Centrum för kognitiv semiotik (CCS)

Humanistiska och teologiska fakulteterna | Lunds universitet


Making Sense of Walking in Urban Context

Kajsa Lawaczeck Körner (PhD candidate, Dept. of Architecture and Built Environment, Lund)

Gunnar Sandin (Centre for Cognitive Semiotics, Lund)


Walking in the city is to a significant extent a social activity, where you take visual, auditive and corporeal notice of those you encounter on your way. In this sense, walking could be said to constitute one of the main characteristics of urban life. Abruptly decisive for the possibility of walking in urban context are the facts of physical matter. The materiality of the built environment, as it appears in for instance buildings, streets, squares, sidewalks, passages, walls, fences, and other architectural objects, has agency in the sense establishing a varying degree of allowing or hindering walking, thus also influencing our inclinement to walk in the city.

In an investigation about architctural space and urban design strategies for the support of walking, or the lack of such support, a description and understanding of human-environment interaction could be sketched. Apart from a possible refinement of what could or should be taken into account when planning cities, this approach, of studying perception-in-action, or affordance in (and the phenomenology of) walking, evokes also questions in relation to existing affordance-theories, such as their capacity to include ”positive” as well as ”negative” affordances (such as allowing or hindering a specific transport intention), or ”natural” and ”cultural” affordances (such as sitting vs comprehending the possibility of taking a bus). In this presentation, which emanates from an ongoing PhD project in Architecture, we will show an experimental methodological approach to urban walking, where an ”objective” first person observation, and a standard deviation approach to questionnaires, are combinated with a subjective, autoethnographical, study.