Escape from the Tsar’s Capital, or, The City & The City

///Escape from the Tsar’s Capital, or, The City & The City
Escape from the Tsar’s Capital, or, The City & The City 2018-05-15T21:48:19+00:00

May 2018

Walk leaders: Victoria Andreyeva and Thomas Campbell
Text by: Thomas Campbell
Photographs by: Thomas Campbell

“We are all philosophers here where I am, and we debate among many other things the question of where it is that we live. On that issue I am a liberal. I live in the interstice, yes, but I live in both the city and the city.”
—China Miéville, The City & The City

Jane’s Walk 2018 in Petersburg, Russia, was initially inspired by the involvement of one of the walk leaders in a participatory budget commission, in which she discovered that half the members lived on a new housing estate built on a brownfield site with poor access to nearby amenities. So, for example, the nearest park is very hard to access quickly on foot.

Our second inspiration was China Miéville’s The City & the City, a novel about two cities occupying the same space, but whose citizens are trained from birth not to notice the other city upon pain of committing a “breach” and losing their citizenship, which, paradoxically, frees them to see and navigate both cities at once.

We saw this as a metaphor for the many new housing estates, shopping centers, and office buildings that have been built in Petersburg, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, over the last fifteen years, and the way this new architecture seemingly fails to “notice” the historic city into which it has been insinuated. To this end, we walked down Novgorod Street to Petersburg city hall, paying attention to the numerous “non-interactions” between new and old buildings along the way.

Around thirty people from Petersburg, Moscow, Switzerland, and Germany went on the walk, and we were blessed by sunny spring weather.

Our itinerary