Monday, August 8, 2011

Urban Exploration.

"a whole toy box full of playful, inventive strategies for exploring cities ... just about anything that takes pedestrians off their predictable and jolts them into a new awareness of the urban landscape."

Joseph Hart "A New Way of Walking" Utne Reader 2004

Living in a country of volcanic origin and without natural caves, I had to satisfy my trogolodyte urges (I was once a caver) via the web. I finally came across what trogolodytes, rock climbers and the simply curious do when they are limited by geographical circumstances
to urban environments. They explore their environment. Amongst the urban explorer community there is a preoccupation with buildering (climbing buildings freehand) and tunnels (river, drainage, sewage, transport, catacombs etc etc). I abseiled down a mobile telephone antenna tower, took on the tallest building in São Tomé (the apartment block on whose grondfloor was the central bank ... almost got arrested ... various bridges etc).

However, Peter Karzil took me further. As well as the "traditional" aspects of urban exploration mentioned above, through hi
s website Urban Adventure in Rotterdam (still there) now replaced by his blog of the same name. From the latter I learned the term "pyschogeography" which I promptly looked up on Wikipedia. Psychogeography was first defined in the 1950s by Chtcheglov and Debord and was principally interested in urban environments.

Although Hart's definition above limits itself to urban environments, Debord's definition of psychogeography is broader - how the geographical environment effects individuals. The writings and photos of Peter Karzil well illustrate this - human and urban influences on the rural environment and how nature adapts to and is even used in the urban environment.

The film The Tunnel took me to Silent UK's recent exploration of the UK Post Office's London underground railway system that had remained inaccessible to urban explorers for decades and decades ... since it existed!

Last week boingboing posted on Becky Stern's "visit" to the derelict Packard automobile factory in Detroit ... notable information "there were no fences or signs to warn people away" and "...included the first use of reinforced concrete for industrial construction in Detroit. When opened in 1903, it was considered the most modern automobile manufacturing facility in the world ...". Becky's flickr set is here.

These influences, combined with long term broken down motorised transport means I walk more and am renewing my interest in urban exploration (hence the post Urban Landscapes below)

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