WALK | Ways of walking, ways of learning

Posted on 26/06/2017

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In my initial post about my experience of the STEPS Summer School, I reflected on locational and embodied experiences. Questions of place and age seemed to weigh heavily as I regained my footing at home, returning to the pace of life and getting in step. This body in this place.

One of the attractions of the Summer School to me was the exploration of and learning about new methods, including the walkshop and its relationship to reflection and reflective practice. The walkshop is used in design disciplines like architecture and urban design to examine the built environment and linked to practice or urban analysis in which the body in space is a critical aspect. Drawing on the lessons of Cullen, Pallasmaa and Lynch, and in keeping with phenomenological thinking, the experience and analysis of built environments is tied to a grounded, sensate, perceptual and embodied set of relations. There is also a long tradition of walking artistic practices – both participatory and solitary – and other ideas of walking as ethnographic and geographical method.

Walking grounds my days in Brighton, every day I am awake at 5am or earlier, struggling with jet lag, to walk along the waterfront for an hour or so. In the long evenings, I walk until exhausted so that I might sleep more soundly.

At the STEPS Summer School, our group of 40 plus participants, embarked on two walkshops to discuss, reflect on and progress our learnings.

Often we walk along well worn paths, to follow in the steps of others and to share in their knowledge with some certainty, possibly illusory. Pathways, as I learn in the Summer School, are not always self evident and are contestable, there are always alternative pathways.

With the notion of ‘pathway’ conveying the way in which a given system changes
over time, depending on the issue in question, several different scales may be
important, sometimes simultaneously and in overlapping ways … Over time,
understanding pathways requires a look at historical precedents, at current
trajectories of change, and at future scenarios, whether over shorter or longer
terms.

And as we walk, we become aware of scales – of the relations between town and territory, of the looming reconfigurations resulting from Brexit – and long views across the altered, exploited and cultivated rural landscape of the Sussex countryside. As we walk and scan, pathways that have been taken up and set aside (for now) become the subject of discussions.

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