desire lines

cities

streets with no names

Despite reading Benjamin and Situationists, Urban Sociology students rarely see how individual practices can also be a part of shaping cities. It’s not the only thing, but it’s a part of the picture. I love these images, although I’m starting to feel mixed about Detroit being continually cast as the ultimate blighted, post-apocalyptic city. From the ever-fabulous Sweet Juniper blog:

In the heart of summer, too, it becomes clear that the grid laid down by the ancient planners is now irrelevant. In vacant lots between neighborhoods and the attractions of thoroughfares, bus stops and liquor stores, well-worn paths stretch across hundreds of vacant lots. Gaston Bachelard called these les chemins du désir: pathways of desire. Paths that weren’t designed but eroded casually away by individuals finding the shortest distance between where they are coming from and where they intend to go.

Update (bumped up from ‘comments’ so that I’ll remember it): Tom adds “This reminds me a of a story that a professor told me in one of my engineering classes about a new college that was built and decided to just place sidewalks and steps around the front and side exits of all the buildings. Then they allowed the students to use the campus for the first year. After that, they paved all the worn footpaths between the buildings, dorms and dining halls. It had something to do with allowing natural systems to develop on their own and how sometimes a solution more efficient than the best engineered design will arise.”

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One thought on “desire lines

  1. I know this will sound vague and I have no additional information to back up the specifics.

    This reminds me a of a story that a professor told me in one of my engineering classes about a new college that was built and decided to just place sidewalks and steps around the front and side exits of all the buildings. Then they allowed the students to use the campus for the first year. After that, they paved all the worn footpaths between the buildings, dorms and dinning halls.

    It had something to do with allowing natural systems to develop on their own and how sometimes a solution more efficient than the best engineered design will arise.

    Or, I could be completely wrong and it was just a thought exercise and has no basis in reality. Either way, there you go.

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