Cities Methodologies Spring 2014

Updates: One day in the city, yet another UCL event, took place on 13 June. A biannual festival celebrating London and literature, the in a nutshell talks are a nice aide memoire of writers and place. I’m particularly taken by the concept of Keats and the ‘burbs. Plus see below for my highlights from the October edition.

Cities Methodologies is a regular week long series of events and installations from the fab UCL Urban Laboratory (@UCLUrbanLab | #citiesmethodologies). The Spring 2014 edition ran from 24 April to 2 May and is yet another source of inspiration and ideas that makes me wail Why?

The built environment takes on new social, cultural and economic importance as a repository of collective memory – in tension with the increasing threat of erasure through new development.

Critical guided walks through London, focusing on the City, the River Fleet and King’s Cross, explicitly reflecting on walking as a way of better understanding cities and urban experience.

The installations were on architecture and fire, urban walking and the photography of Balfron Tower (see also the Balfron Tower archive).

Walking methodologies consisted of four guided walks:

And a roundtable (audio), where participants discussed:

  • what brought them to explore and utilise walking as a practice in their work
  • if and how they theorise their walking practice, and/or historical precedents for their approach
  • walking as a pedagogic strategy
  • whether we are experiencing a re-emergence of walking as a methodology? if so, why
  • how walking might contribute to better, or better understood, cities
  • what makes urban walking distinct

Two urban themed writing workshops were led by UCL Urban Lab Literary Fellow Ian Thomson, reading material from his work-in-progress book about Tallinn during World War II and discussing representations of the city in literature in general.

The October 2014 edition featured:

  • Walking Stoke Newington; controversy, values and daily life – a ‘walkshop’ in search of the correct definition of a ‘city’, focusing on a small corner in order to search for traces of how communities are built; the ‘quotidianistion’ in action; and look at how the certain areas ‘protect’ themselves by creating value sets which define communal identities; a manifesto will provide context to the workshop and a platform from which to start discussions, three local leaders will provide input; readings from authors who take the city as their muse and scholars who have analysed the role of walking in daily life; attendees will be invited to send in photo essays to create a webpage
  • Navigating Soho: introducing a series of interdisciplinary experiments – participants took part in an interactive walking tour of Soho to demonstrate technologies developed to investigate spatial awareness and urban navigation, followed by a talk on the theory and knowledge behind what the participants were asked to do on the walk and include methods into their own queries regarding urban navigation and spatial awareness
  • The archive in the city: reading space into written sources – an attempt to move beyond the study of history through its traditional preoccupation with time, instead thinking about ways in which historians can talk about space
  • plus Urban Pamphleteer 3 on design and trust launched, and a lecture by Amit Chaudhuri on The new provinces marked the merger of UCL English’s City Centre into the Urban Lab’s Cities Imaginaries programme

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