Walking In The City

Submitted By manny12345678
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Pages: 5

In the late 1970s, cultural theorist Michel de Certeau wrote an essay, "Walking in the City," that begins with the author standing at the top of the World Trade Center looking out over Manhattan. From this vantage point, the city is offered up as a whole, graspable image, in contrast with the messy, meandering city that one moves through down below. "Down below" is the realm of lived experience, inhabited by walkers, Wandersmanner, who use and transform space, defying the geometrical discipline imposed by urban development, of which the World Trade Center stood as the most monumental of figures.
From http://www.apexart.org/exhibitions/dawseybrookhart.htm

According to de Certeau, it is specifically the walking people who bring the city to life. They do not have that god-like "all-seeing power" and are therefore trapped within the "city"s grasp." They are at ground level and looking down, and ironically it is these people who write the "urban text" without being able to read it. More importantly to note, it is the mass movement of people who write the text. With thousands of individuals each writing his own story and giving his own interpretation, the city is pieced together something like a patchwork quilt of individual viewpoints and opinions. "The created order is everywhere punched and torn open by ellipses, drifts, and leaks of meaning: it is a sieve-order." It takes a single city to provide the stimulus, but it requires a multitude of people -- all unaware of their role in the creation of the city -- to provide the meaning.
From http://www.cyberartsweb.org/cpace/politics/wodtke/DeCerteau.html

Walking the City
My exploration of the city have been done on foot and so I'm very much at odds with a city structured around the movement of the car. My heart is with the Situationist International that worked within the Parisian flaneur tradition.

"The ordinary practitioners of the city live "down below", below the thresholds at which visibility begins. They walk - an elementary form of this experience of the city; they are walkers…"
Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, (1988, p. 93)

For me the pedestrian is the key figure of urban mobility which I contrast to the mechanised modes of transport (train, bus, car) and its commuters. I hold the effects of these modes of transport responsible for the poor state of city living.
In Adelaide the City Council is complicit in allowing the car to dominate the city. The current council resists any attempt to roll back the flow of the car to make space for walkers. The car has to be dominant because the city is a commercial site: a space to make money. The city is not a place to stroll. Hence the future of the city is all about carparks, shops and commece. They still see the central region as a redevelopment site for commercial and industrial construction and for new commuter roads.
So the grid or plan of the ordered city is based on the flow of mechanized transport to and from the inner city, not on the play of residents. Our play and spontaniety is constrained by the grid, buildings, traffic flows and the noise of mechanized transport. There is little redevelopment in the guise of urban renewal taking place in Adelaide.
According to material on the Incite site (via Anne Galloway at Purse Lip Square Draw), there is a long history of intellectual and artistic investment in the practice of walking in the city. It says

"I am thinking, of course, of the tradition of the flâneur in French writing. From Baudelaire, to Breton, Aragon, Benjamin, Debord, Perec and Réda, writers have self-consciously centred themselves, and the ordinary residents of the city, in the act of aimless strolling through Parisian streets. This deliberate idleness is thought to open subjectivity, by walking without intent the writer makes 'himself' receptive to chance and unseen possibilities .... Unpredictable encounters with others: persons and buildings, are said to allow