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Free Thinking : The world

From New Delhi, writer Rana Dasgupta

How Do We Read Cities?

  • Rana Dasgupta
  • 8 Sep 06, 02:36 PM

Sitting

Jan Chipchase lives in Tokyo and runs a beautiful blog of photographs he has taken in cities all over the world: acutely observed details that help him read the cities he goes to. He calls this photograph, taken in Kobrasol in São José, Brazil, "Clues To Where People Sit."

Enjoyment

This one, also from Kobrasol, is called "Traces of Enjoyment".

Sex

This is a mobile sex shop from Chengdu.

Comments

  1. At 12:38 AM on 09 Sep 2006, Richard O'shea wrote:

    Brilliant. He should get down to the House of Commons in London. Outside the voting chamber stands a statue of Winston Churchill, the left foot clearly shows signs of people repeatedly placing their left hand on top of it. When I first noticed this and pointed it out to my freind she said "Yes, its customary to do that before you vote."

    He could call it "Left over hope."

    Great concept, I like the notion of him tracking humans around the world, not via stuctures or institutions but the subtle evidence of human behaviour. It's an interesting question, how to read a city? I suppose as with any material to be described it should be experienced as fully as possible. The obvious answer would be to say with sight, sound, taste, and touch, via these you access the underlying narrative of the city.

    But isn't it more important to ask 'How do you interpret a city?' Perhaps this is what you meant by read? The senses will only get you so far whilst interpreting. I often hear people talk of bad vibes in a city or town or specific location, so perhaps intuition plays some role in the reading/interpreting process? Hmm...?

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  2. At 02:23 AM on 09 Sep 2006, Fitz wrote:

    Just one man's view of the world - nothing particularly brilliant I wouldn't say.

    Rather see a beautiful sunset or mountaintop in snow, or lush green valley with a herd of something.

    I find nothing entertaining or artistic about the presented pics - my grandson of 10 years takes better ones!

    but I will defend the right of the photographer to take what he/she wants - but do we need to keep putting labels on them.

    Reminds me of those rather pompous characters you see in the first night of a new art gallery opening, as they meander around, pacing this way and that. Standing back with head tilted and making some obscure and meaningless (to others that is) comment about what they can 'see' in the picture.

    yes it just convinces me more and more - cities are boring places indeed. Give me a hamper basket, bottle of good chardonay, a gentle sloping hill top and so quiet grazing sheep and the gentle orchestra of birds chirping in the background.

    I do think it's only Europeans that are obsessed by cities - the rest of us live in the countryside!

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  3. At 02:40 PM on 09 Sep 2006, Rana Dasgupta wrote:

    Fitz wrote:

    "I do think it's only Europeans that are obsessed by cities - the rest of us live in the countryside!"

    Writing from Australia, one of the most urbanised countries on the planet, this is ironic. With declining populations and even, in some places, de-urbanisation, Europe has less urban thinking to do than everywhere else. "The rest of us" - by which I assume you mean everyone living in Africa, the Americas, Asia and Australasia - are dropping farm tools and rushing to cities as fast as we can.

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  4. At 03:59 PM on 09 Sep 2006, Roberto Carlos Alvarez-Galloso,CPUR wrote:

    Everyone has a city and the countryside.There are people who like the city and others who like the countryside.

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  5. At 04:00 PM on 10 Sep 2006, Richard O'shea wrote:

    Rana:

    Isn't the rush to cities in Australia born out of the geography and natural resource distribution? Lets face it most of Australia is hardcore terrain and not suitable for; and I speak from a Darwinian podium now, weak Humans who are no longer able to adapt to changing environments? I'm not referring to the Aborigianls in that statement am I.

    This raises the questions, what level of natural resource does Australia -or any nation for that matter- have, and can it sustain itself without growth? If it can't then why is it trying to grow?

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