STORIES BEHIND: A Chubby Horse and a Big Fat Cat in Barcelona

Statues are everywhere in cities. Usually, we don’t even notice them. They are at the corner of our favourite cafe, on the shopping streets or in front of train stations that we use every day (at least we used to before the pandemic). But, some statues stand out, and the great city of Barcelona houses two of those!

A chubby horse and a big fat cat

At Barcelona El Prat airport, something unusual greets you since 1992: a chubby horse! No, it is not an odd local phrase for a gate or something. It is an actual chubby horse sculpture you will see just after you landed while trying to figure out where is the shuttle to the city centre. The horse sculpture in the airport, El Caballo, is a popular meeting point for the travellers. Well, how could you miss such an oversized house sculpture, right? So, it makes perfect sense. 

 

The cat sculpture is now in the Raval neighbourhood. However, this is not the first place that it was installed in 1987. Before its current location, it has travelled a lot in Barcelona. Initially, it was installed in Ciutadella Park, then moved to near the Olympic Stadium, then to Blanquerna, then to the Raval neighbourhood in 2003. Such a coincidence, it was the time when Raval had gone under regeneration, and a good piece of art is always a good start for such efforts! Apparently, it suited well in this so-called bohemian part of the city since it has finally settled there (or maybe it will go around again, who knows).

 

gato botero barcelona, gato botero raval, escultura botero barcelona, escultura de gatos, gatos de botero

 

This blogger defines the cat sculpture perfectly:

Its body looks like that of bears. It has a tree trunk of a neck. A tail like an elongated party balloon. And a face… I can never quite work out the face. It’s serene I think. Quizzical. Maybe just a little pissed off.

 

The sculpture also hosted various events itself. Once, its face was covered with a green scarf to support the historic campaign to make abortions legal in Argentina, or with a red one for the right to self-determination of indigenous people. It also sends a clear #StayAtHome message. Not all are politically charged though, here is a video of a crochet artist, Olek, covering the cat sculpture with knitted pieces.

Culture Trip lists the two sculptures among the most eccentric sculptures in Barcelona, that I cannot disagree with. However, the two seem going beyond just being eccentric and became landmarks, meeting points, tourist attractions, and political medium to communicate.

Well-done big ones, we are proud of you!

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)

Çiçek Meselesi*

En son ne zaman bir parkta zaman geçirdiniz? Apartmanın ya da yaşadığınız sitenin bahçesinden bahsetmiyorum. Sahilde yaptığınız yürüyüşlerden de. Kentsel bir parkta kendi başınıza, arkadaşlarınızla ya da ailenizle zaman geçirmekten söz ediyorum. Ne yazık ki, günümüz Türkiye kentlerinde herkesin kullanımına açık park ve yeşil alanlar oldukça kısıtlı, dolayısıyla böyle bir şansımız çok fazla yok. Örneğin, İstanbul’da kamuya açık yeşil alanların ve parkların tüm kentin kapladığı alana oranı sadece yüzde 2’nin biraz üzerinde. World Cities Culture Forum’un yaptığı araştırmaya göre, araştırma konusu olan 40 kent içerisinde İstanbul sonuncu olarak yer alıyor. Bu oran, Londra’da yüzde 30 dolayında, Stockholm’de yüzde 40, New York’ta ise yüzde 25’ten fazla.

Yaşadığımız mahallelerde, yürüme mesafesinde olan, kolayca erişebildiğimiz parkları ve yeşil alanları düşündüğümüzde ise olasılıklar daha da kısıtlı, ve köşe başlarına sıkıştırılmış çocuk parklarından öteye geçemiyor. Oysaki, herkesin parklara ve yeşil alanlara erişebilmesi, bir kentte yaşam kalitesinin en önemli göstergelerinden biridir. Çeşitli araştırmalar parkların ve yeşil alanların insan psikolojisi üzerinde olumlu etkisi olduğu gösteriyor. Bu alanlar, kentlilere sosyalleşme ve ücretsiz spor alanları sunuyor. Buralarda düzenli olarak zaman geçirilmese bile, parkların ve açık yeşil alanların yakınında yaşamanın insanların duygu durumunu olumlu etkilediğini gösteren araştırmalar da mevcut. Pandemi süreci parkların ve açık yeşil alanların öneminin daha iyi anlaşılmasına neden oldu. İngiltere’de yapılan bir araştırma, mahallelerinde parklara ve açık yeşil alanlara erişimi olanların bu süreci daha rahat atlattıklarını gösteriyor. Araştırmalar, bazı kentlilerin kentsel açık yeşil alanlara ve parklara erişemedikleri için, bu alanların benzerlerini sağlayan kapalı sitelere taşınmayı seçtiklerini de gösteriyor. Tabii ki, bu kapalı sitelerin yeşil alanları kentsel park ve yeşil alanların sunduğu sosyalleşme ve eşit erişim olanaklarından çok uzak ve kentsel parkların alternatifi olarak düşünülemez.

Ancak, parklar ve yeşil alanlar sundukları tüm bu avantajlara rağmen kent gündeminde hak ettikleri kadar yer almamakta. Bu konu, otopark yeri ya da trafik sorunu kadar tartışılmıyor, altyapı dendiğinde aklımıza yollar, köprüler, kanalizasyon çalışmaları geliyor. Oysaki, parklar ve yeşil alanlar kentsel altyapının en temel ögeleri ve bunların peyzajı yerel yönetimlerin sunması gereken en temel hizmetlerden biri.

Son günlerde tartışılan dikey bahçe/saksı uygulamasının kaldırılması konusu durumun aslında ne kadar yüzeysel ele alındığını gösterdi. Genelde tartışma dikey bahçe/saksı uygulamasının maliyeti ya da yerine yapılacak olan uygulamanın estetiğinden daha öteye geçememiş durumda. Bunlar tabii ki önemli konular, ancak bunlardan daha öte bir sorunla karşı karşıyayız. Öncelikle, bu tip uygulamalar kentsel yeşil alan içinde değerlendirilemez. Bu ve benzeri enstalasyonlar, kentsel yeşil alan varlığına hiçbir katkısı olmayan, ve daha çok, ‘yeşile boyama’ ya da ‘yeşil yıkama’ olarak adlandırılan uygulamalardır. ‘Yeşile boyama’ (greenwashing) en basit ifadeyle, aslında gerçek durum bu olmamasına rağmen bir uygulamamanın sanki çevreye yararlı ya da duyarlıymış gibi sunulması olarak özetlenebilir. Bunu sıklıkla kentsel tasarım projeleri sunumlarında ve büyük konut projelerinin reklamlarında görüyoruz. Birçok konut kulesinin balkonları adeta bir bahçe gibi sunuluyor. Bazen projelerin ortak alanları ya da çevresi bir ormanı andıran biçimde modelleniyor. Hatta bazı projelerde bu tip uygulamalar dikey orman ya da dikey bahçeler olarak pazarlanıyor. Bazen, daha da ileri gidilerek, bu tip uygulamalar kentlerde karşılaştığımız yeşil alan sorununa ve ekolojik yıkıma yaratıcı bir çözüm gibi de sunuluyor. Gerçekte bakıldığında durum hiç de öyle değil, bu uygulamaların çevreye katkıları ya yok ya da düşük. Uygulama ve bakım maliyetleri de oldukça yüksek.

Tartışılan dikey bahçe/saksı uygulaması da ne yazık ki bu özellikleri barındırıyor. Kent içinde aslında kaçınılması gereken büyük duvarlar yaratılmış ve bunlar dikey bahçe/saksı uygulamalarıyla kapatılmaya çalışılmış. Sonuç olarak karşımıza bir yeşile boyama (greeenwashing) örneği çıkmış. Bu tip bahçe/saksı uygulamalarının kentsel yeşil alanların bir parçası olduğunu söylemek mümkün değil.

Kentlilerin ihtiyacı olan, bu tip yeşil boyama uygulamaları yerine, günlük hayatın içinde etkin olarak kullanabilecekleri ve mahallelerinde kolaylıkla ulaşabilecekleri, halka açık park ve yeşil alanların oluşturulmasıdır. Bu alanların peyzajı ise sıkça gördüğümüz mevsimlik uygulamalardansa, uzun erimli kullanım düşünülerek yapılmalıdır. Yerel yönetimlerin asıl sorumluluğu ve görevi, bu hizmetleri halka ücretsiz ve herkesin erişebileceği biçimde sunmaktır.

*Yazı ilk olarak Gazete Duvar’da yayınlandı (15.10.2020).

Psychotic Spaces: Condo Commercials

Psychosis can bluntly be defined as a condition of losing touch with reality.

New condo commercials present truly psychotic spaces, spaces with no connection with reality.

One recent example is the commercial for Redrow development in London. The commercial was pulled after widespread criticism (Telegraph). The scenes from the commercial are remarkable regarding describing the city as a distant reality and the protagonist as a winner (we are not sure what he won, but he says ‘I did this’ at the end).

Another example is the commercial for Quasar Istanbul which is a luxury housing development in Istanbul. The promotional film shows various images, like gardens, jewellery, women posing in weird poses, but we don’t see the houses. That’s a bit odd regarding this is an advertisement to sell houses, or is it? It is a like a thriller/horror movie trailer and a quite a long one. Just to save you, the real deal starts after 00:52.

The two commercials show us examples of psychotic spaces framed in such advertisements: spaces away from reality, distant from everyday life and wrapped with superpowers and some illusions.

Both commercials have a feeling of walking into one’s delusions …

If these are just imaginary thought exercises or thriller movies, it would probably be fine. But, there are tools to reproduce our cities, and not in a very pleasant way. I don’t know you, the reader, but this is not the city I would like to live in.

Maybe, just maybe, it is time to come back to reality.

All is not Fair in Love and War

Streets are empty, shops are closed and people are stockpiling food and other essentials at home. There are loads of war analogies around. We are at war with an invisible enemy, they say. Some reassure people that we will beat that ‘enemy’. It feels like the end of the world for some since the pasta and toilet roll shelves at the supermarkets are empty. Perhaps watching too many post-apocalyptic movies is not good for anyone.

I am writing this from Britain, where the shelves are indeed empty. Not just for non-perishables that you can stockpile for months, but also the fresh food ones. The funny thing is, today it was announced that, since this storm has started, in three weeks, people have stocked food costing £1 billion. One-billion-pound-food stays at homes in Britain. Not to be touched, not to be eaten. 1 billion pounds.

It seems basic instincts take over. The survival mode is on. It is nasty and funny. We are facing a pandemic. It is a serious thing. The pandemic itself is no joke. But, our response to this calamity is like a joke. A pandemic, by definition, is something that you can not survive by yourself. By definition, it is like a tsunami. The only way to survive a pandemic is to respond it collectively and with solidarity. Even a full-fledged Tory government decided to pay the wages, against every policy they have been imposing and preaching for years and years. But, we keep stockpiling food and toilet paper at home. We keep depriving our most vulnerable of reaching very essentials daily basis. 

When this storm is over, we will all look back. We will look back to how we responded to this, how we acted. Don’t do things that you’d be ashamed of when this is all over. Remember, all is not fair in love and war, and this is neither love nor even war.

 

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)

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”.

Gelibolu, 2018

Gelibolu, 2018

Gelibolu, 2018

Gelibolu, 2018

Lapseki, 2018

Dardanelles, 2018

Gelibolu, 2018

Gelibolu, 2018

Çanakkale, 2018

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Istanbul, Beyoglu, 2019

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Gelibolu, 2019

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Istanbul, Moda, 2019

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Gelibolu, 2019

 

 

 

Inequality is being built into cities: segregated playgrounds are just the start

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Luxury apartments loom over the Paraisópolis Favela in São Paulo, Brazil. Shutterstock.

Bilge Serin, University of Glasgow

Developers in London have come under scrutiny for segregating people who live in social or affordable housing from residents who pay market rates. Prominent cases have included children from social housing being blocked from using a playground in a new development, and “poor doors” providing separate entrances for social housing residents.

Of course, segregation has long been a reality in cities around the world. For example, gated communities have been documented in the US cities since the 1970s, while racially segregated urban areas existed in South Africa under apartheid. Research by myself and other academics has shown that urban spaces which divide and exclude society’s poorer or more vulnerable citizens are still expanding rapidly, even replacing public provision of facilities and services – such as parks and playgrounds – in cities around the world.

Gated developments in Gurgaon, India, have created a patchwork of privatised services; elite developments in Hanoi, Vietnam, offer rich residents cleaner air; and luxury condos in Toronto, Canada, displace local residents in favour of foreign investors. An extreme example is the Eko Atlantic project in Nigeria – a private city being built in Lagos, where the majority of other residents face extreme levels of deprivation and poverty.

A commodity, or a right?

Although these developments come with their own unique context and characteristics, they all have one thing in common: they effectively segregate city dwellers. By providing the sorts of facilities and services which would normally be run by public authorities, but reserving them exclusively for certain residents, such developments threaten the wider public’s access to green spaces, decent housing, playgrounds and even safe sewage systems.

Access to basic services, which was once considered to be the right of all citizens, is at risk of becoming a commodity. Privatisation may start with minor services such as the landscaping or upkeep of neighbourhoods: for example, the maintenance of some new-build estates in the UK are being left to developers in return for a service charge. This might seem insignificant, but it introduces an unregulated cost for the residents.

Privatising the provision of municipal services may be seen by some as a way for wealthier residents to enjoy a better standard of living – as in Hanoi. But in the worst cases, it puts in a paywall in front of fundamental services such as sewage disposal – as happened in Gurgaon. In other words, privatisation may start with insignificant services and expand to more fundamental ones, creating greater segregation and inequality in cities.

A divided city

My own research on branded housing projects in Turkey has highlighted the drastic consequences of the gradual expansion of exclusive services and facilities through segregated developments. These private housing developments – known for their extensive use of branding – have sprung up in Istanbul and other Turkish cities over the past two decades, since the government began to favour a more neoliberal approach.

By 2014, there were more than 800 branded housing projects in Istanbul alone. They vary in scale from a single high-rise building to developments aiming to accommodate more than 20,000 residents. Today, this development type can be seen in every city in Turkey, from small towns to the largest metropolitan areas.

Inequality is being built into cities: segregated playgrounds are just the start

File 20190507 103075 1r3h3r1.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Luxury apartments loom over the Paraisópolis Favela in São Paulo, Brazil.
Shutterstock.

Bilge Serin, University of Glasgow

Developers in London have come under scrutiny for segregating people who live in social or affordable housing from residents who pay market rates. Prominent cases have included children from social housing being blocked from using a playground in a new development, and “poor doors” providing separate entrances for social housing residents.

Of course, segregation has long been a reality in cities around the world. For example, gated communities have been documented in the US cities since the 1970s, while racially segregated urban areas existed in South Africa under apartheid. Research by myself and other academics has shown that urban spaces which divide and exclude society’s poorer or more vulnerable citizens are still expanding rapidly, even replacing public provision of facilities and services – such as parks and playgrounds – in cities around the world.

Gated developments in Gurgaon, India, have created a patchwork of privatised services; elite developments in Hanoi, Vietnam, offer rich residents cleaner air; and luxury condos in Toronto, Canada, displace local residents in favour of foreign investors. An extreme example is the Eko Atlantic project in Nigeria – a private city being built in Lagos, where the majority of other residents face extreme levels of deprivation and poverty.

A commodity, or a right?

Although these developments come with their own unique context and characteristics, they all have one thing in common: they effectively segregate city dwellers. By providing the sorts of facilities and services which would normally be run by public authorities, but reserving them exclusively for certain residents, such developments threaten the wider public’s access to green spaces, decent housing, playgrounds and even safe sewage systems.

Access to basic services, which was once considered to be the right of all citizens, is at risk of becoming a commodity. Privatisation may start with minor services such as the landscaping or upkeep of neighbourhoods: for example, the maintenance of some new-build estates in the UK are being left to developers in return for a service charge. This might seem insignificant, but it introduces an unregulated cost for the residents.

Privatising the provision of municipal services may be seen by some as a way for wealthier residents to enjoy a better standard of living – as in Hanoi. But in the worst cases, it puts in a paywall in front of fundamental services such as sewage disposal – as happened in Gurgaon. In other words, privatisation may start with insignificant services and expand to more fundamental ones, creating greater segregation and inequality in cities.

A divided city

My own research on branded housing projects in Turkey has highlighted the drastic consequences of the gradual expansion of exclusive services and facilities through segregated developments. These private housing developments – known for their extensive use of branding – have sprung up in Istanbul and other Turkish cities over the past two decades, since the government began to favour a more neoliberal approach.

By 2014, there were more than 800 branded housing projects in Istanbul alone. They vary in scale from a single high-rise building to developments aiming to accommodate more than 20,000 residents. Today, this development type can be seen in every city in Turkey, from small towns to the largest metropolitan areas.

The IstMarina towers in Istanbul, Turkey.
Alp Aksoy/Shutterstock.

The branded housing projects are segregated by design, often featuring a single tower or an enclosing cluster of buildings, as well as walls and fences. They provide an extensive array of services and facilities exclusively for their residents, including parks, playgrounds, sports pitches, health clinics and landscaping.

Making the same services and facilities available within each project, effectively prevents interaction between residents and people living outside of their development. What’s more, these projects often exist in neighbourhoods which lack publicly accessible open spaces such as parks and playgrounds.

This is a citywide problem in Istanbul since the amount of publicly accessible green spaces in Istanbul is as low as 2.2% of the total urban area. In London, 33% of the city’s area is made up of parks and gardens open to the public – which shows the severity of the problem in Istanbul.

These branded housing projects do not feature any affordable units or social housing, so there are no opportunities for less privileged city-dwellers to enjoy vital facilities such as green spaces. This has knock-on effects on excluded residents’ mental and physical health, contributing to greater inequality in these respects, too.

Emerging alternatives

To prevent increasing inequality, exclusion and segregation in cities, fundamental urban services must be maintained or improved and kept in public ownership and made accessible for every city-dweller. There are emerging alternatives that show ways to do this and challenge privatisation policies.

For example, in some cities, local governments have “remunicipalised” key services, bringing them back into public ownership. A report by Dutch think-tank the Transnational Institute identified 235 cases where water supplies were remunicipalised across 37 countries between 2000 and 2015. The water remunicipalisation tracker keeps track of successful examples of remunicipalisation cases around the world, as well as ongoing campaigns.

It is vitally important to keep urban services public and reverse subtle forms or privatisation by focusing on delivering a decent standard of living for all residents. Local authorities need to be committed to this goal – but they must also receive adequate funds from local taxes and central governments. Only then, will quality services be available to all people living in cities.

Bilge Serin, Research Associate, University of Glasgow

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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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