An urban flâneur is one who casually observes what is going on in an urban environment making critical observations while strolling about the city. A city planner collects data, attends meetings prepares future plans for a specific town, village, city or region. The flâneur is seen as operating in a fuzzy, objective/subjective and qualitative milieu; while, the urban planner is involved in quantifying and analyzing data (‘hard facts’), applying standards and regulations to aid in the effective and efficient operation of an urban area. The training that as a planner receives is based on the rationalist-lineal approach and does not include training about how to be a good observer in an urban environment. Most of all the public and the elected officials view the urban planner as a government employee who is at the disposal of elected officials and the public---a public servant. The idea of wandering about a city would not be considered productive or would be done on the off-hours. It would be safe to say that many urban planners would be castigated by most administrators for leaving work during office hours to go wander the streets, talk to people, sit in cafes and restaurants, ride public transportation, sit in parks, or indulge in other seemly ‘frivolous’ activities. If an urban planner is the one who is directed to suggest future plans for an urban area is this served best by sitting at a desk?
As a practicing urban planner for many years, I would have very impressed if any of bosses said to me: “Today, I don’t want you to be at your desk…in fact let’s make this a weekly thing…go out an just wander around the city and observe what you see. Come by my office and we will discuss what you found out.” I will continue this discussion in up-coming blog entries.