I’ve really wanted to do some psychogeography and while this is not the best example it did allow me to be more present in my walk around the Midtown Loop, a 2 mile placemaking project to improve the walkability of Detroit’s cultural institutions. Instead of doing the straight and scientific geography lines of the route I decided to record the smells that I experienced. Not all of them very pleasant.
My walk started at Hancock and John R. and moved counter clockwise. After crossing Warren and immediately at the Michigan Science Center the strong smell of fish hit me. It lasted quite a while and I assume is an issue with the sewers. The corner at Kirby and John R. is where the College of Creative Studies (CCS) and the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) have well manicured lawns. After crossing Woodward I took in the smells of exhaust and some strong diesel before being greeted by nice floral scents along the Detroit Public Library (DPL). The fishy smell came back after rounding the corner and I wondered if the smells were related. Some big construction and contractor trucks passed by and brought more diesel. Upon reaching La Pita Fresh the strong smell of cooking followed and then again in front of Shangri-La with some grilling near the frat house on Cass. Fresh flowers dominated my nostrils at the corner where Go Sy Thai now sits. La Palma was undergoing renovations and freshly cut wood could be detected. Lawn crews were taking care of the VA Hospital lawn as well as putting down some new wood chips. Throughout my 2 mile loop I most commonly interacted with the smell of exhaust. These roads are all fairly busy and well traveled roads and it makes sense that they would have high car traffic. Since this is supposed to be one of Detroit’s shining examples of walkability maybe they could put some time into ideas to reduce car use.