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Cutting Steps

Part 2 Dissertation 2006
William Bond
Edinburgh College of Art | UK
Cutting Steps

The city is complex and its multitude of layers can be overwhelming. It is easy to succumb to the myth that the metropolis has some overarching structure; to reassure oneself that all the tears and scruffy overlaps in the urban fabric are in some way temporary. One can subconsciously turn a blind eye, seduced by the idea that one day, it will be all finished and the city will complete itself into the promised unflattering image.

But that is not so. This is to miss the city. The Situationists understood this, and a great deal of their earlier work sought to explore the edges and subversive territories, intrinsic to a true urbanism.

This dissertation is structured around the author's first-hand experience of drifting along the South Bank of the Thames. Moving freely, divorced from preconceptions, I rediscovered places as an alien within my own city.

The journey provides an insight into the mechanisms at play in the varying territories. One becomes aware of the conflicts and contradictions that define so much of the character of the South Bank, or indeed the metropolis at large. The narrative and findings of this journey are then employed to test the validity of the Situationist methodology and thinking.

The dissertation raises serious doubts as to whether the ambiguities of Situationism would ever enable it to define a new urban territory. However, the values and aspirations of the Situationists do lend themselves to how we address the existing urban fabric, namely what we preserve. Situationism could provide a new approach to conservation, setting out a new set of values by which to judge the existing urban environment. This would mark a move away from the focus on spectacular monuments in favour of vibrant urban fragments.

William Bond

This dissertation examines ideas of the Situationists through a journey along a stretch of the Thames, interwoven with three other narratives - the author's feelings in response to the places, supported by his evocative sketches; the recorded history of the places along the route, and a visual photographic record. The whole is structured to reflect the route along the Thames.

This imaginitive piece of work constructs an original tool for examining established places, all presented in a visually beautiful package. It will be developed through further postgraduate research into a methodology for intervening in and examining other places.

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