My contribution Walking with buildings. The flâneur and the (im)mobilizing power of non-human narrators aims to reflect on the contrasting encounter between the apparent immobility of buildings, as non-human inert bodies, and the peculiar mobility of the flâneur. I say apparent immobility because my provocation starts precisely from the idea that buildings, despite their inertia, have an intrinsic power to mobilize our gaze and move our feet: my proposal is to imagine them as non-human narrators that invite the flâneur to move in the city both vertically, discovering changes in time, and horizontally, exploring connections in space.
Furthermore, as (im)mobile concrete archives, buildings invite us to reflect once again on the peculiarity of the flâneur’s mobility, which is made of a constant alternation between walking and resting, listening and writing practices. Even if always on the move, the flâneur constantly takes time for slow practices like resting, reflect and writing, thus resisting through his own body to the rapid flows of contemporary cities and neoliberal rhythms.
I will explore these suggestions by proposing three examples: first, a graphic novel by Will Eisner published in 1987 and titled The building; second, Living with buildings and walking with ghosts the latest work by the well-known psychogeographer Iain Sinclair, which appeared in 2018 and became also an exhibition; third, a personal flânerie in the Brutalist Robin Hood Gardens Estate, that I’ve realised in February 2019 while I was living in Tower Hamlets, East London. Following Sinclair’s exploration, I will focus on brutalist estates as architectural bodies that have peculiar stories to tell thanks, to their controversial and critical position in contemporary London as in many other cities. But, How can we listen to voices of buildings, interpreting them as non-human narrators that keep stories hidden in them? Furthermore, “is there a link between the walking and storytelling practice of the flâneur and the encounter with the (im)mobilities of buildings?”
Camminare in città tra progettazione e racconto / Walking in the city, between planning and story-telling, Università degli Studi Milano Bicocca, Milano, Italy
21-22 March 2019