Month: March 2011

an anti-logic of streets: getting lost in Rome and at home (and thoughts on arts-experiments in planning)

Long title, lots of ideas here.  Stick with me. I spent last week in Rome, which is actually where la flaneuse first was born, six years ago.  I didn’t yet know then that I would be wandering around cities as my profession, but as a writer for Let’s Go: Italy, I learned to love the solitude and spontaneity of exploring cities on foot, watching roads and residents as I went.  Though I got to know Rome very well, especially as I tirelessly visited every restaurant, mapped every vicolo, and scouted every sightseeing deal, returning was a whole different ballgame.  I was struck by the city’s layers, its character, the way it has grown haphazardly over time and then lurched under massive redesign campaigns by powerful leaders seeking to make their mark.  I saw Rome with new eyes, and I want to share some of my observations with you. First, though, I want to give credit for these new eyes to the ladies of Platform 2, an incredible conceptual art/performance/social engagement collective here in Boston.  A …

the entropic city.

This evening I went to a conference session about Mumbai/Bombay, at the Grad School of Design at Harvard.  It was part of a conference called “In the Life of Cities,” and it was stuffed with fascinating observations about the this “kinetic city,” whose very dynamism generates a kind of paralysis.  The breakdown of government structure and infrastcuture to provide everything from housing, sanitation, not to mention the rule of law, has generated a kind of urbanism of necessity that empowers slumlords and thugs, real estate developers and a cloistered industrial elite, but also turns out an inspringly high proportion of the urban poor for elections and, as I have experienced it, generated a disarmingly complex and exciting city. Okay, this may have occurred to you already, but I was surprised to realize as I listened to and reflected upon these talks that this kind of city, characterized by a profound and uncontrollable (by definition) entropy, is exactly what I think is the key to revitalizing communities.  In the kinds of cities and neighborhoods that I …