Vertical Horizons

Aya's Margins

Birkbeck Cinema, Gordon Square Free, but please register at: The Shard: the spectacle of financing space and life The city landscape has always been marked by networks of buildings, monuments, statues, ‘heterotopias’, and so forth, through which the possibilities of how the city was to be occupied and used were constantly woven and developed. ……

via Upcoming Event: Screening of Vertical Horizons and Panel Discussion, Saturday, November 5th, 1-5pm — Critical Legal Thinking

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What a Bloody Screw-up: Venice Syndrome


Venice Syndrome brilliantly tells the story of a city turning to be a museum and loosing its soul by loosing its citizens.


What a Bloody Screw-up: Venice Syndrome


Director: Andreas Pichler
Release: 2012 (imdb)

From the synopsis:

Twenty million foreigners visited the city last year. That’s an average of 60,000 day. And this year it will be more still. By comparison, there are only 58,000 inhabitants, the same amount as they were after the Great Plague of 1438. And next year it will be fewer still.
For the city is becoming uninhabitable. Venice’s own urban life has almost collapsed; it scarcely still exists.

The film shows what remains of Venetian life: a subculture of tourist service industries; a port for monstrous cruisers which is waiting to be expanded; Venetians who are moving to the mainland as there are no longer affordable apartments to be found; an aged noblewoman who treats the municipal council with scorn; a realtor who is considering abandoning the sinking ship.

A Requiem for a still grand city.
An illustration of how common property becomes the prey of few.
An elegy to the last Venetians, their humour and their hearts. (


Vietnam’s Housing Enclaves Where Even the Air is Cleaner!


Wide spread of gated communities is global with different scales, characteristics and contingencies.


Gated communities and vast, privately built and managed “new towns” like these have spread across southeast Asia over the last 20 years as rising levels of inequality have redefined the region’s cities. Vietnam as a whole has seen a dramatic reduction in poverty over the same period – but inequality is growing, and becoming increasingly marked in the country’s expanding urban areas. (Guardian)


Rise in equality is the major drive behind this spread. Check this out rent for a villa in Ciputra housing enclave is 25 times the minimum wage in Vietnam! 25 times!


Beyond Ciputra’s walls, villas painted shades of beige are set amid lush private gardens – with price-tags of as much as £3,000 a month to rent (25 times the minimum wage). A world unto itself, the complex is a land of Greek revival architecture, tennis courts and amenities including a beauty salon and a post office. The United Nations International School moved there in 2004, followed by two other private schools, and a private kindergarten. Under construction still are a mega-shopping mall and a private hospital. (Guardian)


Well take a deep breath, or not! The most disgraceful part of the story of Vietnam’s housing enclaves is the commodification of air!


While security concerns and a fear of urban crime are typically among the motives driving the elite behind walls in cities in South America and sub-Saharan Africa, in Hanoi developments are increasingly being marketed as exclusive enclaves of convenience and clean air, away from the air pollution and traffic congestion of the city. (Guardian)


Traffic in Hanoi, Vietnam         Image Credit: Guardian

But, not everything is smooth, thanks to ordinary folk 🙂

Locals protesting development of a housing enclave Image Credit: Guardian

For the full story check Inside Hanoi’s gated communities

It is All About Commodity Darling!

AirBnB vs Berlin or the Commodification of the Couch!

The nested relationship of daily life and commodity realm is no news perhaps, especially considering what has been happening in last 30- 40 years globally. Name it neoliberalization or else, it is happening right in the middle of our daily life. It may be tearing down the lives of people who are evicted from their family homes or it may be sneaking in your home more hideously, appropriating and commodifying your couch!

Two brilliant research focusing on this issues has been published: AirBNB vs Berlin and The Commodification of the Couch.

AirBNB vs Berlin

Rents are on the rise in Berlin, and the reasons are manifold. Online portals of the so-called “sharing economy”, such as Airbnb, are marketing to tourists and have proven to be a profitable business. But are they contributing to a shortage in affordable housing? This question has sparked a vivid debate and has polarized opinions. But who is right? A look at the data provides valuable insights. (AirBNB vs. Berlin)

The research argues that although AirBNB-like business marketed as part of sharing economy, it contributes the shortage of affordable houses by letting landlords turn the houses to holiday rentals rather than putting them in the market to rent.

Flats on Airbnb are more and more frequently rented on a commercial level since landlords can make higher profits with short term rentals than with regular tenants. Often very little is left of the platform’s original concept, that consists of “sharing” unused spaces with visitors and possibly establishing a (temporary) personal connection with them (like in a “bed an breakfast”). A good indicator for whether flats are commercially rented is the number of flats offered by a given person. Those who offer more than one room or flat are obviously more likely to do so in order to make money. (AirBNB vs. Berlin)

The numbers are striking! According to 0.4 % of all Berlin flats are in AirBNB list! And berlin is not the only city, of course! In different scales, from Bielefeld to Hamburgh, the chart shows how widespread it is.


The Commodification of the Couch: A Dialectical Analysis of Hospitality Exchange Platforms

The second fascinating research is published by Simon Schöpf, “who continues to believe in making the world a better place, one couch at the time”. Simon focuses on and its transformation from a sharing platform to profit-oriented one.

Online hospitality exchange (HospEx) platforms—essentially facilitating the connection between a traveller and a local resident—embody many of the cyber-utopian promises intrinsic to the Web as it started out 25 years ago. This paper investigates upon the antagonistic struggle between the commons and processes of commodification in the light of critical theory of social media for this niche social networking space and introduces two relevant examples. The biggest of those platforms,, changed its organizational orientation from a non-profit, commons-based project towards a for-profit company in 2011—an instance of commodification. (Schopf 2015)

Well, there is not much to say, but perhaps, we should be aware of the powerful expansive nature of commodification and creative destruction of capitalism.

As Stavridis tells us, even the practices of commoning and resistance can be commodified, unless commoning is constantly produced as a process.

The Tragedy of The Commodity

Although humans have long depended on oceans and aquatic ecosystems for sustenance and trade, only recently has human influence on these resources dramatically increased, transforming and undermining oceanic environments throughout the world. Marine ecosystems are in a crisis that is global in scope, rapid in pace, and colossal in scale. In The Tragedy of the Commodity, sociologists Stefano B. Longo, Rebecca Clausen, and Brett Clark explore the role human influence plays in this crisis, highlighting the social and economic forces that are at the heart of this looming ecological problem. (Rutgers University Press)

The book “The Tragedy of The Commodity” starts with the critique of Hardin’s the tragedy of commons.

The classic illustration of the tragedy of the commons used by Hardin involved the dynamic of herders and their livestock. He claimed that each herder will act primarily in his or her own interest by adding additional livestock to common grazing land when it served to increase individual benefits. Therefore, Hardin argued, each herder would attempt to acquire the benefits offered by the commons, while socializing the costs to all. For example, by adding an extra animal to the pasture the herder reaps all the benefit, but pays only a fraction of the environmental costs, such as depletion of the grazing land. Each actor, motivated by individual maximization of benefits, increasingly introduces grazing animals into a finite system of resources, leading to the tragic destruction of the land. With this Hardin concludes “freedom in commons brings ruin to all.” For Hardin, and many others who have adopted this perspective, expanding private property is offered as a leading policy solution for avoiding ecological tragedies. (Counterpunch)

The authors respond this by relating the overexploitation of ecological resources with  the tragedy of the commodity.

In contrast, the tragedy of the commodity approach emphasizes the role of the growth imperative of capitalism and commodification in producing the institutional rules by which nature and, for example, the commons are governed and historically transformed. Ecological systems are never altogether free of social influences. Rather, they are shaped by social conditions including norms, traditions, economic rules, the organization of labor, politico-legal arrangements, etc. The social actions that have emerged with capitalist development are dominated by what Adam Smith called “the propensity to truck, barter, and exchange,” matched with a crude utilitarianism, where individuals follow pure self-interest without social constraint. Unfortunately, these actions are often incorrectly ascribed to innate human behavior. Thus, what might appear to the casual observer to be a system governed by base greed and human instinct is in fact largely directed by the drive for capital accumulation and what Immanuel Wallerstein called the progressive “commodification of everything.” Among other outcomes, the commodification process results in a social metabolic order—socio-ecological interchanges and interrelationships—that produces unsustainable social and ecological consequences. (Counterpunch)

The approach is an answer to today’s level of commodification of nature and the ecological dmise we live in.

For the Counterpunch review of approach see the link here, and for the book check here or the QR code below:

And enjoy the sunshine before it is commodified 🙂

How Much Is Your Neighbourhood Worth?

We pay not for the neighborhood itself, but for the access the neighborhood affords us to other people, as well as jobs and or amenities. (cityLab)

New study exemines the willingness to pay the amount of the paycheck for rent and its relationship with the characteristics of the neighbourhoods and amenities provided in those in US.

Driving to Opportunity: Local Rents, Wages, Commuting, and Sub-Metropolitan Quality of Life by David Albouya and Bert Lueb

The study reveals many important aspects which people are taking into consideration while prefering to live in a neighbourhood.

According to the research, people are willing to pay the most for three things:

People will pay more for better, well-funded schools.
People will pay more to live in less dangerous places.
People will pay for access to more bars and restaurants. (cityLab)

The research provides important clues regarding commodification of urban space and access right to urban spatial infrastructure. Details of the researach can be found here.

However, the study does an audacious move by identifying the “willingness-to-pay” with “quality of life” by calling their index as quality of life index.

We combine the rent, wage, and commuting differentials to estimate average local willingness-to-pay – or, “quality of life” – from Eq. (Albouya and Lueb)

Athough it is very true that the access right to urban infrastructure is a part of the quality of life, it is also very controversial to call the index of willingness-to-pay as the index of quality of life .

(Image Credit: CityLab)

Happy Owners in Istanbul

Mother Earth just opened a real estate agency!

French artist Soazic Guezennec based in Mumbai, opens an interesting real estate agency at Studio-X. The artist designs imaginary real estate architecture using utopian discourses used in real estate ads. Guezennec’s works with their poetic yet tragic images, invite us to question our perception about the city and nature. The project, which advertises imaginary real estate projects appropriated by nature, was shown at Mumbai in 2013 for the first time. Soazic Guezennec’s Happy Owners exhibition will be at Studio-X Istanbul on May 22nd till July 3 th.

Soazic Guezennec turns the contradictory nature of the use of nature in real estate advertisements as a marketing elements in her work of Happy Owners. The artist started the series at Mumbai, and continues with Istanbul.

Artist’s works ridicule the instrumental use of nature in real estate advertisement, and also demonstrates how ridiculous the urban condition has become.

Image Credit:

For more details of the exhibitions:

Happy owners in Mumbai
Happy Owners in Istanbul

NON-SPACE: The Collapse of the City as Commodity


Non-space os a short documentary explaining contemporary commodification of urban space in Istanbul, and in Turkey in general.

Non-space – The Death of the City as Commodity, explores the ways in which AKP’s construction-based economic growth strategy has become a mechanism for destruction. While this economic programme has turned our neighbourhoods into investment tools of foreign and domestic capital, it plunders our cities, forests, water, our living spaces in general, and stamps all workers’ organising as a threat. (Vimeo)

Director: İmre Azem
Producer: Gaye Günay
Editing and Music: Kaan Çuhacı
Animation: Emre Özbay