Flaneur: urban wanderer

Master of Architecture
Semester 1, 2022

Studio leader(s)

  • William Orr

Studio Concept

Walter Benjamin adopted the concept of flaneur from Charles Baudelaire “gentleman stroller of the street” and developed the concept of flaneurie, as an urban investigator and observer. A Flaneur is an urban dweller, a wanderer and an observer of the flux in street life. A Flaneur walk the city in order to experience it.

Benjamin wrote, “The street becomes the dwelling for the flaneur, he (she) is as much at home among the facades of houses as a citizen is in his four walls”

Architecture and urbanism is seen as a continuous field operate from different perspectives, on different levels and different context and scales. Architecture is an urban artefact, that can be analytical, pragmatic, visionary or utopian but always drawn its life from a piece of the city.

Michael Sorkin in “Twenty Minutes in Manhattan” document his journeys from his home in Greenwich Village New York City to his studio/office in TriBeCa for more than a decade. Sorkin’s writings were more than a visual appraisal. He weaved together narrative with historical incidents, personal experiences, cultural references and musings about the life of the city. The city is seen as an organic system that continue to transform and grow. Sorkin undertook his daily journey not only as an architect, social commentator and urbanist but also as a keen observer and active participant in the city.

In the studio, the students assume the role of a flaneur, an urban wanderer and learned observer to collect and catalogue information and gather critical knowledge in a part of the city they are located in. They will conduct design investigations and propose architectural interventions. Design and architectural proposals will be tested against the extent they are able to engage, enrich and transform urban life.

Instead of designing a single iconic or monolithic building focuses on form manipulation, students are expected to design a series of urban interventions that explore the multiple facets of architecture and to expend the notion of ‘context’ well beyond the limited reference to the immediate physical surroundings to a wider cultural enquiry.


Students are to explore a multiplicity of transformative architectural and urban interventions proposals in the study area. The study area will be a 400m (5 minute walking distance) area in a city within students’ current locale (subject to approval or otherwise assigned) where physical visit is possible. Within this designated urban neighbourhood the students are to design 3 architectural proposals based on defined spatial syntax as part of their urban strategy, in which one will be taken beyond concept to architectural resolution.

The spatial syntax where the studio is to operate are defined broadly by the interventions within the urban setting. These interventions are to be enacted via Insertion, Addition and Adaptive Reuse in the urban landscape.

  • Insertion - To fill the gap
  • Addition - To Add or enhance
  • Adaptive Reuse - To renew and reuse

The scope of the proposals, building types and programs are part of students’ initial research. The students are expected to develop at least 1 (out of the 3) of their individual proposals in their urban strategy beyond the conceptual stage to detail tectonic and architectural resolution. The focus is Not on an ‘image’ of architecture but an architectural presence that animate the urban realm.

Studio Co-ordinator: William Orr

Graduate of the University of Melbourne, William is an Architect and Urban Designer with 30 years experience. An award winning architect with design experience and architectural projects in Melbourne, Sydney, Chicago and Hong Kong. He has taught in construction and urban design theory as well as senior design and masters of architecture studios at the University of Melbourne and Monash University for close to twenty years.