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)

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)

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

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).

A Questionable Robin Hood Story: Branded Housing Projects and Public-led Commodification of Urban Space

Abstract

Inequalities in urban space have been on the rise since the 1970s with global neoliberal restructuring processes. This rise in inequality fosters segregation in urban space which has become observable through gated enclaves. Housing enclaves became a way of urban space production in many countries. Aligning with this global trend, since the early 2000s, following the 2001 economic crisis, a new version of housing enclaves has been emerging in Turkey- branded housing projects. The projects are produced under certain brands as urban spatial commodities by private developers or public private partnerships, and widely use various types of advertising like any other commodity on the market. The role of state institutions in the production of this commodified and marketed form of housing provision is illustrative of the practices of the neoliberal state. This article[1] discusses branded housing projects in relation to the role of the developing neoliberal state in Turkey, firstly by giving an overview of the neoliberal urbanisation processes which Turkey has been going through; secondly by discussing the main characteristics of the projects; and thirdly by focusing on the role of public institutions in the production of such places, and criticizing the role of revenue-sharing model. The article thus questions the role of the neoliberal state in contemporary commodification of urban space in Turkey.

For full article on Research Turkey, click here

Serin B. (July, 2016), “A Questionable Robin Hood Story: Branded Housing Projects and Public-led Commodification of Urban Space ”, Vol. V, Issue 7, pp.06 – 23, Centre for Policy and Research on Turkey (ResearchTurkey), London, Research Turkey. (http://researchturkey.org/?p=12324)

Şaibeli Bir Robin Hood Hikâyesi: Markalı Konut Projeleri ve Kent Alanlarının Kamu Eliyle Metalaştırılması

Özet

Kentsel alandaki eşitsizlikler 1970’lerde küresel neoliberal yeniden yapılanma sürecinin başlamasından bu yana artagelmiştir. Eşitsizlikteki bu artış etrafı çevrili yaşam alanlarıyla (anklav) birlikte görünür hale gelen kentsel alanın ayrışmasını hızlandırmaktadır. Konut anklavları birçok ülkede kentsel alanın bir üretim yolu haline gelmiştir. Bu küresel trendle birlikte 2000’li yılların başlarından itibaren, özellikle 2001 krizi sonrası Türkiye’de konut anklavlarının yeni bir versiyonu olan ‘markalı konut projeleri’ ortaya çıkmıştır Bu projeler özel firmalar ya da kamu-özel işbirliği ile belli markalar altında geliştirilip piyasadaki diğer ürünler gibi çeşitli pazarlama yöntemlerini kullanmaktadır. Devlet kurumlarının bu metalaştırılan ve pazarlanan konut projelerinin üretimindeki rolü neoliberal devletin uygulamalarını anlama açısından açıklayıcıdır. Bu makale, öncelikle Türkiye’de meydana gelen neoliberal kentleşme sürecinin genel değerlendirmesini yaparak, ikinci olarak projelerin ana özelliklerini tartışarak, son olarak da kamu kurumlarının bu tür projelerin oluşumundaki rolüne odaklanarak ve gelir paylaşımı modelini eleştirerek markalı konut projelerini Türkiye’de neoliberal devletin gelişmesindeki rolü çerçevesinde incelemektedir. Çalışma, böylelikle neoliberal devletin Türkiye’deki kentsel alanın metalaşmasındaki rolünü irdelemektedir.

Research Turkey’de yayınlanan tam metin için tıklayınız

Makaleyi şu şekilde referans vererek kullanabilirsiniz:

Serin B. (Temmuz, 2016), “Şaibeli Bir Robin Hood Hikâyesi: Markalı Konut Projeleri ve Kent Alanlarının Kamu Eliyle Metalaştırılması”, Cilt V, Sayı 7, s.06 – 19, Türkiye Politika ve Araştırma Merkezi (Research Turkey), Londra: Research Turkey (http://researchturkey.org/?p=12324&lang=tr)

The Promised Lands, Media and the Production of Urban Space: The Case of Branded Housing Projects

The talk argues that the mass media, as part of civil society, plays a crucial role in the production of social consent for the ways of production of urban space, and investigates this role by focusing on the media content about branded housing projects.

It is taken place in the scope of Tuesday Talks @ Department of City and Regional Planning, Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey.

 

 

Documentary: Babushkas of Chernobyl (2015) – Babuskas Coming Home

30 years after the Chernobyl disaster, some 100 women fiercely cling to their ancestral homeland inside the radioactive “Exclusion Zone.” While most of their neighbors have long since fled and their husbands have gradually died off, this stubborn sisterhood is hanging on — even, oddly, thriving — while trying to cultivate an existence on toxic earth.

Why do they insist on living on farms that the Ukrainian government and radiation scientists have deemed uninhabitable? How do they manage to get by, isolated, in an abandoned landscape guarded by soldiers, and rife with wild animals? How has the radiation affected them these past 3 decades? (The Babushkas of Chernobyle)

Watch via Al Jazeera Witness

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.

File:1 bishan park panorama 2012.jpg

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 ?

Beauté Brut: Trellick Tower, London

Lost Destination: Trellick Tower

File:TrellickTower2.jpg

 

Whenever space is enclosed a spatial sensation will automatically result for persons who happen to be within it… it is the artist who comprehends the social requirements of his time and is able to integrate the technical potentialities in order to shape the spaces of the future. – Ernö Goldfinger, Architect of Trellick Tower

Image Credits: Steve, Dorothy, Galinsky, Guardian