Urban Zen

Lausanne Plaza

Living right next to a big city, you can’t help but become aware of the impact that architectural development has on the people who occupy these urban centers on a daily basis. No doubt that a lot of thought has gone in producing the type of urban environment in which some of us live, and no doubt that what has resulted from all that deep thinking is what confronts us every day as we go about our daily routines. So, with this in mind, it seems to me that there are a couple of overarching goals that influence the development of major city centers around the world. From what I can discern, the development of cities tends to promote either need to design these urban centers to increase the flow of people (efficient movement from point-to-point), or the promotion of lingering. That is, some cities are made for people on the go, while others seem to cater primarily to people’s need to hang around and interact. Hurry up or slow down, that’s pretty much it. And yes, the illusive balance between the too remains a goal in many places, even if somewhat haphazardly achieved.

The photo above of downtown Lausanne, Switzerland is a case in point. I took this photo some years ago during one of my many trips to that wonderful city by Lake Geneva, and it kind of illustrates what I’m talking about. The hilly city of Lausanne is literally built for lingering. Just about everywhere you go in the city, you will find small parks, lots of benches, and an atmosphere that calls out at you to stop and take in the surroundings. The place is definitely not designed for the worshipers of the “New York minute” lifestyle. Quite the opposite. In Lausanne the problem is finding the will and disposition to overcome the internal voices screaming at you to get off the fast-moving train of life and to transform minutes into hours. The city’s architectural design, with its public art displays and congenial gathering spots, is like an antidote for the never-have-time crowd. Call it architecture as therapy or whatever, but somewhere between what your eyes see and the opportunities to linger, your mindset is altered in ways that are hard to describe. We may not totally understand this metamorphosis, but it happens, and it is very real. We slow down, we take the surroundings, we imagine, and we feel less stressed. Medicine for the soul, and a welcomed break from the race around us. Architecture and art as medicine for the modern human condition. Who would’ve known.

Idling

Have you ever considered adding some idle time to your lifestyle.  Leica M 240, APO-Summicron-M 75mm f/2 ASPH.
Have you ever considered adding some idle time to your lifestyle. Leica M 240, APO-Summicron-M 75mm f/2 ASPH.
Even happy hour time is shrinking these days as a result of our busy lives.  Leica M 240, APO-Summicron-M 75mm f/2 ASPH.
Even happy hour time is shrinking these days as a result of our busy lives. Leica M 240, APO-Summicron-M 75mm f/2 ASPH.

Do you idle?  That is, do you ever have those moments in your daily life when your time is not filled with activity?  In an attempt to see if folks out there were into this idling thing, I went out with my camera recently to find out.  My goal was to find something akin to the contemplative lifestyle out there, if at all possible.  Now, I do realize that “idling” as an adjective kind of implies an activity in of itself, but the kind of scene I had in mind had more to do with exactly the opposite: the absence of activity.  So armed with the “not spent or filled with activity” dictionary definition, out I went at the end of the day when people were supposed to be done with work for the day.

The result?  I couldn’t find anyone really idling, as per the dictionary’s definition.  The folks in the photographs were the closest I could find, and as you can see, cell phone technology pretty much did away with all that idling witchcraft.  In fact, this technology has redefined this whole idea of “relaxing.”  Ever heard anyone say, “I find this whole idea of relaxing too stressful?”  I have, and the more I think of it, the more I’m beginning to convince myself that there’s something to that statement.  Otherwise, how could I explain that after a whole day of work I was out “relaxing” with my camera.  Are we doomed?  I hope not.  After all, one’s got to have something to look forward to.