In London, Alisa and I began by walking to The Street. This is not, however, the street of Jane Jacobs, a messy entanglement of urban experience; rather it was the corporate street of Westfields Stratford City, Europe’s largest mall. This simulacrum of the street is a space of global consumption. New York’s Shake Shack pushing up against London’s Levi Roots in an Australian development designed for maximum consumption. A legacy of the Olympic Games, it is the commercial centrepiece of the redevelopment of London’s East End. Exit Through the Gift Shop writ large.
As we passed the Manhattan Loft Gardens, the hulking residential tower emerging behind Westfield, our thoughts turned to our compatriots in New York City, who had been Radically Walking the day prior. Alisa and I discussed the subtle blur of public and private space in London. Coming from Moscow, she is accustomed to a more aggressive policing of public space. My experience in Manhattan was similar. In contrast, the constant surveillance of Stratford and the Olympic Park is less in your face. Though we were always on camera, enmeshed in the panopticon, we were hardly aware of it.
Our walk ended in the Olympic Park, where we encountered public spaces closed for private functions. A long walk from the Marshland Gareth Rees describes, or the Grime battles of yesteryear. Instead we were treated to the corporate space of London’s Olympicopolis, where we were as likely to see ‘a banker or trader going to their job in the City and another heading off to their workshop in Shoreditch.’
Green’s score asks how the steps we’ve ‘taken together have altered the text of the site’; ultimately, we decided they hadn’t. Our walk was not an active intervention in public space. We were wandersmanner writing the thicks and thins of an urban text in which we barely intervened. Perhaps I am not giving us enough credit and our subtle intervention had an impact of which I am unaware. Perhaps our very presence questioning corporate space will make some difference. I, however, am not so sure.