OPTIMUM - Photographic observatory of the area: images of changing urban worlds (2017)

Scientific coordinator: Daniele Meaux (CIEREC) – daniele.meaux@univ-st-etienne.fr
Disciplines: Aesthetics & Art Sciences – Photography – Computer Science – Geography – Urban Planning
Laboratories: CIEREC – LIRIS – EVS – CMW – IRD – Architecture and Design Department (University of Genoa)
Partners: Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture – EPURES


The innovative premise on which this project is founded is that the practice of photography - by a skilled artist with a singular vision - can constitute a form of investigation and a tool for considering geography and spatial planning (urban planning and architecture). The images, insofar as they are linked to a certain set of data, make it possible to understand certain spatial realities in a different manner and raise new questions. There are now an increasing number of well-known photographers working with sociologists, geographers, architects and urban planners in order to contribute to the study and understanding of changes to areas and regions.

Particular attention will be paid to the developmental diversity of the Saint-Étienne conurbation, in other words the spatial and temporal heterogeneity of changes to housing: alongside relatively large-scale demolition and reconstruction projects are, in effect, a multitude of fragmentary works resulting from non-standard know-how and local decisions, contributing to the area's evolution. The study of these diverse phenomena, based on close collaboration between a number of disciplines, will make it possible to plan future changes to sites and approach building and renovation projects differently.
Thanks to use of a special apparatus, the geolocalised images will be accompanied by metadata specifying the direction from which the shots were taken, the dimensions of the view and the inclination of the optical axis. This information, associated with the content of the images and geographical data by means of algorithmic calculations, will make it possible to map the site in an innovative manner and select, from within the collected iconographic corpus, images of the same place taken from different points of view, in order to fine tune our understanding of the spatial planning.
Computer scientists, specialists in geography, aesthetics and sociology, photographers, architects and urban planners will work in close collaboration. A collaborative web platform will be developed to display the images obtained in open data format; its innovative architecture will also make it possible to compare images (according to a range of criteria) to assist collective reflection. A very diverse range of documentation may be placed on the platform to assist in the development of the research, via the free availability of images and information.