Soft Order

To saunter, stroll, wander, promenade, to be a flaneur – these are some terms which describe the walker who has time on their hands. However, the ability to plant and reap experiences from one of the most natural activities like walking has become increasingly unnatural to many urban dwellers. While planners, privatisation, and surveillance are freezing-up urban public spaces, the streets are becoming ever more regimented as life and character are sapped from our cities. What can be undone in order to maintain the public realm as a flexible space that adapts over time?

The activity of the urban flaneur represents a creative way of upsetting imposed usages of urban space – a way to slow down and lower pace to spur contemplation in the built environment. Overdetermined and dominated, the typical sidewalk experience is flat, drab, brittle, bounded and seemingly endless, where the simulations of walking are prosaic to the urban planner who seeks to control movement. Human scale is understood in terms of coping with resistances with embedded forms of walking knowledge and not through the suspended movement of cars, trains and planes which function as cognition-impairing machines. If no provision for walking knowledge means dumbing down the city - what does free movement entail, not just for utilitarian walking but for a person with no definitive place to be? How does the relationship between individual reaction and urban quality change as moments of pause begin to unlock our rigid urban environments?

Through a 7-minute-walk bridging the Cass Park Historic District and Detroit Chinatown in the Cass Corridor neighbourhood and by working with existing micro & meso organisations in that community, Soft Order addresses those social & physical relations that accept and engage with uncertainty and encounter in an urban landscape. If the freely moving body is the goal for urban planners, can strategic pauses and intermingled mobility networks generate social cohesion to build resilience in a neighbourhood of Detroit that has already outgrown a purified identity through uneven development over time?
Faculty Advisor:
Gina Reichert