Handbook of Cities and the Environment
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Handbook of Cities and the Environment

Edited by Kevin Archer and Kris Bezdecny

With an ever-growing majority of the world's human population living in city spaces, the relationship between cities and nature will be one of the key environmental issues of the 21st Century. This book brings together a diverse set of authors to explore the various aspects of this relationship both theoretically and empirically. Rather than considering cities as wholly separate from nature, a running theme throughout the book is that cities, and city dwellers, should be characterized as intrinsic in the creation of specifically urban-generated ‘socio-natures’.
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Chapter 15: City sensing and urban aesthetics

Jennifer Kitson and Jonathan Bratt


Humans are at the forefront of twenty-first-century urban discourse, from pedestrian-oriented development to anthropogenic-caused climate change, yet few urban practitioners are meaningfully investigating the city through bodily, sensory experience. In this chapter we outline a framework, under the banner of “sensual urbanism,” for twinning aesthetic or sensory-based scholarship with urban theory and praxis. Our sensory approach to urban practices springs from the assertion that the sensing body perceives with other bodies, objects, and environs. This aesthetic stance stems from recognition of the world as material, affective, and dynamic, and from recognition of the human as one type of body among others participating in that world at the level of sensate experience. Importantly, these aesthetic concepts shape ethical and practical imperatives toward sustainable urban communities and environments. Quotidian methodologies serve as guide in exploring the nuanced social and psychological effects of city environs through methods of careful observation and documentation of the infra-ordinary, techniques of art and enchantment to make the ordinary strange, and experiential modes of walking and mapping the city. These aesthetic modes of urban experimentation are increasingly being reoriented through the senses in generative ways. A survey of contemporary urban sensory practices reveals sensible solutions to the making of just, happy, and sustainable cities.

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