Milano master-class

03. Walking Creates Worlds

#lesson2 #lesson3 #philosophy #augustinberque

In the beginning, we all started walking and wherever we wandered through Marseille’s metropolitan landscape, I had the feeling we were doing something very important, but I didn’t understand yet why. That, I would discover later on, while reading Augustin Berque, a geographer and orientalist.

According to Berque, the world is not an external thing outside of us, to be studied through binoculars. But nor is it what’s in our heads and imaginations. For him, the world is neither objective nor subjective. It is “trajective”. It is built through an act by the subject, who makes the object exist in a way other to itself. This act can be expressed in the formula S = P or Subject = Predicate. For instance, when I say, “this building is tall”, I am interpreting it and thereby summoning it into existence. This contact between the subject and the object is what is meant by “trajective”.

And, again for Berque, the fundamental trajective act, the one through which worlds come into being, is walking. But there are many other trajective acts: language is a trajective act, so we are in fact trajecting. When we walk through urban landscapes, we are symbolically reappropriating them, compared to our usual logistic experiences of cities. For example, when we drive on the highway, we are moving—not trajecting—through space. We have to traject space if we are to bring a world to life.

So, I realized that together we were creating worlds: we are world creators. The people who pour the concrete aren’t the only ones making the city. There are also those who build it symbolically. And so, we’re urbanists in a full and philosophical sense. When we meander, interpret, and tell stories, we are creating worlds in an infinite process, since what we create today, the future generation will re-create for themselves. It’s an endless process. And it’s poetic in the etymological sense of “creation”. When I realized that this was what we were doing, and that what we were doing was important, I was able acknowledge my initial intuition: that this was a big deal.

It’s especially effective since we are giving the city back to the community. So, naturally this work has to do with community.