In a nutshell:
Big Urban Walks are new ways to explore and analyse large metropolitan agglomerations based on perceived situations. The method is yielding from artistic, ethnographic and journalistic practices and uses concepts of the dérive and relational and socially produced spaces to open up the informal and real-dirt spaces of these large urban structures for urban research.

Martin Kohler is a photographer and urbanist. He studied landscape architecture and environmental planning at the University of Hannover and at the Southern Australia University, Adelaide. He has taught urban photography at HafenCity University, Hamburg, since 2003 and has founded and curated several art projects in public spaces such as the HAFENSAFARI (2009). He has deployed photography as a research method in various projects including a series of “urban transects” in , Seoul, Istanbul, SãoPaulo and the Ruhr area.

HafenCity Universität Hamburg
Institut für Stadt-, Regional- und Umweltplanung
Überseeallee 16
20457 Hamburg

Dipl.-Ing. Martin Kohler
Fon: +49.40.42827-4360


a bit more details:
Large urban agglomerations gain more and more significance as the home for the majority of worlds populations. With their sheer size and their fast dynamics, they challenge the possibility to create a coherent and comprehensive geographical representation of the city as a whole.
Masterplans are outdated before published, the number of residents can never be determined, while every urban operation has to retake the information, that is officially already known about the concerned area.

At the same time – with the emergence of the megapolis – a string of alternative understandings of the urban came into discussion. Large urban agglomerations as patches of cultural geographies, networks of flows and space (Castells 2009), rhizomatic webs of sites and extensions (Amin 2002) or geographies of temporality (Thrift 2001) shift the focus from a generalized city as a whole to specific sets of situations mediated by architecture and the social in a holistic context on different scales ranging from the local to the global connections.

This failure of traditional descriptions in maps, numbers and architectural drawings to the demands of the new models and the condition of the present urban agglomerations might be well a good thing as it opens up the door to alternative approaches yielding from artistic strategies, literature, anthropology and journalism. These methods are better able to come up with information about the specificness of spaces.

The method of walking a transect through large urban agglomerations draws on artistic concepts of walking (Careri 2005) as derive (Debord 1996), photography as a phenomenological visual strategy (Pink 2001) and informed interpretation as described by ethnographic methodology (Geertz 1987).
Walking a transect transforms a geographical line into a sequence of situations and the relation between them as a cut through the whole urban agglomeration. Walking connects points in the most concrete and closest way possible while exposing the researcher to the city with all his senses and all his knowledge.
Documented by photographs and field notes, the experience and interpretation of these sitations can be analysed and clustered to maps, diagrams and photographic essays as account of the spaces and linked back to traditional geographical representations.