Rethinking Urban Space

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Often we feel disharmony in urban spaces – isolated, overwhelmed by noise, jostled, jangled, finding our way in a maze of shapes that can be hard and cold in contrast to the warmth and flexibility of our bodies. Some things can mediate this conflict. When I take my camera into urban space I feel different. Two concepts I have encountered have caused me to re-examine my relationship with the hustle and bustle of city space.

Firstly, and the most recent, is the exploration of how we feel in urban spaces by Anja Humlijan, architect and yoga practitioner who has taken her body into urban settings to pose in the spaces and wrap around the geometry in Paris, New York, Madrid and Ljubljana. Her aim is to ‘... design with human in mind: to express fundamental truths of the human condition, including our dreams, imagination, and desires: not just those of the designers themselves, but also of those who use these structures on a daily basis.’ Some great photos of her poses are being compiled in a book, crowd-funded through Kickstarter, and provide a way into thinking about the human body and how it feels within the urban setting.

The other stimulating source of thinking on this subject is the work on ‘Porosity’ by Richard Goodwin, artist, architect and academic. Goodwin’s research and studios (conducted in a diverse range of cities since 2005) purport the idea that cities are permeable, plastic and porous, and that the interstitial spaces between buildings, under rail tracks, in foyers and doorways, is useable and need not be alien and inaccessible to human beings using the city.

Both these practitioners have stimulated my thinking about urban space and our place in it, our feelings, sensations and interaction with and within it. My take on this is that more of this exploration and design based on these assumptions can lead to healthy engagement with the geometry and functionality of urbanity, and to the health of those who live in its laneways, footpaths, doorways, streets, crossings, scaffolding, and all the dimensions in between.