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Walking Corporate Suburbia

Walking between Fortune 500 corporate headquarters in Minneapolis

 

I walk between and among Fortune 500 companies whose headquarters are located in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro region.  I use only a compass to navigate the multi-day treks through almost exclusively suburban space, recording my routes on a (hidden) GPS as I go.

The blue line is the route I have walked through the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro region. The dates for these recorded routes span November 2018 through March 2019.

There are two intersecting axes I deal with in this project. The first is the corporate headquarter, and the second is the suburb. Each of these phenomena addresses 21st-century global capitalism and its new urban geographies. Specifically, what interests me is how the aesthetic devaluation of suburbs in the 1980s and 90s coincided with increased access to suburbs by lower-income strata of the population (Nijman, Suburban Governance, 2015). By 2019, over one-third of the U.S. suburban population is classified as “non-white,” a demographic shift that dovetails with the increased suburban siting of large corporate headquarters. Immigrant enclaves, cheaper real estate, and self-contained economies that do not rely on central business districts are forging new types of spaces that don’t match with notions of “urban” or “suburban.”

In Walking Histories (2016), Julie Hipperson points out that walking has often been associated with “impoverished and landless members of rural society.” To walk between these global giants is to conjure an allegiance with the landless and powerless, pointing toward the increasing national and global wealth disparity that the corporations implicitly (or directly) enable and promote.

Suburbia is an urban jungle to the foot traveler: unconnected, unknown, frightening, off-putting, dangerous, or boring. The leftover design of suburban landscapes has engendered an awkwardness in human-scale locomotion. Built for vehicles and point-to-point travel, the ether, or space in-between, is a seemingly infinite, forgotten plane of what Marc Auge (1995) has called “non-places,” those which do not serve as meaningful destinations. It is on this unlikely plane where I imagine new futures of resistance to unfold, from meeting places to lemonade stands, and from freeway interchange plazas to roadside botanical gardens.