Inscribing the city: a flâneur in Tokyo
AbstractA recent topic for fascination in architectural theory has been Walter Benjamin’s work on the flâneur of Charles Baudelaire’s Paris. This figure, more than just a wanderer, shopper or tourist, characterises one aspect of the modern city-dweller’s condition, as found in the Parisian arcades. This meandering, aimless ‘Man Without Qualities’ so informs how we understand the city, for example, as a prototype for both the cinematic subject and audience. Flânerie also has its uses as a thinking tool. City-based artistic movements in the 20th century, from the Dada and Surrealists through to Fluxus and the Situationists have all exploited similar modes of distracted attention in traversing the city. This trajectory takes us to the Situationist International in particular, who engaged with the city in a fashion analogous to the paper support for a drawing, equip us with new ways of understanding the experience of the city. As a part of my general inquiry into the role of drawing and notation in creative practice, the graphic representation of the city forms a case-study of particular interest. How do these alternatives to the traditional tools of architecture and urbanism aid or reconfigure our understandings of cities? This final section shall outline some of my own working practices. Drawn from the tradition of the architectural fantasy, which traces its history from Piranesi through Ferriss and Constant to Tschumi, Koolhaas and MVRDV. By considering architecture as a practice of representation as well as of space- and place-making, the architectural fantasy or paper project offers distinctive possibilities beyond what is commonly assumed to be simply an ‘unbuilt’ or ‘unbuildable’ project. As such, I place my reflections upon Tokyo into this tradition – I will explore the process I have worked through in re-presenting a journey taken through Shinjuku station.