Another City for Another Life: Here is v2.0 of a possible course on psychogeography and speculative design. What follows is an effort to gather materials and ideas for such a course. Many thanks to everyone who proposed materials, much of which has been incorporated. (Special thanks to Dunne + Raby) Suggestions still welcome, of course.

The course would combine:  A. Psychogeography, as a way of moving through the city, gathering a knowledge of its ambiences, but concentrating on its special moments. B. Unitary Urbanism, or the practice of imagining another city for another life, based on the ambiences detected in creating a psychogeography, and C. Speculative Design, which experiments in a playful and open way with models or projects or components for realizing Unitary Urbanism. A. Psychogegraphy: The opening section below introduces psychogeography  In brief: the idea is that through wandering in the city, outside of the organized time of work and leisure, one can glimpse ambiences that might suggest a whole other kind of city for a better way of life. Here are some classic readings, coming out of the work of the Letterist International and Situationist International in the 50s:

The next section is about different ways of practicing psychogeography in New York City.

Exercises:  These are ideas for ways of practicing Psychogeography that have a particular focus, and which could be steps towards a Unitary Urbanism. The principle of Unitary Urbanism is “another city for another life.” Here are suggestions for various different ways one could start experiencing the city and thinking through different alternative cities one might design. These excercises are just suggestions. You can modify them or come up with your own. The exercises are always best done as small group projects.

The alternate ability city. What is the city like if one has to be on wheels, or cannot walk very far or fast? Could one imagine a city for everyone based on the principle of low power or self-powered wheeled motion?

The amusement city. What if the city’s leisure zones were not time off from work, but the whole basis of a life of play?

The animal city. Maybe the idea city would not be for humans. What would a city for squirrels look like? Or birds?

The city of women. What if one could reverse, or erase, male dominated space?

  • Laura Elkin, Flaneuse: Women Walk the City, FSG 2017
  • Rebecca SolnitWanderlust: A History of Walking,  Verso, 2002. (chapter on women)
  • Janet Wolff  ‘The Invisible Flâneuse. Women and the Literature of Modernity’ Theory, Culture & Society November 1985 2:37-46
  • Elizabeth Wilson, ‘The Invisible Flaneur’

The cognitive city. We are not all of the same mind. Maybe the city would be different if one was depressed, manic, autistic, and so forth. Chtcheglov proposed different zones for different emtional states, but what about cognitive states?

The driverless city. Apparently Tesla are testing driverless cars here already. Would there be another city one could create that was driverless?

The drowned city. Truth is, the waters are rising. Rather than think this as an apocalypse, what might an aquatic NYC be like?

The dumpsterdive city. Is there a way to think the psychogeography of dumpster diving or gleaning as a fragment of another life?

  • Jeff Ferrell, Empire of Scrounge, NYU Press, 2005
  • Agnes Varda, The Gleaners and I, (movie), 2000

The edible city. What might the city be like if it grew its own food?

The hip hop city. This might be a drift through used record stores as much as the streets, but what if we took the utopian promise of very early hip hop, and built a city out of it?

  • Jim Fricke, Yes Yes Y’all: The Oral History of Hip Hop’s First Decade, Da Capo, 2002
  • Charlie Ahearn, Wild Style (movie), 1092

The infrastructure city. If one thought backwards from the experience of infrastructure, how might that be structured differently to enable other kinds of city?

The micro city. There are cities within cities. That have their own languages, customs, idioms. You might want to start with a psychogeography of something very small, a block or two, even.

  • Ada Calhoun, St Marks Is Dead, Norton, 2015
  • HT Tsiang, The Hanging on Union Square, Kaya, 2013
  • Paul Beatty, Tuff, Anchor 2001 [East Harlem]
  • Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, Harlem is Dead, Little, Brown, 2011

The minor city. Sometimes it seems as if NYC is only ever optimized for rich white men. What about any or every-body else?

The negated city. Hollywood movies love to destroy New York. In what scenarios could its destruction, in part or whole, be beneficial?

The queer city. Is there another city for another life that would be a queer life? One not premised on heterosexual monogamy? And the built form it imposes?

The sanctuary city. Maybe you don’t feel at home. Maybe the best city is the one that avoids detection, that knows how to hide, If you had to hide this city, how would you do it?

The sensory city. We only see but we hear, feel and smell the city. What might a city for other senses be

The thief’s city. A remarkable amount of time and effort goes into keeping people’s stuff secure. What does the city look like from the point of view of its liberation?

  • Geoff Manaugh, A Burglar’s Guide to the City, FSG, 2016
  • Terry Williams, Con-Men: Hustling in New York, Columbia 2015

The waste city. Where does all the trash go? Could the city be something other than a huge emitter of waste?

 C. Speculative Design Not all speculative design is about the city, and not all unitary urbanism is speculative design. Our interest here is where these two kinds of practice intersect. In this part of the course, students take what they have learned and documented from their psychogeographic practices, chosing an ambience they have discovered (either through one of the exercises listed above or one of their own design) and produce a speculative design proposal, for another city for another life.

This can take the form of writing, visual design, modeling, performance — or propose another form altogether.

D. Reading list. In addition to resources mentioned above, here are some more materials relevant to each of the sections:

Readings A. Psychogeography (General)

  • Michele Bernstein, The Night, Book Works, 2013
  • Matthew Coolidge et al, Overlook: Exploring the Internal Fringes of America with the Center for Land Use Interpretation, Metropolis Books, 2006
  • Merlin Coverley, Psychogeography, Oldcastle, 2010
  • Laura Elkin, Flaneuse: Women Walk the City, FSG 2017
  • Owen Hatherley, A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain, Verso, 2011
  • Justin McQuirk, Radical Cities: Across Latin America in Search of a New Architecture, Verso 2015
  • Geoff Manaugh, A Burglar’s Guide to the City, FSG, 2016
  • Katherine McKittrick, Demonic Grounds: Black Women & Cartographies of Struggle, U Minnesota, 2006.
  • Laura Oldfield Ford, Savage Messiah, Verso, 2011
  • Mary Pattillo, Black on the Block, U Chicago Press, 2008
  • Simon Pope, London Walking: A Handbook for Survival, Batsford, 2000
  • Tina Richardson (ed) Walking Inside Out, Rowen & Littlefield, 2015
  • Sukhdev Sandhu, Night Haunts: A Journey Through the London Night, Verso, 2010
  • Phil Smith, Mythogeography: A Guide to Walking Sideways, Triarchy, 2014
  • Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking,  Verso, 2002
  • Witold van Ratingen
  • McKenzie Wark, Virtual Geography, Indiana UP, 1995

Readings: A. Psychogeography (New York)

  • Marshall Berman, All that is Solid Melts into Air, Penguin, 1998
  • Marshall Berman, On the Town, Verso, 2009
  • Ingrid Burrington, Networks of New York, Melville House, 2016
  • Teju Cole, Open City: A Novel, Random House, 2012
  • Arienl Dávila, Barrio Dreams, U California Press, 2004
  • Mike Davis, Dead Cities, New Press, 2002
  • Samuel Delany, Times Square Red, Times Square Blue, NYU Press, 2001
  • Jim Fricke, Yes Yes Y’all: The Oral History of Hip Hop’s First Decade, Da Capo, 2002
  • William Helmreich, The New York Nobody Knows: Walking 6,000 Miles in the City, Princeton University Press, 2013
  • David Kishik, The Manhattan Project: A Theory of a City, Stanford, 2015
  • Rem Koolhaas, Delirious New York, Monacelli, 1997
  • Federico Garcia Lorca, Poet in New York, Grove, 2007
  • Claude McKay, Harlem: Negro Metropolis, Dutton, 1940
  • Stephen Miller, Walking New York: Reflections of American Writers, Fordham 2016
  • Luc Sante, Low Lifes: Lures and Snares of Old New York, FSG, 2003
  • Phillip Lopate, Waterfront: A Walk Around Manhattan, Anchor, 2005
  • Allan Sekula, Fish Story, Richter Verlag, 2003
  • Sarah Shulman, Gentrification of the Mind, U California, 2013
  • Kristin Ross, May 68 and its Afterlives, Chiacago, 2002
  • Rebecca Solnit, Non-Stop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas, University of California Press, 2016
  • Michael Sorkin, Twenty Minutes in Manhattan, Reaktion, 2009
  • Alexander Trocchi, Cain’s Book, Grove, 1993
  • McKenzie Wark, Telesthesia, Polity, 2012
  • Colson Whitehead, The Colossus of New York, Anchor, 2004.

Readings B. Unitary Urbanism

  • Pier Vittorio Aureli, The Project of Autonomy, Princeton Architectural, 2008
  • Craig Buckley (ed) Utopie: Texts & Projects, Semiotext(e), 2011
  • Larry Busbea, Topologies: Urban Utopia in France, MIT Press, 2012
  • Greg Goldin et al, Never Built New York, Metropolis Books, 2016
  • Peter Lang & William Menking, Superstudio: A Life Without Objects, Skira 2003
  • Jose Munoz, Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity, NYU Press, 2009
  • Kim Stanley Robinson, 2312, Orbit 2013
  • Simon Sadler, The Situationist City, MIT Press, 1998
  • Simon Sadler, Archigram, MIT Press, 2005
  • McKenzie Wark, The Beach Beneath the Street, Verso, 2015
  • Wigley, Mark, The Hyper-architecture of Desire, 001, 1998

Readings C: Speculative Design

Readings: Z: misc websites






2 thoughts on “Psychogeography and Speculative Design v2.1

Leave a Reply