The act of walking

"Walking is a universal human activity. It is a state in which the mind, the body, and the world are aligned, as though they are three characters finally in conversation with each other" (Solnit 2002: 5).

Many great people, such as the Greek peripatetic philosophers, pilgrims and practitioners of Buddhist walking meditation, poets, artist and composers have walked as a way of thinking and creating. They have also used the walk to explore history, and discover or transform rural landscape and the urban space. Walking is thus endlessly fertile: it is both means and end, travel and destination (Solnit 2002, Wunderlich 2008).

Urban theorists note that public space is used and inhabited largely by walking it. Through walking, the citizen knows his or her city and fellow citizens, and truly inhabits the city rather than a small privatised part thereof (e.g. workplace, home, bus station). Nowadays, many people live in interiors – homes, cars, gyms, offices, shops – disconnected from each other. On foot, everything stays connected; whilst walking, one occupies spaces between those interiors, living in the whole world rather than in interiors built against it.

But, what happens when this most natural human act and way of discovering and inhabiting the urban space is juxtaposed with rules that tell us where to go, what to see, and when to stop? What happens when the walker’s natural course of action is disturbed, distracted and discontinued? What happens when the walker becomes dependant on rules for the walk?