A flâneur moves through the city with no purpose or destination in mind. He/she in a mere observer with the main objective to soak in the character of a city, neighbourhood or place. It does not necessarily mean that the flâneur makes no judgement or has no critique to give.
I have been “aimlessly wandering” through (parts of) Korea for three years now, and sharing images of what I’ve seen, rarely giving critique or handing down judgement. I feel however that this needs to change. By sharing images and giving locations of buildings, I do encourage the reader/visitor to make their own judgement, which is something this blog will continue to do. I feel however that by saying nothing, and by merely passing through a city, neighbourhood or place, without calling out instances of mediocre or bad design, you conform to the notion that every building published is good or that every building designed by good architects are great. They aren’t always great. In fact, sometimes they fail. It’s the responsibility of the user and occupant of a building to say something.
This epiphany coincides in part with the frustration I’m experiencing with the lack of critical discourse on popular design sites. This, unfortunately, is perpetuated on private blogs and smaller sites. Maybe I’m not looking hard enough, but it would appear that the average user on the internet is so very desperate to be discovered, that they refrain from giving any meaningful critique in order not to upset anyone who might want to “feature” them in the future. This is good for marketing, which I feel way too many people are trying to do. Self-promotion. It’s not just architecture and architecture websites though, it’s everywhere. Movies for example. The average movie reviewer is at this stage so scared of fan-mob backlash that, many mediocre movies are praised to avoid fan justice. I’m getting sidetracked. I aimlessly browse the internet for hours as well.
The crux of being a flâneur is to be a shadow or a fly on the wall. To observe and to learn. After soaking up enough of a city, neighbourhood, or place, it is fair to then engage in critical discourse (and not just for the sake of being critical), but to not conform to the current standard of praising everything that gets published on popular architectural websites.
Case in point, the proposed conceptual (may it remain that way forever) Mile-High Park by Carlo Ratti. It’s been shared on most of the leading design websites, because it’s news. Fine. Yet there’s no critical follow-up. What does this tower say about the profession? Wait, what does this tower say about society or the city that builds it? Sure it’s privately funded, but to build the highest park in the sky. Is this an inclusive park? Is it a public park? Is it a safe place? How many people will die while building this? Does it need to be twice as high as the Burj Khalifa? Or is it just another structure in the public domain to appease the egos of a few architects, engineers and whatever city administration board? The glass club in Batman: Death by Design comes to mind.
The images of the tower are gorgeous, but compare them to real life observation decks and one soon realises that suicide barriers are a reality – yet none are included in this awe-inspiring render. It’s not in the reflection on the super shiny surface either.
Now this is not a built project, and it’s not in Korea, but I hope to similarly engage with built projects that I find in Korea, in the future.