UrbanitAs: The Other City Dwellers aka Urban Animals, Glasgow 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.

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

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Sneaky Privatisation: Pseudo-public Spaces

A Guardian investigation revealed the expansion of pseudo-public spaces in London recently.

Pseudo-public spaces – large squares, parks and thoroughfares that appear to be public but are actually owned and controlled by developers and their private backers – are on the rise in London and many other British cities, as local authorities argue they cannot afford to create or maintain such spaces themselves.

Although they are seemingly accessible to members of the public and have the look and feel of public land, these sites – also known as privately owned public spaces or “Pops” – are not subject to ordinary local authority bylaws but rather governed by restrictions drawn up the landowner and usually enforced by private security companies. (Guardian)

The map demonstrates the locations and distribution of these spaces in London. It lists 46 known pseudo-public spaces in the city. The expansion of these areas is quite widespread within the city boundaries.

This is a critical issue regarding the role of public spaces in socialisation as well as citizen’s right to access to open spaces. These privately-owned spaces are accessed by the discretion of the landowners as well as controlled by the private security staff in some cases, which means that the use of the space and the behaviours within these spaces are also under control by some rules other than laws or common legislations.

It gets interesting when 12 other cities, including Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Leeds and Glasgow, rejected revealing the information about the pseudo-public spaces located ion these cities. This poses a question of the level of expansion of these spaces. It also poses another, and even more critical question regarding the production and perception of public space:

Is pseudo-public space becoming a mainstream way of public space provision in the UK?

 

 

 

The Urban Stories Festival

Today, 54 percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas, a proportion that is expected to increase to 70 percent by 2050. Urbanisation is a fact, making cities worldwide an even more relevant topic to talk about. What does urban journalism look like today and how can we make it function as a tool to address and solve urban issues? (citiesintransion)

The Urban Stories Festival is a great event for urban storytelling and journalism. It offers a discussion platform for urban issues and innovative ways for addressing these issues.

Urban Stories Festival (USF) shares the most important stories the city accommodates. During this four-day festival we look at urban journalism as a tool to address urban issues, provide a stage for innovative city stories and explore how digital developments help create new ways of storytelling. The festival offers workshops, talkshows, documentary screenings and lectures. Dive into the world of (citizen) journalism, press freedom, big data, digital storytelling tools and investigative urban journalism. (Urban Stories Festival)

 

Does Your Street Smell Like Food or Sound Like Nature ?

How do we experience cities, streets, squares?

How they sound? How they smell?

Good City Life creates experience-based maps for the cities, well at least for London, Barcelona, Milan, Rome, Seattle, …  Good City Life team wants to challenge “the corporate rhetoric of the smart cities movement”:

To change the corporate rethoric of the smart cities movement, there is the need to study how people psychologically perceive the urban environment, and to capture that in a quantitative fashion. (Good City Life)

There are two maps available online: Chatty Maps and Smelly Maps

Chatty Maps shows how a street sounds. Covent Garden (London) sounds like human or Kingsway (London) sounds like traffic. It is quite a database for soundscape of a city!

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Smelly Maps is the second amazing map the Good City Life team created. Check St Nicolas Avenue (New York) out. It smells 98% food 🙂 Wow, hell of an experience 🙂 Ouch, the Tower Bridge (London) smells like emissions, not so good 🙂

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Thank you the Good City Life team for creating such amazing maps for us 😉

 

“No Water or Gas, If You Don’t Pay Your Monthly Fee.” Says the Management

 

In my PhD research, I criticised private provision of housing enclaves in Istanbul and argued that this practice gives too much authority in the hands of private management companies and passivate the residents of these areas.

Usually, municipalities deliver urban infrastructure and services, and citizens pay tax in return. In this practice, private management companies are responsible for delivering urban infrastructure including water, sewage and gas networks, landscaping and roadworks within the confines of the projects. In return, the residents have to pay a monthly fee to these companies. The problem is that while municipalities are subject to many controls for their practice, taxation, and spending, these companies are like just any private company operating in the market.

I have come across this recent case, for example. It is very striking. Some families living in a luxury housing enclave were unable to pay the total amount of their fees, but they did pay their bills for water and gas. The private management company’s response was brutal: The water meters of the houses were removed and gas was cut in the middle of January.

The residents took this to the court and get access to water and gas again after having a court order!

In the news article, Cesim Parlak, an expert lawyer on criminal law, argues that expansion of this practice of shared use of water and heating in large housing estates, the estate managements became hegemonic in this practice. According to Parlak, the private management companies acts like car parking mafia. The carpark mafia in Turkey appropriate some places and demand parking fees from the ones who park their cars in those areas, although they have no right to the land they appropriate. So, Parlak says that according to law, estate managements do not have a call for giving or not giving this service to the residents.

Well, apparently, what the management company did was illegal in this case. But, the question is who is controlling what the private management companies are doing in more than 800 branded housing projects in Istanbul? The answer is a big fat no one.

(Image credit: Yeni Projeler)

Istanbul Urban Layers

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Istanbul Urban Database is an excellent work and amazing database for urban researchers and activist alike.

an accessible, interactive mapping platform for historians, architects, city planners and other researchers to examine and contribute to the collective memory of Istanbul. This project is a sustainable platform that blends a wide range of historical data, and is the most comprehensive online archive of Istanbul’s urban history. (Istanbul Urban Database)

It is an ongoing project developed by Nil Tuzcu, a researcher based at MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning.

Istanbul Urban Database currently has 8 categories: base maps, transportation, photos, major roads, spaces of everyday life, housing, master plans, and growth: Base maps include aerial photos, Jacques Pervititch insurance maps which were drawn between 1921 and 1946, and several Ottoman era maps provided by the Harvard Map Collection.  (Istanbul Urban Database)

 A massive thank you to Nil for developing such a platform for urbanist and urban historians.