“Ever wanted something more?” – Mass Media Representation and Housing Futures

Social Policy, Housing, Environment and Real Estate blog

“Ever wanted something more? Ever thought there could be a better way to live free from the shackles of the old tired world?” Here, Dr Bilge Serin talks us through the new world of commodified housing developments.

The above slogan is from an advertisement for a fictional housing development in the recent movie High-Rise. The movie is an adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s novel written in the 1970s. This fictional advertisement has many similarities with actual ones for so-called luxury housing developments, and presents a trend in the representation of housing futures in mass media – in the UK and in many other contexts.

Bilge-Serin Dr Bilge Serin

Representation of housing futures in mass media is an interesting issue. First of all, it is an intricate one involving various layers – from the representation of everyday life and future residents, to the construction of the housing project itself. Understanding this mass media…

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How Utopia Became a Real Estate Leaflet ?

As Edward Said (1994, p. 6) once said, “none of us is completely free from the struggle over geography”, including financial capital. Said (1994, p. 6) continues, this struggle “is not only about soldiers and cannons but also about ideas, about forms, about images and imaginings”. Discursive formation of real-estate futures has long been part of this struggle. From London to Istanbul, various everyday life images and spatial representations are replicated in promotional materials of real-estate projects such as in advertisements, catalogues and billboards. These all together form a discourse of the ideal everyday life that people dream of. This paper focuses on the case of branded housing projects which are developed as a version of housing enclaves in Istanbul following the deepening of neoliberal urbanisation in Turkey. It discusses the role of the representations and images in the project catalogues and advertisements in imagining of future everyday life from a Lefebvrian-Gramscian perspective. The paper presents a comprehensive critical discourse analysis and challenges the idealisation (and normalisation) of everyday life practices offered in these hyper-controlled, under surveillance and commodified urban spaces. It concludes that the struggle of hegemonic and counter-hegemonic discourse over everyday life is a key for reclaiming utopia, therefore, future imaginings.

The talk was given in scope of the Planetary Futures Conference: Imagining the Future – Financial Capitalism and the Social Imagination @ Institute of Advanced Studies, UCL, London, 11 July 2017

For the programme of the conference and the abstracts click here.

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Image Credit: Robert Almonte

Doing Architectural Research Socio-political Perspectives on Theories, Methodologies and Praxis

Since the 1970s, cities have become core areas for neoliberal restructuring strategies, policies and processes (Peck et al., 2009). Brenner et al. (2010) stress that different neoliberalization practices share the ambition “to intensify commodification in all realms of social life” (Aalbers 2013, 1054). In addition, prominent critical scholars including Lefebvre, Harvey and Castells agree upon the fact that “capitalist cities are not only arenas in which commodification occurs; they are themselves intensively commodified” (Brenner et al., 2009, 178).

The talk methodologically asked the question:

How can we investigate this multi-layered phenomenon which includes dynamics of production and commodification of space as well as everyday life ?

The talk was given in scope of The Centre for Urban Conflicts Research Workshop exploring and questioning what constitutes architectural research, specifically research from socio-political perspectives.

UK Housing Crisis: (Anti)Social Housing Associations’ New Low

UK housing crisis is not news for many living in the UK and also for many working on housing. It is mostly discussed as a problem of deficiency of the quantity of housing: There is not enough number of houses, soo let’s build more and more. However, it is not just quantity, but the quality of housing, especially newly built ones are crumbling as well.

 

According to Guardian investigation, people living in housing projects built by Catalyst, Sanctuary, Notting Hill Housing, Wandle, and the One Housing Group raised that major maintenance issues are not tackled such as damp,  rat infestation, the lifts left broken for a week or so, security failures, and no hot water.

The situation getting worse when hearing more stories from people living in houses built and run by housing associations:

“When we moved in, we turned on the taps in the kitchen sink and water flooded everywhere, including into the flat below us. And the boiler went almost immediately. We’d be without hot water for two, three weeks at a time. At one point, three flats would give each other their kettles so we could run ourselves a bath.” (Guardian)

Orchard Village has been the focus of hundreds of complaints from its residents. These include extensive leaks, damp and mould, staircases that have come away from walls, broken heating systems, inadequate fire-proofing and absent insulation. People are also concerned about alleged high levels of methane and hydrogen sulphide, which some claim may have had a direct impact on their health. (Harris)

Residents have a dossier of problems drawn from more than 50 homes: “holes in roof of landings”, “mould in bedroom”, “balcony door broken”, “cold house”, “lawn dying after no drainage installed”, “no fire break in between properties”. Some annual heating and hot water bills are said to be three times more than people were led to expect. There are also endless claims about treatment of residents by Circle and its contractors: “Waited three years for repair of stairs”; “staff ignore telephone conversations”; “no response to complaints”. (Guardian)

The problems have roots in the public-private characteristics of housing associations which are promoted as a ‘third-way’ solution. The associations are supported by public money, however, act as private developers. Kind of best of both, aren’t they? Well, the result is low quality and unhealthy buildings, nearly non-maintenance, and angry residents.

Note: Guardian is still continuing the investigation on problems in the housing schemes developed by housing associations. If you experience one refer to the link.

“No Water or Gas, If You Don’t Pay Your Monthly Fee.” Says the Management

 

In my PhD research, I criticised private provision of housing enclaves in Istanbul and argued that this practice gives too much authority in the hands of private management companies and passivate the residents of these areas.

Usually, municipalities deliver urban infrastructure and services, and citizens pay tax in return. In this practice, private management companies are responsible for delivering urban infrastructure including water, sewage and gas networks, landscaping and roadworks within the confines of the projects. In return, the residents have to pay a monthly fee to these companies. The problem is that while municipalities are subject to many controls for their practice, taxation, and spending, these companies are like just any private company operating in the market.

I have come across this recent case, for example. It is very striking. Some families living in a luxury housing enclave were unable to pay the total amount of their fees, but they did pay their bills for water and gas. The private management company’s response was brutal: The water meters of the houses were removed and gas was cut in the middle of January.

The residents took this to the court and get access to water and gas again after having a court order!

In the news article, Cesim Parlak, an expert lawyer on criminal law, argues that expansion of this practice of shared use of water and heating in large housing estates, the estate managements became hegemonic in this practice. According to Parlak, the private management companies acts like car parking mafia. The carpark mafia in Turkey appropriate some places and demand parking fees from the ones who park their cars in those areas, although they have no right to the land they appropriate. So, Parlak says that according to law, estate managements do not have a call for giving or not giving this service to the residents.

Well, apparently, what the management company did was illegal in this case. But, the question is who is controlling what the private management companies are doing in more than 800 branded housing projects in Istanbul? The answer is a big fat no one.

(Image credit: Yeni Projeler)

Advertisement-free Cities

What if we strip our towns from outdoor advertisements, which dominate public spaces for quite a some time..

 

 

CATS – the Citizens Advertising Takeover Service did that for you in London and the result is marvellous.

 

It was funded via Kickstarter by almost 700 people who pledged over 23k GBP to get the project up and running, and as organizer James Turner noted in a blog, “This isn’t a clever marketing stunt. The people behind it are volunteers. We want to inspire people to think differently about the world and realize they have the power to change it.” (boredpanda)

 

Check it out:

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Image Credit: boredpanda

 

The result shows how much our public space is occupied by advertisements, and how they are commodified silently. It also shows potentials to use these spaces for public art (or other good causes) instead of serving for more consumption. Thanks CATS for making a point with out feline friends 🙂