Promenade Nº6

Beijing – 北京
10 December 2013
From 09h52 to 16h50 (6h58min)
15 km
跟随护城河第二集 (Following the moat, second episode)

Departure 9h53.

Really nice day, blue sky, very low air pollution.

On the way out of my neighborhood, I knew a spot with a particularly high density of “chuan’r” thrown on the floor.

I collected a big bunch of them.

On my way to the moat, I found a suitable spot to install them.

I stuck all of them (119) altogether on the fence of an university close to a phone booth.

The phone actually rang while I was installing the chuan’r. Knowing how curious the Chinese are, it is very possible that it could have been someone from the nearby buildings calling to ask me what I was doing. I didn’t pick up.

I think the result is interesting for its contrast between what it seems to be from far, a wooden separation or some bamboo curtain and what it really is when you look at it closer: a bunch of disgusting chuan’r.

I kept on walking south and reached the moat, that time, in opposition to the last Promenade, I started following the river to the west and then, after it turns 90º, to the south.

At some point in the park I came across that “unofficial” strongly marked footpath, I had an idea to do something with it, I actually tried, but it was too windy. 没办法 I kept on moving south.

Along the way, I came across some really interesting places, where river, road, pedestrian overpasses and underpasses knot together.

At one of these spots, on the other bank of the moat, I noticed some drilling cores scattered in the bushes all around.

I easily understood where they were coming from.

The workers that installed the fence, to separate the high speed road from the sidewalk, simply drilled the holes in the ground and threw the rubble into the closest bushes.

I could find a total of 15.

I collected them all.

And installed them on a small “visor” that I noticed before on top of the tunnel entrance. This “visor” created an interesting useless space that I thought was suitable for an equally useless installation.

I left them there hoping that someone would appreciate the way the cylinders, the tiles, the fences and the shadows interact.

I crossed the moat again and went back to the park.

I came across another dirt footpath that people had made by walking out of the official park trails, I tried again what I tried a couple of hours earlier. I came out with that idea after thinking about that line made of leaves that I did a week ago during Promenade #5.

I started collecting leaves with my feet.

I used them to draw a line continuing the unofficial path and crossing the official one – the natural path crossing the artificial.

I actually like to use these spontaneous (natural) paths. I never understand why town planners rarely take in account the natural way of people walking, it seems to me like they always want people to walk following square angles; naturally, like every other animal, we walk from point A to point B looking for the way that will be faster and will burn less energy. Straight lines are the most natural and logical way to go from A to B and sometimes, in square planned cities, these lines will draw diagonals, so instead of planting a “don’t walk on the grass” sign, why don’t they just adapt their planning to the users movements? The only place where I have seen crossroads arranged so you can cross the street in diagonal is Tokyo, in the bustling neighborhood of Shibuya.

A few meters ahead, I tried it again with pine needles.

A that point, I realized that to obtain the best visual result, I needed to look for paths that were well marked and strongly contrasted.

A rock on a trashcan.

I found a nicely contrasting footpath a few hundred meters further. I couldn’t really use my feet to gather the leaves because of the grown weed so I decided to find a broom. One of the good thing of China is that you will always find a broom somewhere in the street. I think the city sweepers leave them in different spots so they don’t have to carry them around. They are made of bamboo and very cheap so nobody would steal them – theft is very rare in China anyways, except for that which is committed by party officials.

It took me less than two minutes to find one.

By the way, while I was looking for a broom, I found another drilling cylinder; the same fence as before was still running there. I took the cylinder and put it back where it came from.

And I started sweeping the way under the confused eyes of the Chinese pedestrians.

After thinking about it I found that these interventions are a good way to mark out the unofficial footpaths and what they are telling about the city. It is literally nature coming back over human construction and this is exactly what I want to express; I think city planning needs to focus more on the natural walking movements of people instead of having them following square paths, most of them being the result of the priority given today in construction to motorized transportation.

I put the groom in its original place and kept on walking south.

At the end of park, under a bridge, I found an interesting spot where people are locking their chairs to a fence.

I think it might be a place where people play mahjong in the summer, under the shade of the bridge. They lock their chairs and tables here so they don’t have to carry them every day to come to play.

They even lock their badminton set.

15h00, it was time to walk back if I wanted to arrive home before dark.

I decided to walk along the ruins of the old city wall that also follows the moat almost all the way.

And I end up walking for several kilometers alone on this beautiful unfrequented high path.

On the way back, I decided to return to the same spot as before. It was less windy.

I already spotted several piles of leaves very close to the path.

I filled my bag with leaves three times.

And drew the continuation of this spontaneous footpath crossing the official walkway.

This is a perfect example of poor planning: the paved track is going right when the main walkway and one of the entrance of the park are on the left.

After another hour walking I finally arrived home.

But before, I decided to take part of the city’s trend and I also left a rock in some weird place.

The GPS track record (click on the map to make it bigger).

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