Urbaanbaatar City Walks

The Urbaanbaatar City Walks are a series of pop-up events combining education and research on various topics related to the socio-spatial dimension of Ulaanbaatar city and based on many years of experience of exploring the city by foot. Theoretically and methodologically UCW base on concepts and working methods proposed by Kevin Lynch, Hidenobu Jinnai and the Ogino:knauss collective as well as works and research methods from fields of geography, cartography as well as linguistics. The outcome of such a mixed approach could be classified as an attempt to develop a form of locally-dedicated walking urban anthropology. Using a walking research methodology combining elements of different disciplines offers a unique in-depth perspective enabling exploration pf diverse Ulaanbaatar sights. By experiencing the city space and tissue first hand (or rather foot!) the UCW present an opportunity to improve the often insufficient knowledge of various city areas, the reasons behind their existence, understanding frictions between overlapping historical layers of the city or grasping the meaning behind specific buildings, spatial arrangements and other elements of the city tissue as well as their social and economical conditioning and implications. In doing so the UWC also attempt to humaniz the experience of everyday contact with the city space, all in order to provoke a more conscious approach to the urban environment.

Since 2014 I have pioneered in themed tours of Ulaanbaatar aiming to explore and share knowledge about the city, its atmosphere and inner logic. Today my inquiries concentrate mostly around issues of land use, planning, urban build up and housing policies (or rather their actual implementations), the city’s road network and other crucial infrastructure, public transport, social stratifiction, systemic exclusion and disenfranchisement, health and environmental questions (man-Nature coexistence, urban-generated pollution, animals in the city, sanitation, green areas etc.) as well as graphically mapping the city space, verbal and graphical narratives about the city and its populations and urban place making and place naming. At the moment I lead walks along several routes but am constantly working on developing new ones and am keen on designing new walks stemming from grounded research. I remain open to new ideas, suggestions and requests of tailoring tours to specific needs and interests.

The brief itinerary descriptions below are very general examples of how I weave each narrative and anchor it in a specific spatial context:

Selbe River – the Development of Ulaanbaatar’s Inner City
Going along the flow of the Selbe River the walk dives in time to track the importance of this neglected water body in the city’s development as well as define Ulaanbaatar’s inner city and investigate how its present structure developed from historical establishments.

Dari-Ekh ger khoroolol – City Vistas
This walk will take us through the residential district of Sansar and up the neighboring ger district of Dari-Ekh in an attempt to investigate the spatial regimes of today’s Ulaanbaatar and enjoy breath-taking vistas that Zaisan hill could never offer.

Bayanzürkh District – the Friendship Raion
This walk will take us through the open-air interiors of the Bayanzürkh District looking into how the history blends with modern development and uncovering some of Bayanzürkh’s hidden gems.

Industrial to religious to residential landscapes – components of the city
This walk utilizes the western end of the Ikh Toiruu to break down Ulaanbaatar’s spatial pattern according to the methodology developed by Kevin Lynch while experiencing the local city-scape varying from area to area.

Outdoor interiors, shortcuts and backstreets
The walk introduces areas and paths that allow looking under the seemingly unpleasant and anti-pedestrian face of Ulaanbaatar. Traversing some of the city’s most busy areas away from the busy streets offers a new perspective onto how to actually experience Ulaanbaatar, understand the logic behind its hectic build-up, enjoy both its peaceful courtyards and dirty backstreets, find your own way in the city’s bowels, save time and reduce stress.

InterRiver – the City’s Blind Spot
The InterRiver tour sets out to explore a somewhat inconspicuous but very curious chunk of Ulaanbaatar space – the belt of land squeezed between the Tuul and Dund gol rivers. Housing several kinds of middle- to upper-class residential districts, service centres, private schools all located at the Northern frontier of the Khan-Uul district in some ways this area could be understood as a self-contained, hybrid outpost of the infamous Zaisan neighbourhood.

Khoroolol – Prefabricated Futures
This tour flows through the most famous prefabricated residential districts of Ulaanbaatar – the 3rd and 4th Khoroolol. We will inquire into the strategies of urban permutations adjusted to the landscape, talk about gentrification, housing policies and the spatial distribution of services as well as experience a shock induced by the amount of advertising visual stimuli.

Ikh Toiruu – the Porous Fringe
This walk explores a corridor area encircling the outer centre of the city. Constructed and named to become Ulaanbaatar’s ring road, today the area fails to serve its function but fulfils several other important roles instead. The walk will lead us along the establishments surrounding Ikh Toiruu in order to uncover some of the untold truths about the area as well as pursue traits of the history of Ulaanbaatar.

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