A Chronotopic Chart


Main image: Excerpts from final, 4.5m long, fold-out Chronotopic Chart.

At one point during the research for my PhD, overwhelmed by the quantity of data relating to the architectural and archaeological drawing tools, techniques, events and personalities, I had been accumulating, I decided to organise some of it graphically. I wanted to see if this approach would help me structure my thinking about those disciplines, or, as it more fruitfully turned out, un-structure my thinking.

I relate this story now because I was reminded of it when I was asked last week to talk about certain aspects of my research here at the University of Brighton. I wanted to talk about these processes because they neatly encapsulated the relationship, for me, in my research, of theory to practice, and drawing and diagramming to writing.

At first it was tabular; columns broadly relating to each of the categories outlined above.

Pages from Tool-Discipline-Drawing Chronology_2Figure 1. Chronotopic Chart in early ‘tabular’ form.

Then it became pictorial, or, more accurately, chart-like. Buffy helped during this process.


Figure 2. Chronotopic Chart held down by research assistant.

Later, individual instances of each of the categories were instinctively and quickly joined with marker pens. These eventually coalesced into hypotheses about the development of these temporally, epistemologically, discipline-centred, often siloed, but here rendered fluid, categories. Some of them, later still, became significant sections of my PhD.

I had in mind Charles Joseph Minard’s famous chart of Napoleon’s advance on and retreat from Moscow for the final form of the connective ‘bands’. This process was the origin of the ‘Undisciplined Drawing’ I talk about here.

Chart Marker Pens

Figure 3. Chronotopic Chart at its most fluid and useful during its ‘marker pen’ stage.

But I have to say, the chart was at its most useful at this marker pen stage; it became more illustrative – prettier perhaps – but much less operative in its final form. Figure 4 shows how it works in its final, full, 4.5m-long folded-out version.

Pages from Scandalous Artefacts_Zambelli_UCL_[Examination Print]

Figure 4. Chronotopic Chart folded-out.

I argued that the drawing tools of architecture and archaeology and the drawings made with them may be used as chronotopic devices to calibrate the divergent practices of their parent disciplines, revealing alternative narratives of the development of those disciplines. The idea of the chronotope was developed by Russian philosopher and literary critic Mikhail Bakhtin, and for literature he says that it;

expresses the inseparability of space and time […] spatial and temporal indicators are fused into one carefully thought-out, concrete whole. Time, as it were, thickens, takes on flesh, becomes artistically visible; likewise, space becomes charged and responsive to the movements of time, plot and history[1]

The chronotopic chart, then, was used as a tool for making reconstructions; specific resemblances across architectural and archaeological tools, techniques and events were identified regardless of their place in time or chronological sequence. Chronotopic reconstructions were mappings of these discrete instances made through Bakhtinian temporal “thickening” accompanied by spatial, “charging” “responsive” to that thickening – that is, time thickened with, “plot and history.”[2]

Figure 5 below shows one of the chronotopes isolated to make it clearer.

Chrono Slice 6-All-Top_Comb

Figure 5. Chronotope 6: The Occasional Rise of Automation, isolated.


Bakhtin, M. M. The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. Translated by Caryl Emerson. edited by M. Holquist Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981.


[1] M. M. Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays, ed. M. Holquist, trans. Caryl Emerson (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981), 84.

[2] Ibid.

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