Psychogeography: A Way To Delve Into The Soul Of A City

Psychogeography, as the term suggests, is the intersection of psychology and geography. It focuses on our psychological experiences of the city, and reveals or illuminates forgotten, discarded, or marginalised aspects of the urban environment.

Both the theory and practice of psychogeography have been around since 1955, when French theorist Guy Debord coined the term. While it emerged from the Situationist International movement in France, the practice has far-reaching implications. It’s relevant, for instance, in contemporary Sydney.

Psychogeographers advocate the act of becoming lost in the city. This is done through the dérive, or “drift”.

Because purposeful walking has an agenda, we do not adequately absorb certain aspects of the urban world. This is why the drift is essential to psychogeography; it better connects walkers to the city.

Psychogeographers idolise the flâneur, a figure conceived in 19th-century France by Charles Baudelaire and popularised in academia by Walter Benjamin in the 20th century. A romantic stroller, the flâneur wandered about the streets, with no clear purpose other than to wander.

In his 2013 Paris Review article, In Praise of the Flâneur, Bijan Stephen observes that the use of the flâneur “as a vehicle for the examination of the conditions of modernity” fell out of favour in the ensuing decades. Stephen poses the question:

But as we grow inexorably busier – due in large part to the influence of technology – might flânerie be due for a revival?

psychogeography of a city
Photo: article supplied

Walking as an act of insurgency

The revival had already begun, thanks to popular contemporary psychogeographers, notably Iain Sinclair and Will Self (whose book ‘Psychogeography’ was published ten years ago).

In his book London Orbital, Iain Sinclair describes a walk around the M25 and the “unloved outskirts of the city”. He observes:

I had to walk around London’s orbital motorway; not on it, but within what the Highways Agency calls the ‘acoustic footprints’. The soundstream. Road has replaced river. The M25 does the job of the weary Thames, shifting contraband, legal and illegal cargoes, offering a picturesque backdrop to piracy of every stamp.

Sinclair describes his walk as having a “ritual purpose” to “exorcise the unthinking malignancy of the Dome, to celebrate the sprawl of London”. He also describes walking as a virtue.

Self sees walking as “a means of dissolving the mechanised matrix which compresses the space-time continuum”. He describes the solitary walker as “an insurgent against the contemporary world, an ambulatory time traveller”.

Psychogeography is therefore useful in showing that walking is not only an art form in itself. It is also crucial in understanding the complication between the histories and myths of urban landscapes.

This article was originally published by The Conversation.

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Activation of Auckland’s Wynyard Central

Development in Wynyard Central in Auckland’s waterfront allows buildings of up to 28 storeys. The Council’s objective to create a “vibrant neighbourhood” here could be compromised by a series of tall buildings that have the potential to deny spatial intimacy at the ground plane.

Wynyard Central vibrancy is a reflection of the number of people walking in public space and the time they spend in that space. Activation of the public realm is an activity response to the “functional” environment and to the “physical” environment.

So, whilst the initial activation brief was heavily focused around a “mix of ground floor activities” it was clear that the majority of Wynyard Central’s streets could not be activated by retail, given the relatively small size of existing and future on-site markets.

Defining the extent of retail capacity

The demand for functionally (retail) active edge was estimated at 280 linear metres from a total linear edge of 2.6 kilometres in Wynyard Central. The balance of ground floor activity will therefore be either office or residential. Functional” activation contributing to a “vibrant neighbourhood” is therefore limited in its influence and determining the “physical” environment becomes relatively more important.

Motivations to walk are affected by attraction or pulling power of the walk-to destination and by physical features or building elements that influence the quality of the built environment and therefore the visual richness of the walk.

“Plane Transition” (Drawing by Steve Thorne, Design Urban)

The spatial brief

In order to achieve Waterfront Auckland’s Vision and objectives, buildings in Wynyard Central are proposed to be brought to ground in a manner that supports the visual perspective of the pedestrian.

This more intimate pedestrian perspective requires a “plane transition” so that the lower levels of each building begin to engage with the street and become buildings “common in conversation” (as shown in the image). This transition is proposed at level three of all buildings.

At this point the use of dominant vertical proportions and higher level of detail in the composition of the building facade will assist to render the buildings as more pedestrian friendly.

Panuku Development Auckland is using this approach to manage the delivery of its objectives in Wynyard Central.

By Michael Cullen, Principal of Urbacity, Sydney

Michael attended the 2015 International Urban Design Conference.

Politicians Step Forward With New Plans To See Brisbane Go Live

LNP Leader Tim Nicholls has come forward with a commitment to fast-track the proposed Brisbane Live arena project led should he emerge victorious next election.

In a move they describe as making Brisbane a more attractive investment and tourist location, an LNP Government will grant AEG Ogden and their partners an exclusive mandate to develop the project.

According to The Sunday Mail, tenders would also be invited for a new university campus and the LNP had already received expressions of interest from Australian institutions.

Photo: article supplied

The LNP’s vision for the project included a new university campus, a 17,000 seat arena, film and production studios, a world-class public square, a new commercial and residential precinct, 12 hectares of new public space, a health hub and new pedestrian access to other entertainment spaces in Brisbane City.

A purpose-built entertainment and education hub located in the CBD would potentially complement the Queens Wharf Development, together with the cultural and arts precinct at South Bank and Suncorp Stadium. Mr Nicholls believes the updated plans for the project, now dubbed the Brisbane Entertainment and Education Precinct (B.E.E.P), would deliver integrated links between these important spaces to create a truly modern and strategically linked city.

This article was originally published by The Urban Developer.

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Queensland Government Plans First Inner-City Brisbane School In Decades

Two new schools will open in the inner-city in Brisbane and another significantly expanded as the Palaszczuk Government committed $500 million to the Building Future Schools Fund.

The fund’s purposes centres around building new schools, securing land in Queensland’s fastest growing regions and creating the necessary jobs to accomplish the projects in place.

Image: A ‘vertical school’ in Melbourne – the emerging concept throughout Australia to deliver more educational institutions without requiring vast amounts of land. Courtesy Hayball.

“We will build the first new high school in inner Brisbane since 1963,” Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.

“We want every child to benefit from a quality education no matter where they live. That’s why we are investing $500 million over five years to help deliver world class education facilities where they are needed most,” she said.

Ms Palaszczuk said through the Fund, the Advancing Inner City Schools initiative will:

  • deliver a new state secondary school at the former Fortitude Valley State School site in partnership with Queensland University of Technology
  • establish a new high school in the inner-south working with the University of Queensland to take enrolment pressure off Brisbane State High School
  • support the expansion of West End State School to meet enrolment demand

The Palaszczuk Government also claimed to have plans already underway for new state high schools in other growth areas across Queensland including Mt Low in Townsville, North Lakes/Mango Hill north of Brisbane, Calliope near Gladstone and Yarrabilba in South Logan.

Deputy Premier, Minister for Infrastructure and Planning and Member for South Brisbane Jackie Trad said over the last 50 years, Brisbane used all available land to expand existing school sites, but she said you can only expand so much.

This article was originally published by The Urban Developer.

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Adopting the Sustainable Development Goals is a Business Opportunity for Australia

It has been 25 years since Australia last experienced a recession. We’ve had an extraordinary period of uninterrupted economic growth – the longest in modern history – and this has greatly increased our prosperity.

Thanks to the abundance of natural resources needed to build roads, railways and skyscrapers in fast-growing cities across Asia, Australia’s economy has had a good run over the past quarter century.

But an expanding list of environmental, health and social burdens risk undermining our growth model. Business as usual is not an option. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), launched in 2015, are 17 goals for ending poverty, transforming health and education, improving our cities and communities, addressing gender equity and tackling urgent challenges such as climate change. Collectively, they propose a new development pathway, based on partnership between governments, civil society and business that could transform our societies.

Photo: article supplied

Take our cities, for example. Cities are the economic powerhouses of our country, especially since the end of the mining boom (our capital cities alone generate around two-thirds of our GDP). Cities matter more than ever to our future employment and prosperity, but our urban quality of life is deteriorating. We spend on average 85 minutes a day commuting, up from 50 minutes half a century ago. Congestion already costs our capital cities $16.5bn annually, and that could double by 2030. The affordability of housing nationwide has more than halved since 1980, locking many out of the Australian dream.

Our urban lifestyles have become a growing burden on our health, too. A rising set of noncommunicable diseases, such as obesity, are posing massive challenges for the health system. In 2015, almost two in three Australian adults were overweight or obese.

The labour force is changing dramatically. A report completed by AlphaBeta for the Foundation for Young Australians found that 70% of young people currently enter the workforce in jobs that will be radically affected by automation and imports over the next 10 to 15 years.

This article was originally published by The Guardian.

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