In this part of the world the human habitats are built for cars. I don’t have convincing theories behind my thoughts, but I think this is among the reasons we sometimes feel so disconnected from our surroundings. Although cars demand certain kind of linear thinking and straightforward infrastructure to run, the world built only from the perspective of cars does not necessarily serve people in other ways.
I have always had a thing for paths and shortcuts. For me they explain a lot about how humans interact with their surroundings. Plus, paths are fun.
In most urban surroundings there are shortcuts and paths that do not make much sense from the point of view of a rational thinker. Taking the muddy, three meter long shortcut saves maybe one or two seconds in the total travel time and has the high potential of making your shoes dirty and wet. When biking, favoring the shortcuts quite often brings down the speed making the travel time even longer. But from the beaten path one can see that a lot of individuals make the decision to take that muddy shortcut, day after day. Why?
Of course the appearance of unplanned paths can be partly explained by the fact that human beings are lazy and at least try to make things as easy as possible. But when looking at some of the adventurous, funny and beautiful urban shortcuts that are somewhat useless time-wise, it seems like there is more to it. Quite often these paths seem more like playful interventions than serious attempts to save time.
The need to interact with our habitats, the want to build a relationship with them, seems to be in our nature. Sometimes places that are too polished, ready-made and stationary appear boring or inexplicably unpleasant for the user. It is hard to try and create a warm relationship with asphalt and concrete. Sometimes people try that with some spray paint – or with making paths that bring something new to the table. I am endlessly thankful for those little paths that have taken me to beautiful and surprising places that could not have been reached by sticking on the main road.
In many different courses this year we have looked into what motivates individuals and communities for change. There is something intriguing about the network of roads, paths and shortcuts that can maybe offer inspiration when designing for change. It seems like we need the asphalt and the cars and the steady infrastructure, but sticking only in planning for cars we cut out a lot of possibilities for change. When approaching wicked problems such as climate change, we might at times be forced to think in masses. But it is important to remember that the mass is made of those little human factors, those that make us want to create our own paths despite of the fact that it is easier to walk on asphalt.