inadvertence as a first principle of urbanism

An entry in the new series, depicting the common sense dimensions of urban places


In the urbanist dialogue, we don’t often speak about the value of inadvertence in urban settings, but spontaneous interludes often inspire us in a “look at that” sort of way. While visiting urban gathering places, I usually have my eyes open for such sudden, unique (and often private) moments in public spaces.

As noted in the introduction to this series, these “teaching moments” show how we relate to one another in cities, and invite those around us to take part in our experience, even if only by observation.

In Grasse, France— often termed the perfume center of the world—I recently saw this sort of interlude, likely a shared moment during a special, mother/daughter excursion to the famed Grasse parfumeries.

Here, with the benefit of late afternoon sunlight, long shadows, and shaded background, my Fuji XT caught shared, colorful attire, highlighted against daily urban life, resulting in an uncontrived spirit and sense of place that I found particularly remarkable.

My fortunate positioning in a small pedestrian street branching off from a central square allowed me to record, first principles of mother/daughter excursions in a way that can inform best practices.

How so? 

I heartily conclude the following for purposes of urban design and regulation, from a common sense perspective, consistent with this series: Allow people small stages in urban settings, through spaces that shine a light on colorful moments like these.

Image composed by the author in Grasse, France, in June, 2014. Click on the image for more detail. © 2009-2014 myurbanist.  All Rights Reserved. Do not copy.

For more information on the role of personal experience in understanding the changing city, see Urbanism Without Effort, an e-book from Island Press.

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