Desire Lines, Detroit and Walking from one thing to another

Hilary Ramsden

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    Desire lines, what a beautiful concept. Saying the words conjures up a multitude of images and feelings -bodies, flow, fluidity, lust, geometries, tracing...almost infinite possibilities of imaginings. For me desire lines also signify deviations and interruptions -from the constrictions of the urban planning grid, and from psychological pressures of time and conformity: making paths where we want to go, literally and metaphorically, making our own way, in our own time. However, for others and, as this article will demonstrate, specifically in Detroit, these paths are born out of necessity and a lack of municipal infrastructure for large swathes of the population.This article discusses the phenomenon of desire lines in Detroit as networks of survival and opportunities across the city; how these improvised signs of everyday life reflect the personal and political histories of neighbourhoods, places and times and how these paths shift, change and are changed over time, reflecting the shifts in economics, demographics and politics. It also discusses how these paths led our company, Walk & Squawk, to the development of a three-year community cultural exchange -the Walking Project, between people in Southeastern Michigan and KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa and to a shift and transformation of our performance practice
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalLivingmaps Review
    Issue number8
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020


    • walking
    • Detroit
    • urban planning
    • neighbourhoods


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