Desire Lines


In parks and playing fields, gardens and wasteground, well-worn dusty paths are to be found stretching away in threadbare lines towards their triangulated destinations.

Gaston Bachelard called these 'les chemins du desir':
pathways of desire
.
-Paths that were not designed but instead were eroded organically away by individuals deciding where they wanted to go, rather than allowing the state-sponsored street architecture to dictate to them where they should go.


Its interesting to speculate on the way that many of the thoroughfares of London must have begun their lives in Roman times as 'desire lines', subconciously picked as the 'correct route' between destinations;
over time they would have widened to become roads
. The psychogeography of the city becomes more immediate when you imagine it like that.

The shortcut across the churchyard from my house to the off-licence has become so much more alluring now I know that it is no longer a shortcut, but a pathway of desire...

3 comments:

Gaw said...

I love that photo. Your post reminds me of the 'hollow ways', tracks that have been so worn by generations of feet and hooves that they end up tunnel-like, with roofs consisting of branches and vines. To think that horrible Holloway Road was once one of these!

Brit said...

There's something noble and consoling about those lines. Such pathways lead evenutally to the destruction of the Berlin wall. The small triumphs of humanity.

Nige said...

Oh yes, Desire Lines - I love these. According to Graham Robb's The Discovery of France, they're the reason news travelled so unfeasibly fast before the telegraph and the railways, or even proper roads. Great book.