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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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

Preston Bus Station

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Preston bus station © Alamy

 

 

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

BEAUTÉ BRUT: The Brunswick Centre, London

Brunswick Centre Bloomsbury

The Brunswick Centre – an early experiment in planned mixed-use development of housing with retail and commercial uses – occupies a city block between the Russell and Brunswick Square Gardens, with Coram’s Fields lying to the east. The centre is well served by the nearby Russell Square underground station. (academyofurbanism)

 

Brunswick Centre

The Brunswick Centre ile ilgili görsel sonucu

The site was originally occupied by Georgian townhouses on the estate of the Foundling Hospital. During the mid 1950s this was bought by a private developer whose plan from the outset was to clear the site to make way for two 25-storey tower blocks containing luxury flats and retail. These proposals were resisted by the borough of Camden and the developer was recommended to the consult the renowned post-war architect Leslie Martin. He championed low rise development and maintained that an equal density of development could be achieved on the site with two parallel blocks. At this stage he handed the project to Patrick Hodgkinson to take forward. (academyofurbanism)

Development commenced in 1967 and was finally completed in 1972. However, the original developer went bankrupt during construction and the project was sold to Sir Robert McAlpine construction. The housing element was bound into contractual obligations and completed as per the original design. After the 1964 general election, furnished tenants were given security of tenure, and Camden Council agreed to rehouse in social housing all existing tenants. (academyofurbanism)

 

Brunswick Centre

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The compound appeared in various popular media pieces such as in the movie The Passenger (1975) as Jack Nicholson visiting the centre and even the Finnish group Lodgers wrote a song for the Brunswick Centre. It has been more than a half of a century, it is still alive and kicking!

(Image Credits: e-architect, Guardian, londonist, academyofurbanism, timeoutlondon,