Talk on the Wild Side - Narrative Urbanism

The latest issue of MONU #29 Narrative Urbanism, one of the most innovative and progress publications in its field, features an article co-authored by Nick Dunn and Dan Dubowitz. The abstract for their contribution, Talk on the Wild Side: Moving Beyond Storytelling in Cities is below:

Talk on the Wild Side - Narrative Urbanism

When we arrive in urban situations they often have a problematic narrative through the palimpsest of their development. What we are exploring is how to change this story, inclusively and positively, to help people rewrite the future of their places on the eve of city-scale regeneration projects. We employ narrative in two ways. Firstly, through mining archives and oral histories, locals collect and recount stories and shape the collective walks we take through lost parts of the city. Secondly, as an action-based method of walking the city collectively, communities and urbanists begin to cowrite a new story of the city. Our practice is concerned with how the future of places can be meaningfully rewritten through collaborative engagement with different communities and stakeholders. The crux of who the narrative is for and how it empowers them is essential. Here, we are actively exploring novel ways in which narratives can go beyond existing opportunistic practices of city-branding or simple interpretations, by using creativity to bring places to life in a way that encourages community ownership and empowerment. 

We are engaged in developing a new paradigm for city-making that centres on the unknown and unseen in the context of Glasgow. How do we capture the fleeting, seemingly ineffable, lost elements of the city and bring them into a narrative that communities can work with? This paper presents dispatches from our ongoing action-research concerning how we write and rewrite the city illustrating how and why such narratives are vital and for who. Before introducing our narrative urbanism approach, we will explain the development of our collaborative practice, combining our individual urban narrative and inscriptive practices of nightwalking (Dunn, 2016) and wastelanding (Dubowitz, 2010) to enable a different way of writing the city with its people. Together, we are now drawing professionals and experts who see the city anew together with citizens, who previously had not been engaged, on nightwalks through areas of the city that are lost and about to be transformed. We are using our narrative method of collective nightwalking to meaningfully involve people in writing the city’s future. Collective walking that creates a new narrative can help us profoundly reconnect with our surroundings and experience, in a powerful and visceral way, and co-write new narratives that exist beyond the daytime. This happens through three stages. Firstly, for people in a neighbourhood to develop a sense of engagement for themselves; secondly, by having done so they develop a collective sense of place through time; and thirdly the process contributes toward empowerment of these citizens to become activists about it. Having unpacked our narrative urbanism practice we will conclude with a discussion on its implications for revelation and the poetics of future city-making.


MONU (Magazine on Urbanism) is a unique biannual international forum for architects, urbanists and theorists that are working on urban topics. MONU focuses on the city in a broad sense, including its politics, economy, geography, ecology, its social aspects, as well as its physical structure and architecture. MONU examines topics that are important for the future of our cities and urban regions from a variety of perspectives and provides a platform for analysis. 



Publication Date

15th of October 2018


DunnDunn Nick Dunn Urban Design, Design Thinking, Design & Manufacturing, Mapping, Visualisation, Speculative Design, Future Cities