*flâneur, means "stroller", "lounger", "saunterer", or "loafer".
*Baudelaire saw the flâneur as having a key role in understanding, participating in and portraying the city.
*The goal of flâneurs is to recover a sense of community.
*Toronto’s urban design and its big mix of periods and styles in architecture has a lot to explore
*By practicing “Flanerie” in Toronto, You will be seeding your exploratory brain and get a connection to the place in a playful way.
“A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities. Just as language limits what can be said, architecture limits where one can walk, but the walker invents other ways to go.” – Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust
Before cars and bicycles were mass-produced, walking was the main form of transportation. Walking was the only way to get from place to place for much of human history. Living in car-oriented cities and often in hardly-walkable neighborhoods, we are now walking less comparing to our ancestors. Consequently, we are missing more and more of our City’s explorable attractions.
I would like to introducethe concept of “Flaneur” and provide some guidelines for how you can practice it in Toronto. It’s all about breaking out of your normal habits and explore your own town in a new way.
In French, the term flâneur refers to a person who is an urban spectator: someone who wanders the streets, observing everything while simultaneously experiencing it. As a Flaneur you don’t check a map, or have a destination; you slowly comb the city to understand it, to examine its beauty and complexity.
The original flâneur concept, dates back to 17th century France, but was reinvented by French poet Charles Baudelaire in his 1863 essay The Painter of Modern Life. He writes:
“For the perfect flâneur, for the passionate observer, it’s an immense pleasure to take up residence in multiplicity, in whatever is seething, moving, evanescent and infinite: you’re not at home, but you feel at home everywhere; you see everyone, you’re at the center of everything yet you remain hidden from everybody — these are just a few of the minor pleasures of those independent, passionate, impartial minds whom language can only awkwardly define. …The amateur of life enters into the crowd as into an immense reservoir of electricity.”
Toronto, like all large metropolises, is both accretive and secretive, meaning that it’scomprised of historical layers and hidden details that are only really visible if we slow down enough to see them.
Below are 3 possible algorithms or guides to follow and break out of your normal habits and explore Toronto in a new way. Ideally this is something you’ll continue to do, but for now just dare yourself to do something exciting over the course of the next week and wander an unfamiliar neighborhood at random or a familiar one in a different way. The three options below are inspired by “Flaneur Society”and adopted to Toronto.
TIP: If at any point in your journey these guidelines are not fruitful, skip a step or head in the direction of something that interests you.
Option 2: You Know (Sort of)*
TIP: In an pinch, take an alleyway. In mixed use streets, focus on second floors. That’s where the stories would lay.
Option 3: Market Street
TIP: Lose track of time. Leave your watch at home and/or turn off your phone.
You can share photos of your experience and tell others where you ended up exploring in Toronto using hashtag #Flaneur_ProjectYU on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.
Dorsa Jalalian is currently studying master of urban design at University of Toronto and holds a degree in Architecture. Interests include studying the role of design in urban issues, Social housing, public spaces, urban games and philosophy.