Walking as Kinaesthetic Experience of the City: A Historical and Conceptual Approach for Urban Design and Policies

Walking as Kinaesthetic Experience of the City: A Historical and Conceptual Approach for Urban Design and Policies

Edna Hernández González (Université de Bretagne Occidentale, France) and Jérôme Monnet (Université Paris-Est, France)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3637-6.ch020

Abstract

In the last few years, the design of public spaces has been increasingly considering the multisensory experience of the environment by the users, in particular by trying to create attractive or comfortable “ambiances.” This chapter aims at clarifying some notions used by researchers and practitioners to analyze the city experience with regards to the practice of walking. The aforementioned analysis is aimed to serve the study of the lived space and also for future urban and architectural designs.
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Cities’ Transformations And Walking Experience Evolution

When Walking Was Hegemonic: Before the Imposition of Western Modern Order in Cities

Since erection of first cities several thousand years ago till the 19th century, roadways were dominated by pedestrian mobility, which offered a comprehensive servicing of dense and narrow urban spaces. The walking crowd and ubiquitous activities in the streets imposed a slow speed for vehicles in roadways they could go.

In European cities of Renaissance, supremacy of pedestrian metric (Lévy, 2000) in urban space began to be breached in many ways. On one side, urban power has been concentrated within the hands of sovereigns and their administrations at the expense of local authorities and intermediary bodies such as merchant guilds. These new urban actors launched wide scale reconstruction works of roadways, where pathway’s logic was depending upon the aesthetic logic of sovereign magnitude’s claim. Rome gives a good example, with the opening of wide and straight avenues by the Popes (Gruet, 2006).

On the other side, at the same time, walking in the streets became inappropriate for social elites, because urban walking appeared to be uncomfortable due to nauseating odors, promiscuity, public queries, unwanted contacts and insecurity. This led elites, first, to adopt coaches as an inner urban mean for moving (Vaillancourt 2013), and then, develop the « art of promenade » in parks and private gardens (Solnit 2001, Monnet 2016).

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