Walking and Staying in the Landscape
From Firenze University Press Journal: Ri-Vista
Danilo Palazzo, School of Planning, University of Cincinnati
Valerio Morabito, PennDesign, University of Pennsylvania
Walking and standing, or moving and staying, are two of the first accomplishments we achieve as hu-mans. The two acts are hard to separate, so when we initially proposed discussing the topics of walking and staying in the landscape for two separate Ri-Vis-ta issues, we decided, in accordance with the scientific committee, to combine them into a single issue.We know that the two subjects are different in concept and form: walking is physical, staying is men-tal; walking is exploration, staying is contemplation; walking is dynamic, staying is stillness; walking is re-search, staying is consolidation. We also know it’s possible to rewrite the previous list by overturning the concepts, mixing them, confusing them, and re-arranging them according to different points of view, purposes, and needs.Walking and staying are two actions that transform, and hence require designing the landscape in different but complementary ways. Walking and staying are often addressed as separate concepts, but the choice and opportunity to merge them allows the creation of unexpected scenarios. Being asked to reflect on this dichotomy is a gamble that could have result-ed in paradoxes and contradictions. However, the call contained the thrill of surprise and the unknown. The opportunity to consider the two subjects together took shape in our minds as an understanding of what could happen by conjoining two opposites — what randomness and possibilities could arise.The outcomes of this question presented in this is-sue will allow readers to measure the state of the art of landscape design and its related fields surrounding the two key subjects of walking and staying, and/or their capacity to be interpreted as conjoined and intersected. Walking and staying are crucial themes in the history and contemporaneity of landscape de-sign. They are presented here as a current cultural, professional, and scholarly representation made of chiaroscuro — light and shadow.
Despite the fact that we always remember how to walk, we often forget walking’s intrinsic value as a personal as well as a social act (Solnit, 2000). Walking, as a fundamental, ancient, and widespread activity has been marked as a political act (Gros, 2015), or as a part or means to artistic and narrative performances (Evans, 2012; Waxman, 2017; Pujol, 2018; Bashō, 2019). Artists have developed different ways to view walking, placing at the center of their practices the spaces, territories, and landscapes they transform — literally or conceptually — by walking on them (Pope, 2014). Artists see walking as an art of inquiry (Lascizik et al., 2021), or as a way to “save the environment in all its succulent, sinuous, sensorial glory” (Allen, 2019, p.177). Walking can have a spiritual purpose, be deemed as an aesthetic practice (Irwin, 2006), a voyage of discovery (Kag-ge, 2019), or simply an act of productive distraction (Beaumont, 2020, p.8). Walking on two legs has been an advantage for humans. “Our species’ history has been defined by bipedalism. […] First we learned to walk, then we learned to make fire and to prepare food, and then we developed language” (Kagge, 2019, p. 6). For centuries, walking was the means of human movement — pilgrimages, travels, journeys, discoveries, exoduses, crusades, army marches, invasions all occurred mainly by walking. Marco Polo’s travels through Asia, Dante’s descent to the Inferno, or John Mandeville’s The Book of Marvels and Travels are a few examples of walking and staying that blend observations on reality and fantasy. Novelists have, in fact, embraced walking. Matsuo Bashō, in the summer of 1689, undertook a journey to walk and explore the northern province of Honsu, Japan, staying along the way in temples that offered rooms and food to wayfarers. His travel provided the material for the book Oku no hosomichi: The Narrow Road to the Interior, a combination of haiku and haibun (a form of prose). Through walking, Bashō realized that “each moment is the only moment in which one can be fully aware” (Hamill, 2019). Henry David Thoreau published Walking in 1862 (Thoreau, 1991), a reflection on wandering with no particular destination in mind, and no limits or boundaries: “At present, in this vicinity, the best part of the land is not private property; the landscape is not owned, and the walker enjoys comparative freedom” (ibidem, p. 84, Italic mine). Robert Walser (2012) published the Alta via della Valsassina, Introbio (LC), 2021. Foto: Danilo Palazzo first version of The Walk in 1917 — and again an edit-ed version in 1920 (Bernofsky, 2012). It is a brief but memorable description of his encounters strolling and stopping through town and countryside. His famous walks, also celebrated in Carl Seelig’s Walks with Walser (2017), ended in 1956 during a solitary Christmas-day stroll in Switzerland, close to the Herisau asylum where Walser lived for 37 years with a diagnosis of schizophrenia.
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