Urban design magazine

Public spaces

A dialogue between the city and its users

Photograph Nicolas Moulin
Photograph by Nicolas Moulin

According to the French philosopher Roland Barthes, ‘The city is discourse and this discourse is a real language’.

‘Given the constant demographic growth of the city and the important role it plays at an economic, ecological and social level, it is vital to hear and understand this discourse and master this language in order to create a harmonious and sensitive vision of our environment. This must not be the product of a single policy, but rather a spatial translation of a response to the emotional needs inherent in the way we experience urban spaces. Spaces only exist through our senses and through what fills them. They are the product of our experiences, movements and actions,’ explains the philosopher.

Photograph Erik Johansson

Photograph by Erik Johansson

In developing spaces, creating places, recalling history and its symbols and applying a decisionalist approach,  designers deal with how to live in the city. They condition movements, gestures, exchanges, regards and sounds, producing situations, determining atmosphere and identity. The similar though more radical approach of corpography challenges urban spectacularisation, which merely reproduces pre-established and artificial scenes.

The challenge today is to define an urban setting that favours the coexistence of the imagination and rationalism, a way of reconciling a subjective approach with collective experience.

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