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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

De-constructing the walking tour: OTTAWA (DE)TOURS

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Think about everything you think you know about walking tours. Now erase all that.

That is the aim of OTTAWA (DE)TOURS, a local initiative which is working to (de)construct the typical, often passive, format of the guided promenade, while working to create “alternative walking tours” in their place.

Established in early 2013, (DE)TOURS seeks to add a new layer to the experience of walking and talking through grouping the walks around themes such as money, play, gender issues, and food, while also encouraging more walker interaction and participation through various pre-, walk-, and post- discussions-based platforms. These include completing information surveys prior to the event in order to allow for the guide to cater the talk more specifically to the group, storytelling segments along the way to better help set the scene for new knowledge, and shared discussions over meals following each 90-minute walk.


(DE)TOURS has now found its stride, with the goal of creating a different placed-based experience of the city. According to Dan Monafu, one of the founders of the program, it is through these tours that people can begin to understand new layers and points of connection within their urban environments, “unveiling the systems” within the city, and allowing people to better understand where important decisions are made, outside of the Parliament Buildings. This is especially true for the money-themed tour, but can be said for the others as well, with an overall understanding of the city as a collection of various ecosystem, whether financial, gender, or food-based, and which we often experience in part in our daily lives, but rarely with a sense of the bigger picture.

But it is not solely about listening on these walks, which encourage participation through various channels, and work to create a safe space for discussion outside the typical classroom setting. For Monafu, this is something that is lacking in our society, and an important aspect for (DE)TOURS in their work to reshape our connection to both the physical and more intangible constructs of our city.


According to the (DE)TOURS website, “Our walking seminars help people think critically about the past, the present and the future,” and for Monafu, this goes even further, with the belief that these walks create entry points into the topics for those who are both fluent or hesitant in regards to the subject matter, all the while keeping the group size small, and the storytelling flowing, to “make it human”. 

And it is this hope for a more human approach to the city which is perhaps most threatened today, but which (DE)TOURS is subverting through the simple acts of walking, talking, and eating.

OTTAWA (DE)TOURS are scheduled regularly and will be continuing throughout the summer and early fall.

For more information, please visit OTTAWA (DE)TOURS.

Images: Courtesy of the OTTAWA (DE)TOURS blog


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