How to navigate in the City

Natural navigation in a town requires a lot of lateral and vertical thinking.

Will the answer be found in the satellite dish way above me, or the asymmetric pollution near my feet? Or perhaps there are still plants and animals to help.

One of my favourite clues is the human animal. Head against the flow of people at the start of the day or with the flow at the end and you are pretty much guaranteed to find a station.

Animation showing the flow of people at the start of the day heading away from the station and at the end of the end of the day heading towards the station.

Whenever I need to get to a meeting in a big city, I try to make sure I have half an hour or more to spare and then start my journey from an unknown point a mile or so away. This is very easy to do if you are travelling on public transport as you just pick the station or two away from your destination.

The next thing I do is make sure I remain alert to the direction the clouds are moving. If you stay tuned to the general direction of clouds passing overhead, it is much less likely that you will get totally disorientated.

Subtle differences at street corners can be used to make a compass

Look at the picture above and study the colours just below the windows. We can make a compass using colour differences at street corners. Algae retreats in places where the sun reaches, but thrives on the shaded northern side of buildings. The trick is often to look up a bit, clues get cleaned away at street level, but survive a little higher.

There are hundreds of similar techniques to help the navigator on asphalt. I’ve included a few below and many more in my books and courses. To date, I’ve collected over twenty different ways to use religious buildings to find direction.

For fun, why not test yourself – can you work out which way we are looking in the photo at the top of this page about architectural navigation clues?

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For a complete guide to Natural Navigation read Tristan's books.

The Natural Navigator

The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs

How to Read Water

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