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The Phenomenology of Urban Space

In the course of the 19th century, there was a change in the way cities produced themselves their territory, their trajectories, the way they divided themselves from the non-urban, as well as in their personnel, their decision-making and the complex techniques (from legal to aesthetic and material techniques) that needed to be put in place in order to make the production of the city possible. This shift, which can be seen at all levels of policy and read in all the statistics, had far-reaching consequences for the way people experienced urban life. We can see how the experience of this change was interpreted in literature, painting and urban iconography. These interpretations can be read anew in our search for the eidos of modern urban life. The iconography gives us some of the keys, but certainly not all of them. This changing essence of the cities helped determine how those cities produced themselves. The flaneur and the boulevard promenades were also political entities, because they were aesthetic entities. Policy may have generated the everyday poetry of the city, but that everyday poetry also generated policy.

The 19th century recalibrated its immobile patrimony to the view the eye of the tourist, an outlook that was of course not thought up by the tourist, but by local culture. What was the city that we would like to see when we come here to visit? What was the history that we would like to write if we could rewrite our history? From a given point in time, historicizing and tourism became perfect extensions of one another.

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