Traditional urban models that only delimit public or private properties have long proved to fail: instead, collective spaces define our contemporary city, ruled by ownership ambiguity. Shopping malls, hotels, office parks, train or bus stations explicitly blur private/public distinctions (besides precisely selecting its potential users). Sometimes, the intentioned ambiguity of what is publicly accessible, appears to simply increase commercial benefits, in other occasions to invite more people to use a facility.
This growing collective urban territory however unveils some new behavior: we like zigzagging through collective spaces. It happens very often that when we walk through the city, some things make us modify our daily itineraries, forcing sudden shortcuts or detours. Instead of following the street, offering us a set of preprogrammed paths, we prefer walking through a hotel lobby or train station hall to get somewhere faster or to meet someone quickly. These sudden changes in our daily movements, taking shortcuts to reduce distances or making by-passes to combine multiple tasks (like picking up dry-cleaning, buying some missing ingredients before preparing dinner or meeting your lover) are evidently left out in traditional planning models, even if they can constitute coherent alternative circuits through the city.
New York City has always embraced this idea of urban detours as a valid alternative for traditional urban models and helped to prioritize its conceptual value within a critical discourse about the public realm. In the case of New York City, zigzagging, detours and shortcuts even became a substantial part of the experience, one of the many factors guaranteeing its uniqueness and vivid quality.
Accessibility and permeability (or the lack of it) gained importance within the contemporary city. It is interesting to see how ambiguity, differences and morphological dysfunction started defining our daily experience when moving through collective territories, more than fields of urban isotropy where accessibility keeps constant values.