set of interdisciplinary tools that allow space to be read and given meaning.

In 1989, I went to Paris to meet one of the founders of the Paris’ school of Semiotics, the linguist Algirdas Julien Greimas, and I worked with his collaborators at the School of Architecture of Paris la Villette. Linguistics revisited through semiotics seemed to me the essential way to "create a grammar of space", in order to be able to read and give back meaning to space.

But this semiotic, although interesting, did not answer my questions. I then understood that space is made of internal dynamics, which are expressed in the apparent forms of the territory.

It was in Paris that, in 1990, I met Per Aage Brandt, Philosophy Prize of the French Academy, and one of the great pioneers of Dynamic Semiotics.

I moved to Denmark in 1992 and, in that same year I had one of the most remarkable conversations on urban morphogenesis with René Thom, Fields Medal in Mathematics, and founder of Dynamic Semiotics.

This branch of semiotics allowed me to study morphogenesis and territorial semiogenesis from the examples of Lisbon, Paris, Montreal, Quebec, London, Marseille and Macao. But also, to study the architectural morphogenesis of the work of other architects, such as Jean Nouvel, Jean-Marie Duthilleul, Rem Koolhaas, Frank Gehry, among others.

Eventually, a long journey of research and collaboration begins. It was structured around the exchange of ideas with researchers I met, such as Albert Levy, Michel Serres, Gilles Ritchot, Louis Marin, Umberto Eco, to name a few; and the cities in the world that I had the opportunity to explore, to confront the tools that I have built to analyse the interdisciplinarity of the territory and make visible the different phases of the architectural process.

I found that the present times present an opportunity to share some of the results of my 30 years of research. I chose to start this process by writing a blog on morphogenesis.

To be continued...

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