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)

How Utopia Became a Real Estate Leaflet?

When it comes to gated communities, recurrences of similar everyday life images and spatial representations in mass media form a discourse of the future everyday life. It depicts an ideal living environment that aligns neoliberalization with an idealization of private urban services, commodified forms of housing production, enclave living and exclusiveness, as well as the glorification of consumerism. This aligns with neoliberalism’s “pervasive effects on ways of thought to the point where it has become incorporated into the common-sense way many of us interpret, live in, and understand the world” since the 1970s (Harvey, 2007, p. 3).

Understanding the role of this discourse in the imagining and producing of future everyday life in cities is critical for the production of urban space in the future and for the role of utopian thinking. In this respect, a critical investigation of the representation of future everyday life in housing developments would provide some insight on these issues. This particular case study focuses on mass media representations of the branded housing projects developed in Istanbul, which provide some clues.

To read the full short article on Public Seminar, click here.

 

Another Embodiment of Housing Crisis: Co-living Spaces

Helen Lock wrote for CityMetric on recent trend of co-living and its discontents.

Co-living buildings provide small apartments or rooms as well as communal spaces such as a library, restaurant, or co-working space. Freelancers or entrepreneurs can get work done, then sign off and mingle with people doing the same thing in the evening.

But my knowledge of housing is what I’ve learnt from my own expensive, mould-laden, experiences of renting, and I was initially quite taken with the idea. I am, after all, a target demographic for the model: freelance, young, jaded by private renting and unlikely to ever own my home.

Instead of worrying about those concerns, I could embrace being, “mobile” and “experience-led” along with lots of other people in the same situation that is, if I were to put all my trust in the developers I’ve spoken to. “People don’t care about ownership, nowadays,” I’ve been told several times by people, who, by nature of their very profession, own a lot of property. (CityMetric)

The article points out important issues regarding this trens such as its connections with precarious work and housing problems young, urban, professionals are facing.

While there are some positives in the model, such as the social aspect, it’s hard to shake the feeling that these options represent a sticking plaster fix to two converging problems: precarious work and not enough decent, spacious, affordable places to live.

Co-living spaces also benefit, in my opinion, from the current trend of seeing anything associated with words like “start-up” and “tech” as inherently exciting and good – and therefore not requiring much scrutiny. Housing experts say that  building standards in such spaces are often lower than normal. (CityMetric)

It shows a different version of commodification of urban space by packaging various everyday experiences in these establishments as well as providing very limited living spaces with higher costs.

The article provides some insights about these issues, see the article for details here.

 

Documentary: Paris MegaCities ShortDocs Citizen Film Festival

Short Documentaries filmed by Citizens to Show Existing Solutions and Inspire New Initiatives?

Megacities of the world present lots of opportunities, but are also full of challenges.

So we need your help to bring to light, through the lense of your documentary, local inspiring solutions that have been implemented by a person or a community, near your home that have met those challenges head on. Through your story you could potentially change the lives of a friend, a neighbor, a family in another Megacity.

Your short documentary will change the world. (megacities-shortdocs.org)

The World’s Climate in 2100 – An Interactive Map

To illustrate just how hot cities’ future could be and the choices they face, Climate Central created the interactive above in partnership with the World Meteorological Organization. It shows how the average summer high in the future in each of these cities compares to other cities of today. In some cases, the shift puts them in a completely new temperature zone. (climatecentral.org)

The new interactive map illustrates the temperatures cities can expect in 2100 if the world fails to reduce carbon emissions. The graphic also includes temperature changes if “moderate emissions cuts” are enacted. (planetizen)

Click here for the interactive map, search your city and more.

 

 

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.

Imagining the Future Image 3

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.

Commodifying Urban Space: The Clash of Promises and Everyday Life

Cities have been experiencing neoliberal urbanisation processes since the 1970s globally and with a greater pace since the early 2000s. As part of these, housing enclaves –segregated and under-controlled living areas- have been expanding with different versions across the countries. Via this practice, the commodification of urban space has been deepening while also transforming the everyday life of the citizens. The talk focuses on the case of branded housing projects in Istanbul, Turkey as a particular version of housing enclaves and discusses their recent emergence in this locality regarding the projects’ development processes, discursive formation and spatial practices.

The talk was given as part of Open Talk Series of the Space+Place+Society Research Network at Heriot-Watt University (3 May 2017).

…none of us is completely free from the struggle over geography…

Just as none of us is outside or beyond geography, none of us is completely free from the struggle over geography. That struggle is complex and interesting because it is not only about soldiers and cannons but also about ideas, about forms, about images and imaginings. -Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism

 

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Advertisement-free Cities

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

CATS – the Citizens Advertising Takeover Service did this 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:

cat-ads-underground-subway-metro-london-4

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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, or just for feline world domination) instead of serving for more consumption.

Thanks CATS for making a point with our feline friends 🙂