Tuesday, 27 April 2010

From flâneur to walker in space: rethinking on flâneur in the city

The term flâneur comes from the French masculine noun flâneur—which has the basic meanings of ‘stroller’, ‘lounger’, ‘saunterer’, ‘loafer’—which itself comes from the French verb flâner, which means "to stroll". Charles Baudelaire developed a derived meaning of flâneur—that of "a person who walks the city in order to experience it". (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fl%C3%A2neur, 29 Jan 2010)

A British sociologist named Elizabeth Wilson (The Invisible Flâneur, 1992:6) has pointed out that in the 19th century emergence of new forms of urban space is the root causes of generation of the ‘flâneur’ group. The flâneur appeared in the street of Paris mainly pay more attention to street landscape and their main interest is details of life in the street, rather than those so-called public spaces created by Ottoman. There are three main features for this group: firstly, wandering around in the city all the time; secondly, keen observation of people and events happened in the street; finally, allow people to observe them curiously, but don’t interact with these observers. In terms of flâneur, they are only as strangers of a city and do not contact with people around them and places where they are. On the one hand, they are attracted by the new urban landscape and attempt to interpret the meaning of the unknown. On the other hand, due to disappearance of the old space and behavior, they try to find the lost sense of location but cannot find easily. Additionally, with the physical space and social space changing constantly, they cannot feel and understand a city clearly as well and their understanding of a city has always represented a kind of messy, discontinuity and unconsciousness. However, the flâneur’s method of understanding the urban space-in the walk, accepting the new information on a city through the interaction between people’s body and the urban space, is a very good approach of experiencing and understanding the space.

When people walking in the street, their activities themselves can be passing through somewhere quickly, strolling in the path, purchasing goods in retail outlets, visiting the commercial windows and visiting some city's monuments or buildings. These movements with different purposes and interactions with the urban space extend the meaning of space when people go into it and increase its uncertainties. Obviously, this meaning’s extension and uncertainties challenge alienation and loss of mobility of the urban space at the same time. Therefore, the way people perceive the urban space also is beyond the semiotic analysis and interpretation. In fact, the same principle can be used in understanding architectural and interior space and the movement and interaction without purposes make space into a kind of structure which can be interpreted and understood. According to Phenomenology of Perception theory, British sociologist Sennett based on ‘Flâneur’ idea was trying to re-establish the relationship between the body and space in vision, hearing, touch, smell and the way they are interconnected in order to break the traditional dualism of cognitive style. In fact, in terms of Flâneur, there are two factors in the key point: the first one is the interaction between people’ body and the space; the second one is the movement without any purposes. It is these two factors that make the communication between people and space become more playful and uncertain. Therefore, based on the situation, re-recognition of the space can be possible.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Site Research (2)

A Wasted Land beside Wandsworth Bridge

Site Research (1)

Bethnal Green Road

With generation upon generation, layer upon layer of building, much of our most interesting stuff is in the little curiosities, in buildings that are hidden, or even underground.

The best way to get to know a city is to get off the well-beaten tourist routes and into the grubby corners. Bethnal Green Road is really great place to visit. There are lots of old buildings, interesting shops, reconstructed buildings and so on and at the City end of Bethnal Green Road, the ‘massive corner slab’ of the ‘Dirty House’ can be found.

Research on the Relationship with People and City Space

The urban space is a specific space and place for people’s life and experience rather than a stationary or purely material aggregation. It is just the interaction between people and such space and places that contributes to the materialization and significance of the urban space as well as causes people’s self-cognition and their cognition of the world. However, the acceleration of people’s movement in the city makes people’s experience of the urban space become an exclusively visual and abstract activity separated from their bodies as well as an pre-designed activity or an activity with specific purpose. People and the urban space become more and more alienated from each other. Meanwhile, the lack of the interactive relationship between people and the urban space becomes a main problem of modern urban space.

In the 19th century, the large-scale and machine-oriented industrial production accelerated the gradual expansion of the urbanization. In this particular historical context, people had experienced new social phenomena and relationships as well as realized that they had become the new modern subject. Such new social relationship and social order created a new space form, the core of which was no longer the religion. Meanwhile, economic activities nearly became the most important behaviors of daily life; the social space was also reconstructed according to modern or large-scale and machine-oriented production modes. Therefore, the city was fundamentally changed on the aspects of scale, dimension as well as space pattern. The backyard gardens of town house, open squares, parks and markets in Middle Ages gradually disappeared, which were replaced by wide and straight commercial streets.

The movement speed is greatly promoted because of the boulevard occurrence. From the pleasant sensation that the carriage is running on a perfectly straight road to the anxiety caused by the quickly driving of automobiles, the modern people have experienced the unprecedented speed state. With the change of movement speed and the re-integration of space, people are much more likely to watch the scenes in the car, but need not to interact with the space environment by moving the bodies or to touch the bodies of pedestrians. Therefore, the eyes become the major organ that obtains the information for people, leading to that other sensory experience becomes slow and vestigial, the sensory experience of the human body also becomes week as well the methods to understand the urban space also turn into the oneness. Under such situation, watching becomes the major method for people to obtain the external information. Rolland Barthes named this method of watching as image repertoire of representation: when the unfamiliar scenes in the street are scanned, the eyes will filter all the visual information and simplify it into the simple representation. For example, with such image repertoire of representation, we will quickly determine the development state of the city through the style of buildings in the city. Since 19th century, the modern people have been adopting such watching method. Although it can help us obtain the information in the minimum duration according to the images, the interaction between people and space as well as among the people will gradually stop and the whole city will be a picture of still scenes. The environment stimulates people, but does not need the feedback from people. However, the relationship between bodies and the urban space breaks at this point.

Multiple methods to experience the space

Electroland LLC creates large-scale public art projects and electronic installations. A large interactive carpet of LED tiles located at a building entrance detects visitors and displays interactive light patterns in response. At the same time, a massive arrangement of LED light fixtures on the building face displays these responsive light patterns to the surrounding city. Visitors can see the effects of their actions beneath their feet and a view of them on the building façade via a video transmission from across the street. People’s actions and visual element are used in this work to connect visitors, building and surroundings together.

Perceiving the space by using sound

Dune 4.0

Dune 4.0 designed by Studio Roosegaarde is an interactive landscape that reacts to the behavior of people. As a hybrid of nature and technology, it comprises a large quantity of fibres that brighten in response to the sounds and motion of passing visitors.

Piano Stairs

from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lXh2n0aPyw

It's about how to change people's behaviour by making it fun to do.This worik’s aim is confronting passengers take the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator and feel better. The designers reconstruct stairs and change each stair into different key of piano. The piano stairs can play different sounds when people stand on them.

The Deepest Bin in the World

from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cbEKAwCoCKw&feature=player_embedded

The work is making people throw rubbish in the bin instead of onto the floor. The designers integrate a receptor and a generator into one piece and put it into a bin. When people throw some rubbish into this bin, they will listen to a strange sound played by the generator. It sounds like throwing something into a bottomless pit.

Using human touch to experience the space

Design Practise on Space Experience

In modern society, due to the fast-paced life and the development of transportation vehicles, people feel and experience the space in a shorter and shorter time. Therefore, people always miss and ignore the space around them, which also ignored by the architects. In this practice, the plastic film, wood and electric fan are adopted to create a channel to increase the space experience of people. The plastic film is formed into a plastic flow space with the wind. When people walk through the space, the bodies are the major mode to experience the space. When the bodies touch the plastic film, the wind force becomes the maximum resistance for people to walk through the space, which will slow down the movement of people to pass the space and increase the existence sense of people to pass the space. In fact, the core of this practice is to establish the relationship between the touch of people’s bodies and the space, thereby stimulating the attention on the space by people.


The Chapuisat Brothers’ Hyperespace is one of the examples. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Neue Kunst Halle in St. Gallen, Switzerland, the Geneva-based Chapuisat artist brothers created a 200 sq.m cardboard burrow in the main hall. In this work, the only visible part of the project was the suspended entrance hole. Once plunged into darkness, visitors are then obliged to prostrate themselves and crawl into a tunnel. They can not turn back and only can get on their knees and clamber, wriggle or squirm through the lair before emerging on the other side. visitors are put to the test both physically and psychologically during their exploration without their visual feelings.


Friedrich Von Borries and Tobias Neumann’s Daheim is another example which represents the same principle by creating a playfully lip-shape house to make people use their body to perceive the inner space.

BFD-Bundig Fluchtend Dicht

Franka Hornschemeyer’s BFD-Bundig Fluchtend Dicht shown in Deutscher Bundestag in Berlin in 2001 places the viewer’s relationship with unperceived aspects of space and by her unique and playful method of utilizing building materials. In her work, she confronts us with a new spatial experience that challenges our understanding of architecture.

Changing people's visual experience about a city

In the following apparent conquering of gravity, the lofty refuges awaken childhood memories and one’s desire to climb a ladder once again up towards the sky and leave the banality of the everyday behind.

Under Heaven

Leonard Van Munster’s Under Heaven is a tree (complete with tree house) placed by this Dutch artist on the top of the 50-meter-high building. The tree house was made out of fruit crates and other found materials.

Love,Peace and Terror Tank

Dadara’s Love,Peace and Terror Tank stands guard above the rooftops of Amsterdam and in its ironic play on the visual language of war represents a symbol of peace, just like a big tank toy sleeping in the top of a building.


The work of the Dutch artists’ organization OpTrek focuses on ongoing transformations in the Transvaal district of the Dutch capital the Hague. The pink house unit is hung up in the air by the crane. The crane changes into not only a stable structure but also a part of the whole work. However, the house unit which is unstable and flexible changes into a kind of demountable structure which breaks traditional architectural theories. In this work, the house is movable and it gives a chance for people to experience different view of the city increasing a new communication between people and environment in a very playful method.