Psychotic Spaces: Condo Commercials

Psychosis can bluntly be defined as a condition of losing touch with reality.

New condo commercials present truly psychotic spaces, spaces with no connection with reality.

One recent example is the commercial for Redrow development in London. The commercial was pulled after widespread criticism (Telegraph). The scenes from the commercial are remarkable regarding describing the city as a distant reality and the protagonist as a winner (we are not sure what he won, but he says ‘I did this’ at the end).

Another example is the commercial for Quasar Istanbul which is a luxury housing development in Istanbul. The promotional film shows various images, like gardens, jewellery, women posing in weird poses, but we don’t see the houses. That’s a bit odd regarding this is an advertisement to sell houses, or is it? It is a like a thriller/horror movie trailer and a quite a long one. Just to save you, the real deal starts after 00:52.

The two commercials show us examples of psychotic spaces framed in such advertisements: spaces away from reality, distant from everyday life and wrapped with superpowers and some illusions.

Both commercials have a feeling of walking into one’s delusions …

If these are just imaginary thought exercises or thriller movies, it would probably be fine. But, there are tools to reproduce our cities, and not in a very pleasant way. I don’t know you, the reader, but this is not the city I would like to live in.

Maybe, just maybe, it is time to come back to reality.

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.

 

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).

UK Housing Crisis: (Anti)Social Housing Associations’ New Low

UK housing crisis is not news for many living in the UK and also for many working on housing. It is mostly discussed as a problem of deficiency of the quantity of housing: There is not enough number of houses, soo let’s build more and more. However, it is not just quantity, but the quality of housing, especially newly built ones are crumbling as well.

 

According to Guardian investigation, people living in housing projects built by Catalyst, Sanctuary, Notting Hill Housing, Wandle, and the One Housing Group raised that major maintenance issues are not tackled such as damp,  rat infestation, the lifts left broken for a week or so, security failures, and no hot water.

The situation getting worse when hearing more stories from people living in houses built and run by housing associations:

“When we moved in, we turned on the taps in the kitchen sink and water flooded everywhere, including into the flat below us. And the boiler went almost immediately. We’d be without hot water for two, three weeks at a time. At one point, three flats would give each other their kettles so we could run ourselves a bath.” (Guardian)

Orchard Village has been the focus of hundreds of complaints from its residents. These include extensive leaks, damp and mould, staircases that have come away from walls, broken heating systems, inadequate fire-proofing and absent insulation. People are also concerned about alleged high levels of methane and hydrogen sulphide, which some claim may have had a direct impact on their health. (Harris)

Residents have a dossier of problems drawn from more than 50 homes: “holes in roof of landings”, “mould in bedroom”, “balcony door broken”, “cold house”, “lawn dying after no drainage installed”, “no fire break in between properties”. Some annual heating and hot water bills are said to be three times more than people were led to expect. There are also endless claims about treatment of residents by Circle and its contractors: “Waited three years for repair of stairs”; “staff ignore telephone conversations”; “no response to complaints”. (Guardian)

The problems have roots in the public-private characteristics of housing associations which are promoted as a ‘third-way’ solution. The associations are supported by public money, however, act as private developers. Kind of best of both, aren’t they? Well, the result is low quality and unhealthy buildings, nearly non-maintenance, and angry residents.

Note: Guardian is still continuing the investigation on problems in the housing schemes developed by housing associations. If you experience one refer to the link.

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)

 

“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)

Labadie Collection: Hidden Treasures Now Online!

A very timely collection has been released online by University of Michigan, Labadie Collection, reminding the US its resistance history!

We are excited to share with everyone these Labadie Collection posters. Acquired over the past 100 years, they range in topics from anarchism (our strongest collecting area) to civil liberties, anti-colonialism, anti-war/pacifism, feminism, labor, youth and student protest, ecology, Occupy, and more. Due to their format, until now, we have only been able to provide very limited access. Our hope is that they will get more use now that everyone can view them. (UMICH)

Good job UMICH, click here to amaze yourselves 😉

Go Home Human, We Take Over From Here!

We, humans, love greenery and landscape!

We all would love to sit under a nice tree or at a beautiful park, right?

However, somehow, we want these to manicured. We design the landscape, we trim the greenery, we cut them, garden them, we nip them off… We want them to flourish in our garden or parks, but we do not want them to grow other places…

Well, this is what we think. Let me tell you something, they do not care about it at all!

There are some majestic examples of that landscape and greenery take over the things humans built.

But they also are so hideous that I’d rather focus on details.

You know what they say, the devil is in the detail!

Here it is the green is in every crack of the city!

Keep an eye on it!

 

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Beer, wine spirits and this little tree over there

 

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We will rise again!!

 

 

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Let there be dandelions!

 

 

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You can never know where I am coming from!

 

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Almost there!

 

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Iron? Who cares! I will take over this phone box one day!

 

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Granite? No problem!

 

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Hello World!

 

 

Soo look around, you will see more of this sneaky invasion (and at perhaps more weird places).