I have always found something inherently magical about walking through a city in the summer at night. The specific smell of the hot pavement is one that I will always associate with summer in the city and self-discovery. Navigating through streets in the nighttime is a completely different experience in comparison with the generally hurried qualities of the daytime. Often times, I have deliberately taken a much longer route home or ignored a streetcar, bus or subway in order to extend my nighttime stroll. Walking along the sidewalks feeling the gradual and delicate drop in temperature, I feel connected across time to the early flâneurs and their psychological experiences that ultimately shaped urban theory and thoughts about modernity.
I remember walking home from a friend’s house almost a year ago one evening and realizing that this simple act is one of the things that really made me happy. Navigating through streets, roads, parks, paths and little nooks on my own terms; stopping to investigate a building more in-depth; people-watching. These are all things that I consider to be essential parts of the urban experience and ways of participating in the city, as well as understanding it. Oddly enough, I’ve found that the simple contentedness derived from walking is sometimes difficult to explain to others. What I see as the art of urban exploration, others seem to view as a safety concern. This disconnect has been hard to break down; it seems that the less amount of time one spends in an urban area, the less they usually feel safe and can relate to the enjoyment of walking in the city at night.
Navigating through streets, roads, parks, paths and little nooks on my own terms; stopping to investigate a building more in-depth; people-watching. These are all things that I consider to be essential parts of the urban experience…
Being able to freely walk (almost anywhere) I desire at night in a large city is not always a possibility for everyone, and I feel very lucky to live somewhere where I am able to do this for the most part. Additionally, being female it is not always such a simple thing to walk in certain areas, with obvious added risks pertaining to personal safety.
Psychogeography has seen a recent resurgence in the last few years, inspiring exhibits, new ways of mapping and mobile apps. This seems to be directly linked to changing attitudes regarding urbanization and the now widespread mantra of sustainability across various fields, which connects to the back to the city movement and the desire to live near denser areas.
If you can, go and walk at night in your city. Do it now, during summer. Observe the day/night contrast, discover new details about your neighbourhood, find things you like and don’t like. Use all of this as a set of tools for becoming more aware of, not only your city, but yourself, and as a catalyst to induce change for the aspects of your city that you would like to see improve. At the end of the day, this place you live in is your home. Embrace it, engage with it and change it for the better.