Striated and Smooth Spaces as Techniques of Ship Design
This chapter examines how various shipbuilding techniques from the fifteenth to the nineteenth century mobilize the ontological and epistemic potentials of the line. After describing early modern Italian, Portuguese, and English techniques like “mezzaluna” or “whole moulding” and the shifting of the design process from the dockyard to the shipwright’s office (from wooden lines to lines on paper), a special emphasis is laid on the invention of contour lines in the eighteenth century. French cartographers first used isometric lines that show depth below a water-level plane of reference, so-called isobaths, in order to map the shapeless bottoms of the sea. Afterwards bathymetry was transferred by French engineers to the dry land in order to determine the layout of fortresses, and then applied to the design of ship hulls. The method of waterlines opened a completely new way of defining bodies: Instead of defining a body in terms of Euclidean elements and tools (like dividers and ruler) a body like that of a ship is now defined by tools for the description of the irregular and the shapeless as they were implemented in experimental fluid mechanics. Thus Buckminster Fuller could view houses as special cases of ships whose architecture is no longer based on Euclidean geometry.
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