‘Buildings, certain buildings, things, signs, have resonances . . . past memories . . . could be the same building . . . when you’re a stranger.’
Getting to grips with a new city, especially in a different country, complements the fits and starts of learning its spoken language. With language, sentences are constructed slowly round key verbs that then dissipate into vagueness round the edges, and ‘learning the city’ can be viewed in these linguistic terms. Spatial orientation, movement from place to place, the establishing of routes and pathways, making use of transport infrastructure, all involve a kind of ‘phrasing’ or ‘sentencing’ that builds around prominent geographical or architectural features – buildings, monuments, bridges, metro stations. These features act as key ‘punctuation’ points that locate and situate through repeated use until increasing levels of familiarity extend outwards and link them together in new ways. Similarly to pivotal verbs in language, the finer subtleties of these sites are initially overlooked by the ‘learner’ because they’re unable to grasp those deeper contextual associations understood intuitively by the native speaker/user. . .