(image from Shame, Steve McQueen, 2001)
Here is the thing. Streetscapes are of little interest if we do not listen to the stories they unfold.
For many years, I tried to analyze these collective spaces in an attempt to disentangle their enormous complexity: by drawing the streetscape’s inherent depth configurations, indicating their included physical, social, cultural and territorial boundaries or by highlighting the operating spacing mechanisms: territories pushed away or overlapped… I tried to unveil levels of privacy of collectivity within them, and study the activities that take place. The drawing research methods that were developed maintain their value as to explore innovative ways of making new neighborhoods or intervening in existing ones and improving them on a socio-spatial level.
Nevertheless, lately I have been thinking about whether this is enough: can we fully understand a streetscape by drawing it, by systematic thematic mapping? Is it not necessary to pay more attention to the narrative qualities of the streetscapes, to listen to the personal stories unfolded within? I wonder, to which extent do our daily walks or drive-throughs affect the quality of our life? How do streetscapes enrich our daily personal or collective experiences? Which are the personal stories that happen in certain streetscapes, and maybe because of them? Which encounters, which situations take place in these streetscapes and how can these become part of a collective discussion? In times when (post)Covid19 streetscapes seem more abandoned than ever and there is an actual threat we might loose the ability to use and make them properly (meaning: something more than a mere social media setting): which are the landscape elements, the Streetscape Essentials, that facilitate a rich unfolding of personal stories?
In the following posts, and on the Streetscape Territories Instagram account, you will be able to follow-up on my ongoing explorations of New York Streetscapes Essentials. At this moment, I am trying to detect and isolate the very essential elements that make appear these human and personal stories, these ordinary or extraordinary situations in New York’s streetscapes. Some elements are quite iconic, others are rather marginal or seem of less impact in our collective imaginary.
As part of my current research, I am making photographic and sculptural explorations of these elements and soon hope to interact with you about them. These photographs and sculptures are to be understood as conversation pieces as they might allow us to share many personal or collective stories that happened to you in the streets of New York. Or that even happened to your favorite movie of television character, but in some way it changed your life. I will be happy to listen to your stories soon…