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.

Click here to read the entire article.


MORPH MY CITY Infrastructure Rebirthing & The Creative City

As Australia’s cities embark on their largest infrastructure projects in decades, what infrastructure from our industrial past can be born again to contribute to the social and cultural life of the city?

Infrastructure like: – An iconic bridge and major city access route that now hosts a world-famous Bridge Climb and is one of Australia’s most popular attractions and at the top of to-do-lists – Sydney Harbour Bridge – An island that used to be a prison, ammunition depot and ship building yard and is now an event space and creative arts venue – Cockatoo Island – A train depot to hub for creative start-ups and popular farmers’ markets – Carriageworks

Just like Sydney, every city around Australia has major investments in industrial era infrastructure that are ready to be born again into the creative city. Those investments include over-engineered roads, parking structures and service lanes, water reservoirs, and waste plants. Rather than relegating these relics of the past to isolated, single use blights on communities, they can be born again to improve the ecological, social and economic performance of 21st century cities.

The 6th International Urban Design Conference welcomes RobertsDay Principal, Stephen Moore, who will be presenting at the conference next week 9th-11th September at Novotel Sydney Olympic Park.  Mr Moore’s presentation focuses on a process to morph the infrastructure of the past into the great places of the future and the role of the hybrid urban professional in doing just that. He also shares techniques, tools and lessons for pragmatic innovation in this emerging field, using real-world examples that include: – How a car centric centre was reborn with a new public domain the equivalent of five Olympic pools – How a regional centre could shift $5M in funding from parking to cultural infrastructure – How an innovative parking structure could be the catalyst for a new arts district

Stephen Moore is a Principal of RobertsDay, based in Sydney. As creative coordinator and lead designer on major projects in Australia, New Zealand, China and United Kingdom, Stephen believes great places can be playful and profitable. Recent projects include infrastructure rebirthing in Coffs Harbour City to inspire a cultural renaissance, road dieting in Bondi Junction to create complete streets, a hybrid urban block called St.Thomas Place to kick start an arts district, and Vietnam’s Halong EcoCity where cultural symbolism also purifies a polluted river. Stephen also co-leads RobertsDay’s research and development unit. Over the last three years the firm has invested in developing its trademarked Great Places Process. Alongside his practice commitments, Stephen has taught at the University of New South Wales and Sydney University. At ACNU 2010, Stephen was invited to lead a master class in Adelaide. He is also a frequent public speaker with invitations including the keynote address at the Mackay Developer’s Summit, PIA’s Congress Highlights and the Alaska’s Projects Idea Bombing Sydney.

If you would like to attend Mr Moore’s seminar or any of the other speakers on our program registrations are still open to attend the conference … simply click here to register!