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)

Wait.. What!? Steampunk-themed Condo!

Well,  I must admit, I love steampunk!

The first thing to say is that this is not steampunk, but a farce Victorian themed selling campaign.

The project is No.15 Renwick, which is located in New York city near Hudson Squareç. The location is defined as the last underdeveloped corner of Manhattan by Observer.

hudson square 01 Hudson Square Rising: Last Corner of Undeveloped Manhattan Starts Rezoning Process Monday

Image Credit: Observer

The project is self-avowed as steampunk to attract rich hipsters to this ’boutique’ condo development.

A new luxury development called 15 Renwick in New York is giving built form to steampunk. That’s right, steampunk: that dark, Victoriana-obsessed cousin of Renaissance festivals and Star Trek conventions is now a theme for condos. I’m sorry to report that it gets worse: Steampunk is the entire pitch for the building. (cityLab)

The condo’s campaign uses the theme to attract residents and buyers by also using the ‘characters’:

Image IGI-USA

I have to say that I am quite curious about the responses to such campaign as well. Especially to steampunk boxer!?

Do these characters make you want to live in such an apartment building? Do you want to be like one of these characters? Does the imaginary life they are presenting attractive?

The sales of the units have even been launched by a costume party. It is a striking example showing how far using theming can go in promoting urban spaces. The campaign packages a themed life for the residents with every detail. Let’s check cityLab’s analysis of one of the visuals the project uses:

Let’s take stock of what this rich hipster’s boutique life entails:

—Tome with quill and ink, for writing one’s paper Tumblr
—Vast cape draped over the chair
—There is definitely an airship out the window
—Not just a carafe of cognac, but an artfully spilled goblet
—That hair tho
—Marble bust on an Isamu Noguchi coffee table
—Are those shields? (cityLab)

Seriously, are those shields?

No further questions..