Urban Mileage

I am exploring spaces and people in my work. Also the spirit of a place. The genus loci.

The city is a poem. Not a classical poem, a poem tidily centred a subject. It is rather a poem that unfolds a message. It is this message that we try to grasp and make sing. (Barthes 1986:97).

To understand the messages of a place is like learning a new language. The language of the streets, footpaths, buildings and broken down walls. These objects speak of their creator, their users, abusers and current state of mind. We are creators. Empty boxes don’t exist in nature.  We deign the message about our places that we live in.  We are also conditioned by the actions of others. Brunner (1965:13) in his novel the “Squares of the City” writes “where the buildings said proudly ‘Prosperity!’…The laughter on the faces of youth said ‘Success!’ The satisfied look of businessmen said ‘Progress!’ “. If I lived in such a place I would personally be creeped out.  What are we aiming for here? A city of a thousand designers of different temperament and ideologies.

To live in a city, a town or suburb, is to breath, smell, taste the odours, walk between buildings and enter into a relationship: A semi-autonomous relationship that is strengthened by routines and conventions of society (Preziosi, 1979:13). It’s more than this too. We actively and consciously perceive a space and place, a city block, a row of houses, a backyard, a manhole, even the “Late Lady!” (From Janet Frame’s book “To the Is-Land”, 2008:30). These markers give distance, time, memories and futures. The images and feelings for a place are emotional – whether it “terrorizes or charms” (Ledrut 1986:222). It is the association we have with a place – real or imagined. Where you had your first job, where you met your first lover, where you saw a wonderful piece of theatre. Or maybe it’s less romantic. Where you had your first fight, where you saw your friend vomit, where you got attacked by a magpie. Well you get the picture.

Hence, our images of where we live are rich and varied “soaked in memories and meanings…in relation to its surroundings, the sequence of events leading up to it, the meaning of past experiences” (Lynch 1960:1)

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