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Picturing urban subterranea: embodied aesthetics of London’s sewers

Picturing urban subterranea: embodied aesthetics of London’s sewers
Picturing urban subterranea: embodied aesthetics of London’s sewers
As cities around the world are tunnelled and hollowed to new depths, geographers are giving increasing attention to infrastructure in the context of verticality, often framed through urban planning or geopolitics. This paper responds to calls from geography and the wider geohumanities for ethnographic and aesthetic consideration of vertical infrastructures by reflecting on London’s sewer system as a site of embodied engagement and creative imagination. Once venerated by the press and public as engineering, medical and aesthetic triumphs, London’s sewers are thought to have morphed into sites of ubiquitous obscurity. This paper counters this understanding by considering bodies, technologies and activities through time that have shaped imaginations of London’s main drainage, including the work of contemporary urban explorers. I argue that although the current aestheticization of infrastructural spaces in London is connected to particular technologies, politics and geographical concerns of the present, it also echoes bodyspace interventions and affects across a 150-year span. This aesthetic legacy is a crucial pillar in our understandings of urban verticality.
0308-518X
1-33
Garrett, Bradley
e51aa011-881c-4284-8889-124b1b52efc7
Garrett, Bradley
e51aa011-881c-4284-8889-124b1b52efc7

Garrett, Bradley (2016) Picturing urban subterranea: embodied aesthetics of London’s sewers. Environment and Planning A, 1-33. (doi:10.1177/0308518X16652396).

Record type: Article

Abstract

As cities around the world are tunnelled and hollowed to new depths, geographers are giving increasing attention to infrastructure in the context of verticality, often framed through urban planning or geopolitics. This paper responds to calls from geography and the wider geohumanities for ethnographic and aesthetic consideration of vertical infrastructures by reflecting on London’s sewer system as a site of embodied engagement and creative imagination. Once venerated by the press and public as engineering, medical and aesthetic triumphs, London’s sewers are thought to have morphed into sites of ubiquitous obscurity. This paper counters this understanding by considering bodies, technologies and activities through time that have shaped imaginations of London’s main drainage, including the work of contemporary urban explorers. I argue that although the current aestheticization of infrastructural spaces in London is connected to particular technologies, politics and geographical concerns of the present, it also echoes bodyspace interventions and affects across a 150-year span. This aesthetic legacy is a crucial pillar in our understandings of urban verticality.

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Picturing urban subterranea Eprints.pdf - Accepted Manuscript
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More information

Accepted/In Press date: 16 April 2016
e-pub ahead of print date: 28 July 2016
Organisations: Geography & Environment

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Local EPrints ID: 392849
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/392849
ISSN: 0308-518X
PURE UUID: f771acac-4b6e-48c8-8129-29eb5e9a1625
ORCID for Bradley Garrett: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0003-0414-3175

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Date deposited: 18 Apr 2016 11:18
Last modified: 03 Dec 2019 06:45

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Author: Bradley Garrett ORCID iD

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