Mari Synnøve Gjersen

The Atlas of Time

NTNU, Institute of Architecture and Planning

Keywords: Architecture and urbanism.


Research interest: The evolution and role of fossil fictions in (human) time and space, and the possible creation of new fictions leading to sustainable change.


Our understanding of reality is always subjected to a fiction, stories we connect to things and actions that make up our understanding of the world. Architecture and the urban environment act as one of the most enduring vessels for these fictions because of its fundamental ability to outlive the conditions of its making. These, often unspoken, ideas shape our built environment, and are frequently mistaken for truths.


The symbiotic evolution of fossil-based technologies and other societal developments (economic, cultural, political etc.) over the last 300 years has locked us into an unsustainable status quo, that seems almost impossible to escape. A condition that the human ecologist Andreas Malm refers to as a carbon lock-in [1]. As a point of departure for this project I suggest there exists a carbon lock-in of fictions, or fossil fictions, that is carried from the past into the future by our built environment, proliferated daily by our failure to address them and our continuation of status quo thinking in planning, design and construction processes. 


To investigate these fictions, I will employ aesthetic map-making as a method of artistic research, because of its inherent ability to combine the tacit knowledge of sensate experience and the specific knowledge of science. This research will use the familiar format of maps in new and different ways to explore the spatial implications of our current fossil fictions and in what ways they might be both a result and a cause of a society where these stories are so engraved in our common consciousness that they seem to be above change.


With a hope to shift perspectives and trigger new stories.

[1] Malm, Andreas Fossil Capital, The Rise of Steam Power and the Roots of Global Warming, London: Verso, 2016


Mari Synnøve Gjertsen is an architect and assistant professor with a master’s degree in architecture from NTNU. As a practicing architect she has worked mainly with housing project in urban or semiurban contexts, but also with cultural buildings, graphical design, urban furniture, and cross-disciplinary projects with artists and writers. Since 2021 she’s been teaching at NTNU in the course’s City and Town Planning (Arkitektur 5) and Large Buildings (Arkitektur 6), where they have explored time as a thematic approach to sustainability in architecture and planning.