Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Constructed and emergent order

Cory Doctorow at BoingBoing points to a lovely piece on the emergent "desireways" of Detroit.
Using photos and satellite images, the Sweet Juniper blog documents the "pathways of desire" in Detroit -- the streets and sidewalks that Detroiters carved out of the snow indicating where they'd like to go, rather than where the city expects them to go. I read somewhere (I think it was Peter Ackroyd's incredible London: A Biography) that after the Great Fire, Christopher Wren tried to lay out the city in a regular grid, but that Londoners continued to walk along where the old winding streets had been, using the old, unburned stone church-spires to navigate them, walking through the construction sites, forcing the streets back to their old places.
The post at Sweet Juniper is worth reading in full.
Desire lines are considered by many landscape architects to be proof of a flaw in the design of a physical space, or more gently, a sign that concrete cannot always impose its will on the human mind. But what about a physical space that no longer resembles its intended design, a city where tens of thousands of homes have been abandoned, burned, and buried in their own basements? While actual roads and sidewalks crumble with each season of freezing and thawing, Detroiters have taken it upon themselves to create new paths, in their own small way working to create a city that better suits their needs.

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