‘Emotive’ Geography (1) : London, Millenium Bridge and St. Paul’s

ImageThe  places that we live, the world around us, is continuously drawing out different emotional responses:  peace,  contentment, inspiration, anger, security .. and insecurity, and different psychological dispositions: willpower, pride, confidence or the opposite.

I’ve been thinking about how different parts of Paris and London evoke particular emotional responses and how they affect – positively or otherwise –  one’s psyche;

And, if one were to create a personal map of  these two cities to reflect them not only as physical places but also cities with different zones that inspire a variety of  emotions, desires, and psychological states –   perhaps our understandings of  urban space would continue to expand.

Already, there are rankings of cities that gauge cities on the basis of ‘well being’ and livability. This already suggests that we increasingly view urban space as not just a functional collection of structures but as places that enhance or diminish our human experience.

Viewing Paris and London as ’emotional spaces’ redefines how one could go about gauging whether these are great places to study or not, and how they measure up in contrast to other cities elsewhere.

For the next few posts, I’ll try to approach Paris and London as ‘affective spaces’ and try to trace an affective geography of sorts of the two cities – a very subjective way of mapping and understanding these two cities. I’ll try to explore the different emotions and dispositions that a variety of locations elicit, and maybe reflect upon how these two cities compare,  from a very subjective point of view,  as  places that are not just physical but affective as well.

To start of, there is  Millennium Bridge, that I’ve crossed several times on early morning walks/jogs. The  combination of the light of a new day and the perspective of St Paul’s Cathedral always evoke a sense of security. The cathedral is an enduring symbol of London, of continuity, and of the persistence of all that the cathedral represents.  The dawn always reinforces the feeling of beholding a structure that has persisted with the passing of several days, decades, centuries… being built, rebuilt, repaired, maintained.. yet remaining.

The view of St. Paul’s Cathedral while crossing Millennium Bridge evokes a set of emotive dispositions: confidence in London as an enduring and resilient space, awe at the determination of this building  and its long line of administrators to keep it going, and an overall sense of security.

 I recognise how important confidence, security, and awe are  to one’s experience of living and studying in particular places – and more importantly how urban architecture, preservation of heritage, and urban design are  important actors in and of themselves in inspiring the emotional states required to build an academic career.


For the purposes of  ‘grateful graduate’ project (collecting  365 reasons in 2013 to be grateful for the graduate student experience offered by Paris and London) I’ll add that given the above, I am specifically grateful for the sense of security and confidence  inspired by the space around St. Paul’s Cathedral viewed from the Millennium Bridge in the early hours of the morning. (Reason to be grateful 233 of 365!)