I am a student of urban planning with a fascination with words, images, and symbols. A polyglot, musician and sometimes-poet, I plan to use this space to explore the areas where place, language, and identity intersect on the canvas of urban planning and life. At least that’s my plan so far. I may touch on the spiritual and musical as well, to the degree they relate. We’ll see.
My motivation for this space comes from a desire to reflect on topics which seem to get short shrift in the planning literature but which were those which drew me to the planning field in the first place. For instance, my degree program has a decidedly social science orientation that at times seems divorced from the origins of planning, which, historically, has had very close ties with architecture and landscape architecture. To get a fresh perspective, this enrolled in a Design and the City course in Helsinki to help loosen me from the very technical American approach to planning and remind me of a more humanistic orientation that seems to underpin European planning.
However, this isn’t going to be a design blog. In fact, sometimes it seems to me that any creative thought that occurred in the planning process has been relegated to visual design process, aka urban design. Yet most of the writers who have inspired me over the years – including Annie Dillard, Kathleen Norris, and Czeslaw Milosz, as well as Estonian and Latvian poets such as Ivar Ivask and Linards Tauns, are those who grapple with place, language and identity, all concepts that should be part of any planner’s vocabulary. One question, therefore, I would like to ask is: what role do (or should) writers and poets have in forming (and informing) spaces that people inhabit, either physically or mentally? What can they tell us about the places and the people for whom we plan?
This page’s name comes from the underappreciated glyph known as the interrobang, which combines an exclamation point with a question mark into a single symbol that simultaneously indicates both surprise and confusion or doubt. To be sure, the interrobang has a certain snarkiness that is appealing and edgy, but I think it also has a gentler side that can convey a blend of wonder and curiosity that lends itself well to my topic.
Welcome to my wanderings and wonderings!
(Please note — I’m not an academic and this isn’t meant to be an academic blog. I’ll do my best to be accurate in my descriptions but I’m not going to get hung up over details. I don’t intend to get into long theoretical debates or quibble over definitions. There are plenty of other places we can do that.)