Walking has long been a method for writers, artists and architects to engage with the city. From the flaneur to the heritage tour, the way we move through the city acts to witness, organize, appropriate or critique urban relations. The talk uses infrastructure as a lens through which to consider the practice of walking. I first discuss the historical origin of infrastructure and its relation to military provisioning. These origins have been important to modernist understandings of infrastructure’s relation to nation-building and to ideas about the future. Next, I turn to contemporary understanding of infrastructure as the care and maintenance of a commons. This discussion on what exactly infrastructure is, serves as the basis for looking more closely at three practices of walking: Franz Hessel’s early 20th century literary account Walking in Berlin, the poet Lisa Roberson’s Seven Walks and the artist Sampson Wong’s When in Doubt Take a Walk. These accounts respond to the modernist, neo-liberal, and authoritarian city, respectively, but ultimately transcend their contemporary conjunctures to propose openings toward new sets of relations. I argue that walking in these works is an infrastructural practice. It reveals the ground of the city to be a commons, where the provisioning of life takes place through relations enacted in movement. Importantly, this re-inscription understands heritage as an offering to the future.
Sony Devabhaktuni is an assistant professor in the Department of Architecture. His research and teaching focuses on urban infrastructure and at collaborative processes in architectural design. He is particularly interested in how economic and political intensities overlap with imaginations of space.