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

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Singapore: The Land of Condominiums

A Singaporean politician Kenneth Jeyaretnam once said: “If George Orwell and Philip Dick had an illegitimate child of a theme park, then this would be Singapore” (Huffingtonpost). As a politician defending privatisation of public assets, this allegory may have different connotations, but it has a point in terms of high level of control of mediation in daily life.

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Public Housing Estate in Bishan 

Singapore is an interesting city-state with its high-rise housing developments. Most of the population live in housing estates built by the state, and most of them are home-owners. These estates form self-sufficient towns providing services and facilities within their confines. Housing developments in Singapore are famous with successful applications of public housing in term of provision and quality, while being infamous with control over the daily life of the residents through these.

Housing Development Board (HDB) exercises control over every aspect of the system, not only building and selling apartments, but acting as a mortgage lender. The agency can also operate as an arm of the police. According to Phang, the HDB has the power to withhold keys from residents with unpaid parking tickets, and to evict those convicted of more serious offenses. (Miller)

It is not just the practice of HDB, but strict laws control or mediate, everyday life in Singapore; even the chewing gum:

The Economist assesses Singapore, where the PAP has run the show for more than half a century, as a “flawed democracy”. The degree of state power that has enabled such extensive and rapidly executed feats of urban planning has also led to policies that appear to the rest of the world as draconian, such as corporal punishment for acts of vandalism, a ban on the importation of chewing gum, urine detectors installed in elevators, and expression-limiting laws of the kind that put Amos Yee on trial. (Guardian)

But, not all public housing estates are equal. Executive Condominiums are built as a superior form of housing estates developed by the public sector. They are enclosed within a gated area with security and exclusive amenities. They are pretty much like private condos.

Visual from an add for a private condo Sturdee Residences

Glasear, who is working on private cities in US, explicit about his admiration of Singapore case: “Singapore is close to the ideal model of land-use planning in the 21st century” (Guardian).

While being far from in agreement with him, I think, we should ask if we want to live in such an ‘ideal’ world ?

Busted: How Aid Money was Invested in Housing Enclaves and Shopping Centres

In 2014, Guardian revealed that British anti-poverty aid money was spent for gated communities, shopping centres and luxury property in poor countries.

CDC, the little-known investment arm of the British aid programme, has invested more than $260m (£154m) in 44 property and construction companies in Latin America, Africa and Asia.

At least 20 of these are hotels, shopping centres or companies that build or manage gated communities and luxury property, according to Guardian research.

CDC, formerly the Commonwealth Development Corporation, says these investments will create thousands of jobs for poor people in construction and services. But leading British NGOs questioned how supporting upmarket property could be an acceptable use of UK aid money. (Guardian)

Some examples CDC was invested in are taking attention with luxury lifestyles they offer (below):

A glossy brochure for Garden City in Nairobi, which includes 400-plus flats and townhouses, boasts: “From the aquamarine water of the heated swimming pool to the ultra-modern fitted kitchen, solid bamboo flooring and glass balcony balustrades, quality is the defining characteristic of the Garden City Village.”

A brochure for Azuri, a development for the CDC-backed Indian Ocean Real Estate Company, invites would-be residents to “Close your eyes and imagine yourself breathing in the warm Indian ocean breeze, absorbing all that the Mauritian lifestyle has to offer.”

Azuri offers “exquisite, high-quality living” with an expansive oceanfront resort, five-star hotel, yacht club and spa – “the ideal living environment to promote both bodily and spiritual happiness”.

In Nigeria investments also include two Protea hotels – part of a chain recently bought by Marriott International – including one in Lagos at which rooms booked online start at $400 a night.(Guardian)

I wonder what happened since 2014. I don’t think much has changed since the excuse is to create jobs with luxury investment. This also shows the approach to working class people: people who have nothing to do but serve the rich and accept this as a good thing to do. The framing is so obvious and hideous: we create jobs for them with our luxury lifestyles, so they should be grateful for us to live like that! Shame on you!

This is not the only case, though. TOKI-Housing Administration in Turkey-, for example, claim that by constructing luxury housing enclaves for upper-middle income groups, they are able to build affordable housing for the poor. So, the poor should be grateful to TOKI by construction houses for the rich.

Thank you, thank you sir, case closed.

Vietnam’s Housing Enclaves Where Even the Air is Cleaner!

 

Wide spread of gated communities is global with different scales, characteristics and contingencies.

 

Gated communities and vast, privately built and managed “new towns” like these have spread across southeast Asia over the last 20 years as rising levels of inequality have redefined the region’s cities. Vietnam as a whole has seen a dramatic reduction in poverty over the same period – but inequality is growing, and becoming increasingly marked in the country’s expanding urban areas. (Guardian)

 

Rise in equality is the major drive behind this spread. Check this out rent for a villa in Ciputra housing enclave is 25 times the minimum wage in Vietnam! 25 times!

 

Beyond Ciputra’s walls, villas painted shades of beige are set amid lush private gardens – with price-tags of as much as £3,000 a month to rent (25 times the minimum wage). A world unto itself, the complex is a land of Greek revival architecture, tennis courts and amenities including a beauty salon and a post office. The United Nations International School moved there in 2004, followed by two other private schools, and a private kindergarten. Under construction still are a mega-shopping mall and a private hospital. (Guardian)

 

Well take a deep breath, or not! The most disgraceful part of the story of Vietnam’s housing enclaves is the commodification of air!

 

While security concerns and a fear of urban crime are typically among the motives driving the elite behind walls in cities in South America and sub-Saharan Africa, in Hanoi developments are increasingly being marketed as exclusive enclaves of convenience and clean air, away from the air pollution and traffic congestion of the city. (Guardian)

 

Traffic in Hanoi, Vietnam         Image Credit: Guardian

But, not everything is smooth, thanks to ordinary folk 🙂

Locals protesting development of a housing enclave Image Credit: Guardian

For the full story check Inside Hanoi’s gated communities

Souvenir d’un Futur

Memory of a Future  is photography project of Laurent Kronental. The artist documents housing estates built for refugees and migrants after WWII at the peripheries of Paris.

Souvenir d’un Futur is a vibrant tribute to senior citizens stranded in the “Grands Ensembles” of the Paris region. These grand housing estates, erected after the Second World War to house a population of rural refugees and foreign migrants, are peopled with a heterogeneous mix. They are often depicted by the media with images of insecurity and neglect. In sharp contrast with these clichés, and enthralled by their passé modernist appeal, Laurent Kronental has compassionately sought to pay tribute to these urban veterans who have aged there and who may well go down with them. (l’Oeil)

Despite all the critisism of modern architectural landscapes and problems inherited in those. Laurent Kronental tells us a different story:

“There is actually a strength in these people. There are those melancholy glances but at the same time these solid postures. The people I photographed were far from being sad and they were still valiant despite, sometimes, a faraway look,” (The Washington Post)

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Visit Laurent’s website for other amazing photos of this imaginary of future from our shared past.

In-situ Simulacrum or Extreme Forms of Theming in Urban Space

Theming urban space is an issue for decades, it is nothing new in that sense.

However, something about its scale is happening in China: the Clone Cities.

No, it is nothing to do with clone wars!

The copycat city in north-eastern Liaoning province is just the latest example of China’s fondness for replicating Europe’s greatest architectural hits Check the here for galery!

Chinese people can now experience Venice without actually going to Italy after the Northern Chinese city of Dalian built a 4km canal lined with European style buildings.

Venice recreation in Dalian, China

(Image Credit: Guardian Cities)

Welcome to Venice, China: Dalian copies canals, palaces … and gondoliers

Another example is Hallstatt in Guangdong, replica of Australian town.

Replica of the Austrian alpine town Hallstat in Guangdong Province, China

(Image Credit: Guardian Cities)

When it was reported last year that the ­Austrian town had been “secretly cloned”, right down to its statues of angels, some ­residents were outraged. But the mayor, ­Alexander Scheutz, was over the moon. “We are very proud,” he said, as he signed up to a cultural ­exchange with his town’s new twin. It is now clear why: the clone has been a lucrative means of cultural ­promotion, with the number of ­Chinese visitors to the real Hallstatt jumping from 50 to 1,000 per year. For the full story check here!

Or if you would like to see world of wonders in one city without traveling around, check Chinese city of Suzhou, the city of clone landmarks!

Suzhou’s Tower Bridge is not quite a carbon copy of the London original; it has four towers and no raising mechanism.

(Image Credit: Guardian Cities)

Check here for the full story!

From Tower Bridge to Sydney Harbour, welcome to China’s city of clones

As a bonus, you can even find Corbu around!

Ronchamp, Zhengzhou, 2004

A barbecue restaurant in Zhengzhou (Image Credit: Guardian Cities)

Promotional Films of New Towns of Scotland

New Towns (clip) – 1969 film outlining plans to build a better Scotland

Cumbernauld

1) Cumbernauld Hit (clip 1) – Council promotional film meets James Bond movie!

2) Gallimaufrey – A Cumbernauld Poem – A vision of a new town

Perfect poem summarizing modern planning!!

Irvine

1) One Day in Irvine (clip) – The Ayrshire town of Irvine as seen through the eyes of a young Canadian.

Livingston

Very informative two films showing development of the new town starting form selection of the area to construction.

1) Livingston a Town for the Lothians (clip 1) – Promotional film for Livingston new town, its housing, industries and schools

2) Livingston A Town for the Lothians (clip 2) – Promotional film for Livingston new town, its housing, industries and schools