Divided Cities: Old and New

Guardian Cities recently released a documentary series called Divided Cities.

As our world grows more polarised, Divided Cities goes beyond Trump and Brexit to tell the story of five cities that reflect big global divisions in surprising and troubling ways.

The series provides a broader perspective on being divided in contemporary times. While it includes a classic example for a divided city through the case of Nicosia – “the UN-patrolled barricade that cleaves the island of Cyprus into a mostly Greek Cypriot south and Turkish Cypriot north”, it also expands it through the case of Memphis – “One of the worst of the country’s so-called “food deserts” is in Memphis, Tennessee, where many neighbourhoods lack what seems a basic right in richer neighbourhoods – a supermarket.”

Although I agree with the Guardian editors that divisions, segregation and exclusion in our cities are rampant, divided cities is hardly a new concept. Cities have been perhaps divided since they have been first founded. Miletos, Jerico, Ur, … they have all produced and reproduced various divisions, segregations and exclusions within.

For our contemporary cities, being spatially divided is perhaps another embodiment of divisions such as class or race. Although in contemporary cities official racial segregation has not been like the case as it was in South Africa and redlining in the US, it continues in more indirect,  or perhaps insidious, ways. Segregation by class, on the other hand, is normalised, accepted and happening full-fledged.

This normalised way of segregation and exclusion creates everyday discrimination against working classes. It becomes visible incident by incident when it reaches a truly outrageous stage. We have seen this in the case of a segregated playground where children living in social housing were not allowed to use the playground in a common area of residential development in London. Another example was the poor door incident, when the poor door practice – providing separate entrances for ‘market’ and ‘affordable’ housing residents in the same building – hit the headlines, it created such a reaction. However, these incidental reactions are hardly providing solutions for the main problem. Although these outrageous attempts might be taken under control, as it happened in London after the segregated playground incident, overall class-based segregation is normalised and accepted in contemporary cities. Otherwise, it would not be possible to displace hundreds of social housing residents to build more condos and so-called luxury housing developments in cities like London and Manchester.

Perhaps the solution lays behind to challenge the common-sense of our times that for the many it is good enough to live in good enough conditions and places, while the few are entitled to live in privileged places.

(Image Credit: The Guardian | Matt from London/Flickr)

STORIES BEHIND: The Kelpies and a Tribute to Working Animals

The Kelpies are unique sculptures erected in Helix Park Scotland, and this is their story.

So what are kelpies?

A kelpie is a mythical creature in Scottish folklore. Kelpies are aquatic shape-shifting creatures found in lochs, waterways and streams.  These are malevolent creatures that trick and drag people, especially children, into the water, and drown them.

They are mostly described as horses, and sometimes as women. Well, there is an obvious sexism here, describing evil creatures as women apparently.

It is quite likely that the very existence of the legend of Lochness Monster is actually rooted in this folklore of water spirits.

But why to erect these sculptures?

Is it to re-tell the legend of kelpie? Is it to pass this legend to younger generations?

Well, actually, although the name of the installation was clearly inspired by the water horse legend and it was built as a horse-head by the water, the aim of the artist was different than these.

The sculptor who designed the Kelpies, Andy Scott, explains that it is more about “the social history of horses” (check the video below).  Perhaps this angle is even more interesting than a mythical creature per se. What would he mean by the social history of horses?

Horse-power was an important aspect of industrialisation of the country. The canals were like the highways of the times of the industrial revolution. These were the most advanced and convenient way of transportation of the time and horses played a huge part in this. Horses were used to draw narrowboats, also called canal barges, along the canals. Horse-drawn canal boats were used up until their replacement with the boats with steam engines. So, actually, the transportation of the goods via canals was realised by using horses.

A horse-drawn boat around 1900 (Image Credit: canalrivertrust.co.uk)

In fact, the Kelpies aimed to commemorate the horse-powered heritage of Scotland, and Andy defines this as “an interesting celebration of the legacy of the horses” in this country.

Of course, this significant public art installation also becomes a tourist attraction, and even special tours from Glasgow are operated for visiting the Helix park where the sculptures are located.

So, now you know, from the mythical water horses to working horses of industrial times, the Kelpies mark these majestic animals’ legacy, and tell their stories to future generations.

(Image Credits: https://www.thehelix.co.uk/ https://britainexplorer.com/listing/the-kelpies/ Trixta Photography)

UrbanitAs: Urban Animals as Other City-dwellers, Turkey Edition, Updated

UrbanitAnimals. We live side by side. We call them pests, vermins, #mprracoon, pets, …

As a common human behaviour, we exterminate the ones we afraid of, and do everything to keep the ones we like around. The only thing we cannot do is to accept them as city-dwellers, just like us humans.

Here I present you UrbanitAs: The Other City Dwellers aka Urban Animals. This is a photo series formed by the photos I took at different times and in several cities. I believe we are too late to acknowledge that we are just another species dwelling here on this planet. But, perhaps realising that we live side by side with a bunch of others even in the most human-made environment (aka cities) may change our perspective.

This edition is dedicated to UrbanitAs living in Turkey, “my lonely and beautiful country”.

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It is pop warfare! #Susamam

“The revolution will not be televised” is a great song by Gil Scott-Heron. It questions the popular culture and its hegemonic form of everyday life and lifestyle. It urges people to step out of the bombardment of mass media icons, while portraying a picture of how spectacle unfolds in the 1970s.

Guy Debord published Society of the Spectacle at the time of the song. The spectacle as Debord puts bluntly is not “a collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by images”. Both the song and the book are products of an unprecedented mass media explosion in the 1970s.

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Check Hyperallergic for an illustrated guide for Society of Spectacle

Despite how hegemonic it sounds, popular culture has a weak spot or a soft belly. Ta daa, counter-hegemonic art and everyday life! Although it has a subtle and invasive nature, the pop culture is powerful as long as we let it appropriate everyday life and culture.

It is discursive warfare! And yesterday, in the middle of the night, we won a battle in it.

A group of rappers dropped a song in Turkey, which is much more powerful than any article written on what has been happening. The 15-minute song, Susamam (I can’t stay silent), is a summary of social issues, from environmental problems to domestic violence. Beyond portraying what has been happening in the country for some time, it is an outcry screaming “enough is enough”.

Within a day, it has reached out so many people in Turkey and abroad. The coverage is expanding as you read these sentences, with over a million viewings on Youtube only.

The song itself means many things. It is a protest against injustice and cruelty. It is self-criticism of a generation raised (and accused) of being apolitical. It is a counter-hegemonic move. It is an in-your-face act that no one can dare to ignore.

All in all, it shows that Turkey is a diverse country with strong embedded opposition and the future is not as bleak as it portrayed in many superficial analyses.

Tenements Talking – A Walking Workshop on Tenements’ Change over a Hundred Years

Tenements Talking, a walking workshop on Glasgow tenements’ change over the years, invites you to walk with us among the tenements and listen to their tumultuous stories.

During the workshop, we will walk among the tenements as living monuments of the change of Glasgow’s urban scene within the last century. We will discuss tenements’ stories starting from their construction and moving to the rent strikes which took place in Glasgow tenement neighbourhoods and spread over the UK. We will also discuss tenements’ adaptation to modern life and technology over the years.

The workshop will be active discussion platform rather than a tour.

We will meet in front of Hillhead Subway Station and go to nearby tenement neighbourhood where the workshop will take place.

Tenements Talking is part of Architecture Fringe Festival.

Please register via eventbrite.

 

UrbanitAs: Urban Animals as Other City-dwellers, Glasgow Edition (Updated)

UrbanitAnimals. We live side by side. We call them pests, vermins, #mprracoon, pets, …

As a common human behaviour, we exterminate the ones we afraid of, and do everything to keep the ones we like around. The only thing we cannot do is to accept them as city-dwellers, just like us humans.

We are probably too late to acknowledge that we are just another species dwelling here on this planet. But, perhaps realising that we live side by side with a bunch of others, even in the most human-made environment (aka cities), may change our perspective.

This edition is dedicated to UrbanitAs living in the mighty city of Glasgow, and will be updated due course.

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UrbanitAs: Urban Animals as Other City-dwellers, Sweden Edition

UrbanitAnimals. We live side by side. We call them pests, vermins, #mprracoon, pets, …

As a common human behaviour, we exterminate the ones we afraid of, and do everything for keeping the ones we like around. The only thing we cannot do is to accept them as city-dwellers, just like us humans.

Here I present you UrbanitAs: The Other City Dwellers aka Urban Animals. This is a photo series formed by the photos I took at different times and in several cities.

I believe we are too late to acknowledge that we are just another species dwelling here on this planet. But, perhaps looking around while strolling on the streets and realising that we are already living with a bunch of others side by side even in the most human-made environment (aka cities) may change our perspective.

I was in Sweden for a conference and visited Uppsala and Stockholm. This edition is dedicated to UrbanitAs living in (and mostly flying over ) these two cities of the North.

 

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BEAUTÉ BRUT: Preston Bus Station

Completed in 1969 by Keith Ingham and Charles Wilson, a pair of architects working for British firm Building Design Partnership (now known as BDP), the 170-metre-long structure became the largest bus station in Europe and a poster child for the Brutalist style.

The colossal scale of the structure – it boasts 40 gates for double-decker buses on both its east and west sides – is seen as both the building’s greatest feature and, by some, its failing. It faced demolition in 2013, following reports that a much-needed renovation could cost as much as £23 million due to the size of the project. But its popularity amongst both local residents and architects led to a heritage listing that blocked any future redevelopment of the site. (Dezeen)

Now, as its renovation is completed, it’s plain that the bus station deserves to stand alongside the other robust civic masonry that Preston, like many industrial cities, boasts: the neo-Greek Harris Museum and Art Gallery; the Edwardian baroque Sessions House. (Guardian)

Preston Bus Station by Building Design Partnership

Preston Bus Station by Building Design Partnership

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Preston bus station © Alamy

 

 

Image Credits: Wikipedia, Lancashire Council, 20th Century Architecture, Dezeen, Tom Clarke, theplanner

London Housing Density Map

A great map released by Emu Analytics showing housing density in London!

The map also consists of various layers to overlay such as tube lines and stations, non-residential building heights and boroughs.

The map provides valuable şnfo for researcher, activist and alike to understand severe housing issues in London. Click here or below to check it out.