“Not long ago, about the closing in of an evening in autumn, I sat at the large bow window of the D__ Coffee-House in London…..I had been amusing myself for the greater part of the afternoon, now in poring over advertisements, now in observing the promiscuous company in the room, and now in peering through the smoky panes into the street…
This latter is one of the principal thoroughfares of the city, and had been very much crowded during the whole day. But, as the darkness came on, the throng momently increased; and, by the time the lamps were well lighted, two dense and continuous tides of population were rushing past the door….I gave up, at length, all care of things within the hotel, and became absorbed in contemplation of the scene without.”
— The Man of the Crowd, by Edgar Allan Poe (published 1845)
noun: flâneur; plural noun: flâneurs
a man (/woman) who saunters around observing society.
French, from flâner ‘saunter, lounge’.
The Flâneur came into being from the ninteenth-century French poet and essayist Charles Baudelaire’s fascination with Poe’s story. The protagonist in the story is observing a mundane urban street from inside the glass window of a cafe until he decides to walk out and engage a man of the crowd. The man continues to ignore him and continue on his way absorbed by the city. Walter Benjamin revisits the Flâneur in the twentieth-century in his seminal work The Arcades Project.
“The Arcades Project is, above all else, the history of a city – Paris, the capital of the nineteenth-century, whose system of streets is a vascular network of imagination.”
Peter Buse, Ken Hirschkop, Scott McCracken and Bernard Taithe, ‘Benjamin’s Arcades: An Unguided Tour’
Benjamin is particularly interested in the nature of the urban street as an extension of internal space. Are outdoor cafes, bookshops, parks, department stores an extension of indoor space into the street or the street into the indoors. The Flâneur according to Benjamin is the person that ignores the rush hour, hanging around to observe the crowds. The Flâneur is the person who removes themselves from the process of production to see the life happening around them.
This blog documents “the Flaneuries” from our past, present and future…