Creating a Digital Atlas of French Public Architecture (1795–1840)
Keywords: Atlas, Art History, Architecture, Visual Analytics, Maps and the Internet
Abstract. After the French Revolution, a national council called Conseil des bâtiments civils was put in charge of the nation's public architecture. Its aim was to build the Republic, providing the necessary infrastructure to establish the new political power and to control public space. The CONBAVIL database consists in the compiled statements of the council meetings, from its creation in 1795 until 1840. It therefore contains all civil building projects pertaining to this time, as each project was examined by the council due to nation-wide administrative centralisation. This database is currently available on the web, yet its use is constrained to interrogation through a static form. Each query returns a list of results which can be studied individually. This model makes limited use of the digital potential within the database and restricts exploration of its contents.
In this presentation, the focus will be set on the intrinsically spatial nature of the data. Beyond the immediate implementation of architecture in space, civil buildings were planned and constructed with spatial awareness on local, regional and national scales. What kind of interface can render these characteristics of the CONBAVIL data? Furthermore, how can it impact discovery and knowledge production? My hypothesis is that creating an interactive interface focused on visual and spatial approaches to the data will enable discovery and foster new theories on its contents. My thesis therefore consists in the editorialization and visualization of the CONBAVIL database into a Digital Atlas of French Public Architecture.