Research Study
The City and the "Flaneur"

Fall 2019 
Professor: Hilary Bryon
Individual Work 


Piazza d’Italia, 1960

Urban Square with Long Shadows and Emptiness 

As the founder of the Scuola Metafisica art movement, the Italian artist Giorgio de Chirico expressed melancholic and nostalgic sensations through perspectival depictions of aggregated, highly geometricized, urban objects as unusual theatrical, architectural scenes. One sees linear arcades, conic towers, centralized plazas, and public statuary projected into space through long, dark shadows. By carefully arranging the pared down elements in one-point perspectival views, the cityscape is made profound and mysterious as both time and space seem to be suspended. 

roma _ piazza del campidoglio.jpg

The Plan of Piazza del Campidoglio

A Baroque Floor Situated by Geometrical Theatricality

Piazza del Campidoglio, considered a masterpiece of Baroque architecture, sits on the highest hill of Rome. The Piazza’s floor reveals a theatric spatial composition through its plan. Michaelangelo inserted a centric, radial pattern within an irregular trapezoidal square framed by building facades on three sides and an access stair-ramp ascending the hill on the fourth. The oval pavement and geometrical arrangement subtly adjust to align with the regulated order of the building facades. Moreover, the geometry emphasizes the central equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius. The classical order and careful alignments of each part meaningful features of this urban plaza. 



‘‘ A Person Who Walks the City in order to Experience it.” 

The figure of the “Flaneur” and the idea behind it became well-known through Walter Benjamin and his studies of Paris.  The “Flaneur” represents a male city stroller who wanders with no pragmatic purpose, but to observe and participate in the anonymity of the city and its society, The figure indicates an evolved and modern urban experience, as well as class and gender discrimination.
Similarly, aimless movement accompanies the fleeting beauty of Paris in Charles Baudelaire’s writings “For the perfect flâneur, for the passionate spectator, it is an immense joy to set up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite.” (Baudelaire,1863)


The Plan of St. Gall 

An Ideal Plan for Medieval Monastery

The St. Gall plan is a vision for a medieval monastery per the Benedictine Order. The plan indicates an isolated compound for monks, lay visitors, and support workers and includes churches, kitchens, stables, workshops, houses, an infirmary, and a cemetery. It is a self-supportive community of individuals with secluded ways of living. Though the plan was never realized, the liturgical and social organization documented in the drawing influenced others by materializing Carolingian values and order. 


Paris Street, Rainy Day,1877

Modernity, Setting, Dialectic seeing and being seen

The impressionist painting of Paris Street, Rainy Day by Gustave Caillebotte reveals the dual relationship of observer and participant encountered while one engages with the city. The painting illustrates several city dwellers walking along one of Haussmann’s boulevards-- together, yet isolated by their umbrellas and their gazes. The elements of the painting are captured through a technique similar to photographic depth of field. The streets’ objects and surfaces are sharply focused in the foreground, while the contemporary urban environment recedes in the background.


Collage City

Bricoloage and the City

Collage City critiques the conception of ‘ total design’ in modernist city planning and proposes an approach toward urban design through the idea of “collage,” “bricoleur” and metamorphosis of a fragmented city.  Rowe and Koetter suggest that buildings should both be individual present as well as a continuity of the urban fabric. They further propose the concept of “ bricoleur/ fox,”  which seeks a middle-ground between the rationality of an ideal city and the improvisation of bricolage. The collage city offers a Utopian vision as well modalities to integrate layers of smaller designs to achieve a unity with infinite meanings and possibilities. 


The Image of the City

 Paths, Edges, Districts, Nodes, Landmarks

American urbanist, Kevin Lynch proposes the idea of mental maps to illustrate the cityscape, which he contends are formed by people who experience the city. Lynch generalizes five fundamental elements underpinning this psychological recognition. Paths are “The channels along which the observer moves.”; edges are “The boundaries between two phases”; districts include “ Medium-to-large sections of the city... hav(ing) something in common.”; nodes are “Points, the strategic spots in a city into which an observer can enter.”; and landmarks are a “Point of reference.” (Lynch, 46-48)
This 5-part structure relies on people’s perception of the city and so recognizes the importance of human interaction in urban design.


Learning from Las Vegas

“The Methods of Commercial Persuasion and the Skyline of Signs”

In the first chapter, Las Vegas is positioned as a legitimate urban condition to question and criticize the ideas of modern architecture. This indicates a study method for comprehending today’s commercial context. The photograph presents a street-scape of facades made up of signs and streetlamps on the old Vegas strip and so delivers a persuasive message to drivers through functional and symbolic elements. Led by Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi, the study embraces a commercial order prescribed in signs, patterns, images, advertisements, etc and what contributes to a unique post-modern American architecture.


The Art of Building Cities

The Irregularity of Medieval Public Squares

The art of building cities appreciates artistic values in designing cities and takes an antagonist position to contemporary approaches to urban planning. Through numerous illustrations, including sketches and diagrams, Sitte supports the perspectival experience built through the diversity and irregularity of traditional urban spaces rather than efficient, geometrical planning. To create an urban environment full of joy, Sitte promotes urban design in thinking of human scale and aesthetic experiences.  


Architecture Oriented Otherwise

Chapter XI: The Law of Meandering

In Chapter XI of the law of meandering, Leatherbarrow aims to analyze the meandering movement, which investigates the juxtaposition between picturesque experiences and spatial structures.  This The act of promenade, what described as a struggled balance between straight verses curved, light versus dark, and lawful versus lawless, is presented in territorial designs of landscape, buildings, cities, etc. Architecture and the city composed with regard to the law lure people for discoveries and inspirations. 


Montage and Architecture

Architecture Composition for Montage Sequences 

The cinematic term, montage, advances questions about the juxtaposition between successive views relative to the whole and is necessary to the creation of orchestrating the meandering experience offered by architecture. The Acropolis of Athens, emphasized by Auguste Choisy, is an ancient promenade with exquisite spatial compositions. The asymmetrical balance and calculated positioning of the buildings result in a sequence of diverse oblique views in which the scenes unfold as one is proceeds on their journey. This temporal intensity between time and movement is demonstrated in the perspectival projections accompany in the plan. Le Corbusier appreciates the constructed views with implied itineraries, which he further recognizes as promenade architecture. 


The Plan of Unity Temple

Sequential Movements and Ambulatory Paths

Frank Llyod Wright develops perspectival  experience through the winding path as is evident in the design of Unity Temple as well as other buildings.  As noted in Wright’s Autobiography: “ Back there was the long, straight, mindful, heedless line... and there was the wavering, searching, heedful line embroidering the straight one like some free, engaging vince as it ran back and forth across it.”  
With two contradictory lines in mind, Wright designs the entrance of the temple hidden from the street, which delineates a series of turns and delays through the procession of the ambulatory path. Differentiated spatial conditions are indicted through ceiling heights, closures, and openings to further strengthen the richness of a meandering experience.

Bibliographic Citation


[1] Mau, Bruce. An Incomplete Manifesto for Growth. Combination Press, 2001.

[2] Baudelaire, Charles.1863.

[3] Baudelaire, Charles. The Painter of Modern Life. New York: Da Capo Press, 1964. Orig. published in Le Figaro, in 1863.

[4] “The City Images and Its Elements.” The Image of the City, by Kevin Lynch, The M.I.T. Press, 1960, pp. 46–47.

[5] Wright, Frank Lloyd. “Prelude.” Frank Lloyd Wright: an Autobiography, Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1943, pp. 3–4.


Image References

[1]  De Giorgio , Chirico. Mystery and Melancholy of a street. 1914. Oil on canvas. Wikiart. Accessed 19 May, 2020

[2] Michelangelo, David. Piazza del Campidoglio. 1537-1546. Plan. Wikiarquitectura. 19 May, 2020.

[3]  Michelangelo, David. Piazza del Campidoglio. 1537-1546. Plan. Wikiarquitectura. 19 May, 2020.

[4] Gavarni, Paul. Le Flâneur, 1842. Drawings. Wikipedia. Accessed 14 April, 2020.

[5]  Caillebotte, Gustave. Paris Street, Rainy Day, 1877. Oil on canvas. Art Institute of Chicago. Accessed 19 May, 2020.

[6] Caillebotte ,Gustave. Le Pont de l’Europe, 1876.  Oil on canvas. Wikiart. Accessed 29 June, 2020. 

[7]  Lynch, Kevin. Fig. 14. The visual form of Los Angela as seen in the field. 1960.  Image of the city. By Kevin Lynch. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1960. 33.Print. 


[8]  Southworth, Douglas. Map of Las Vagas Strip. 1931-1959. Learning From Las Vegas.  By Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, Steven Izenour. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1972. 5. Print.


[9] Brown, Denise S. Learning From Las Vegas, 1956 - 1966. Archdaily. Accessed 17 April 2020.

[10]  Reichenau, Plan of Saint Gall. Simplified view showing different structures, 820–830,Drawing.Wikipedia. Accessed 17 April, 2020.

[11]   Wiesbaden. Figure-ground plan, 1900. Collage City. By Colin Rowe, Fred Koetter. London: The MIT press, 1983, 82. Print.

[12]  Sitte, Camillo. Twenty-nine plans, at uniform scale, from Camillo Sitte, 1889. Drawing. Accessed 17 April, 2020.

[13]  Sitte, Camillo. Lubeck, 1889. Architecture Oriented Otherwise. By David Leatherbarrow. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2009. 288. Print. 


[14]  Corbusier. Three reminders to architects, 1931. Towards a new architecture, Dover edition. By Le Corbusier. Reprint. Originally published: London : J. Rodker, 1931. 43. Print.
[15]  Wright, Frank L. Unity Temple, Oak Park, Illinois, 1906.Plan. Archdaily, Accessed 19 May, 2020.