Human Paths


Much of the content of this website is focused on demonstrating the ways in which the built environment enforces or reinforces a collective belief (a fictional belief) that humans are somehow outside of the natural system. But despite all of our talking, yammering on and on, as Lars Lerup would say “shouting too much”, we couldn’t demonstrate this cross-species point any better than this series of aerial photographs of derelict Detroit Michigan city blocks. Again and again we see the grid of urban life cut-through by nothing else than wandering human-trod paths. We kinda look like cows from this perspective — no? Bravo.

In the heart of summer, too, it becomes clear that the grid laid down by the ancient planners is now irrelevant. In vacant lots between neighborhoods and the attractions of thoroughfares, bus stops and liquor stores, well-worn paths stretch across hundreds of vacant lots. Gaston Bachelard called these les chemins du désir: pathways of desire. Paths that weren’t designed but eroded casually away by individuals finding the shortest distance between where they are coming from and where they intend to go.

It is an urban legend on many college campuses that many sidewalks and pathways were not planned at all, but paved by the university after students created their own paths from building to building, straying from those originally prescribed. The Motor City, like a college campus, has a large population that cannot afford cars, relying instead on bikes and feet to meet its needs. With enormous swaths of the city returning to prairie, where sidewalks are irrelevant and sometimes even dangerous, desire lines have become an integral yet entirely unintended part of the city’s infrastructure. There are hundreds of these prescriptive easements across neglected lots throughout the city. Click on the photo at the top of this post to see just a few of them in greater detail.

For more information on the project please visit sweet-juniper dot com.

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