There are few better ways to explore a city than on foot, and Manchester is no different. The previous post has a collection of photos taken by myself and friend, photographer and graphic designer Mike Hodson along a 5 mile exploration across North and East Manchester. The map shows the route we took and where the photos were taken. Although it might seem like a carefully calculated journey, taking in iconic institutions like Strangeways and historic areas such as Angel Meadows, we actually had no discernible plan. Navigational decisions were taken using the delightfully simple Dérive App as well as our own knowledge of the area. Three particular commands really shaped our exploration, so let me talk about them now in three consecutive posts.
1. “Walk for a block or so and contemplate the weather. Document it.”
At this point we’d made our way along the busiest shopping street in the city, Market Street, and reached the top of Deansgate. The instruction we’d received was to walk for a block, contemplate the weather, and document it by any possible means. Our discussion actually began with critiquing the use of the term ‘block’ – one we thought was a distinctly un-Debordian way of conceiving the city.
‘Blocks’ were the very unit Guy Debord and other Situationists sought to challenge. They saw the urban grid system as a disempowering form designed to order and regulate the new postmodern city. The enchanting Continental cities of Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam were losing their very souls to the city block, campus architecture and holistic design. Old, bustling, meandering and working streets wiped off the map for wider, streamlined and deserted expanses. The old Halle aux Vins in Paris replaced by University of Paris Faculty of Sciences in 1971. The bombastic Centre Georges Pompidou seemingly dropped from space into the Beaubourg in the same year. Thus, a particularly ironic term to use on a psychogeographical walk – one adhering to the same ‘Cartesian excess’ that Sadler (1999: 62) mentions in reference to the Paris of the 1960s and 70s.
Nevertheless, we translated block into our own terminology and stopped at the foot of Blackfriars Street. The sky was patchy. The weather was mild. A grey and blue backdrop. The two photos below were taken from a rather awkward and inaccessible space between a monstrous multi-story car park and the River Irwell. The only way to get down from the street is via the building’s staircase (left). For those with a sense of adventure, try descending the overgrown brick wall wedged up against Blackfriars Bridge (right).