Sensing the City

Overview of Sensing the City: An Embodied Documentation & Mapping of the Changing Uses and Tempers of Urban Place. A Practice-based Case-study of Coventry.

Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), Sensing the City is a 3-year research project (April 2017-April 2020) which culminates in an exhibition Sensing the City: an Urban Room at the Herbert Art Gallery, Coventry Jan 2020 and a Routledge book Sensing the City: Embodied Mappings of the Changing Uses and Tempers of Urban Place due for publication in 2020.

The project website can be found here:

“After almost 50 years of neglect of the human dimension, here at the beginning of the 21st century we have an urgent need and growing willingness to once again create cities for people.” Jan Gehl, architect and urban planner, Cities for People, 2010

  • How can a city be felt and understood through the human body?
  • How can a human focus improve a city’s design?
  • Who and what is a city centre for?
  • What kind of city do we want to live in?

These are some of the questions posed by the group of artists and academics, working in collaboration to explore Coventry. Over three years, this group has investigated the use of dance and choreography, creative writing, performance, film, photography and sound technologies as means of mapping the city centre. Against the backdrop of Coventry’s medieval, post-second world war and 21st century architecture, their practices have questioned the city’s viability as a place supposedly designed for people.

“A point of departure was the realisation that the city centre is increasingly struggling to know what it is for, after over half a century of being organised to support consumerism on the one hand and vehicular traffic on the other. As shopping struggles to retain its appeal as a physical activity and public awareness grows of a climate emergency that makes private car use unsustainable, the time is ripe for a reconsideration of city centres from the point of view of you the pedestrian and citizen as ‘sensitised user’.” Sensing the City research group

In the week-long exhibition and symposium event, we invite visitors to consider Coventry now and to contribute ideas for what a people-focused Coventry of the future would look and feel like.

Sensing the City research group:

Rob Batterbee, technical specialist and photographer, University of Warwick
Carolyn Deby, artist and choreographer, sirenscrossing
Natalie Garrett Brown, Centre for Dance Research Coventry University, now at University of East London
Emma Meehan, Centre for Dance Research Coventry University
Michael Pigott, Film and Television Studies, University of Warwick
Nese Ceren Tosun, Exhibitions and Impact Officer, University of Warwick
Nicolas Whybrow, Theatre and Performance Studies, University of Warwick

Exhibition curated by

Sarah Shalgosky, Curator, University of Warwick
Fiona Venables, Deputy Curator, University of Warwick

Moving and Mapping: Knowing Sites through Dance Practice

As part of the Sensing The City project enter & inhabit were part of the micro-project Moving and Mapping: Knowing Sites through Dance Practice.

The micro- project website can be found here:

Moving and Mapping has explored how the creative processes of dance artists, responding to public outdoor sites, can contribute to current approaches to city planning in Coventry. A series of salons and labs have brought together dance artists, town planners, architects and others working within public realm planning. We wanted to work together to model interdisciplinary approaches to city planning, which foregrounds the lived experience of inhabiting a place and recognises the inhabitants as co-creators.

As part of Moving and Mapping, enter & inhabit returned to dance in the underpasses of Coventry ring-road, a practice which they first begun in 2007 and which has continued intermittently for over ten years.

This exhibition includes the photographic and creative writing outcomes of the enter & inhabit collaboration. These are understood by us as companion art works to the ongoing outdoor movement practice which will be happening daily in and around Junction 5 of Coventry ring-road during the exhibition. Postcards, photographs and a handmade book are offered in the exhibition as objects for handling, involving you in our process of moving in the city. We also prompt you to revisit your memories of sites in the city and re-imagine how Coventry could be planned for the people who move through it every day.