The Option of Sensing the City
In his second article written from France, Wolfe argues for enhanced opportunities for "place decoding" and distinguishes directed responses to the urban environment from intuitive opportunities to experience the city in context:
Sensing the city is a personal experience owned by each of us. From a legal perspective, it is an urban property right that transcends public and private domains. It is a form of place-decoding that deserves more illustration and attention.
By illustrated example, he contrasts simple forms of urban interpretation, such as experiencing the commercialized smell of a street in Grasse, France (engineered by a large perfume manufacturer), with the more complex challenge of visually interpreting the multi-layered city such as Bastia, Corsica, where "small pockets of old blend with the new and lines of sight span the ages and associated technologies".
Accordingly, Wolfe stresses the importance of understanding who, respectively, are the leaders and followers in the urban experiential adventure and suggests supplementing cutting edge activism with a more holistic, experiential point of view.
He highlights efforts aimed at enhancing people's ability to sense the city, such as Adelaide, Australia's well-presented "Picture Adelaide 2040" project, Stage 1 of which centers on gathering 1000 stories from citizens (each with a photo) on how they use their favorite urban places. He also underscores the value of "how-to's", such as community classes, meet-ups, school curricula, training of political officials and sensitizing of loan.
We can urge our political leaders, our planners, our designers and real estate professionals that encouraging people to sense the city deserves a high priority in policies, plans and pro-formas. Better cities will not result from a mandated smell this, or see that mindset.
Rather, better cities are more apt to happen if we first learn how to smell and see, a Place-Decoding 101 class affordable to all.