1 city, 26 maps, a whole lot of Barcelona!

Barcelona is an amazing city in many ways!

It has an interesting history of urban development as well. Museu D’Historia De Barcelona released an interactive map combining 26 maps of the city throughout its history. It overlaps loads of information about urban development starting from 150 AD to 2010.

In 1859, the medieval-era walls that had surrounded Barcelona since the 13th and 14th centuries had already started to come down. In this year, the city approved an expansion plan proposed by Spanish urban planner Ildefons Cerdà, which was hailed as “one of the most revered international examples of modern planning and urban design” by Judith Urbano, an architecture professor at Universitat Internacional de Catalunya. It laid the foundations of modern Barcelona. (CityLab)

Check the website 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.

Meet Gurgaon: A Patch-work Private City without Sewage System

Gurgaon is a city in India, where many private housing enclaves are located and run by private management companies. With no municipal services, the private management companies provide key urban facilities only within the gates of the enclaves.

The practice draws a horrendous picture of the piecemeal private provision of municipal services, replacing sewage system with gigantic septic tanks, dumping sewage to public land, replacing police force with the army of private security, dodgy lost spaces between the housing enclaves…

A patchwork of private services emerges, but only within property lines. “If you’re living inside the development, everything looks great. It looks like you have functional sewage, but those lines are not connected to a main line. They go nowhere.” Instead, the sewage collects in a septic tank at the edge of the property. The building’s owner contracts a tanker truck to ferry the sewage to a dumping ground or river.

Gurgaon’s developers can weather shortages in electricity by using diesel-powered generators … which serve only their own properties. They’ve beefed up the city’s 4,000-strong police force with an army of 35,000 private security guards.  (ideas.ted.com)

Another controversial topic regarding this developments is their relationship with surrounding slum areas.

Sewage trucks will frequently bypass treatment plants and dump their contents on public land, and while it poses a health hazard to nearby slums, public officials don’t have the resources to counter such infractions.(ideas.ted.com)

What we see here is double exploitation of the urban space: on one hand, exclusive private provision of municipal services is hampering public provision; on the other hand, the enclaves expulse their unwanted bits to the surroundings such as dumping their sewage on public land.

All in all, we should ask ourselves, if we want to live in such an unsustainable dystopia before it is too late. Because this is what we are heading towards with a speed of light in this level of the commodification of urban space.

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.

“Highway to Hitler”

Voigtlaender and Voth argue the role of Autobahn in the Nazi regime in their research – Highway to Hitler. The authors produce an interesting analysis on the relationship of road construction and the rise of Hitler:

By analyzing voting records between November 1933 and August 1934 alongside highway patterns, Voigtlaender and Voth found that any opposition to Hitler swung in his favor significantly faster in areas where the Autobahn was being built than elsewhere. With the country still recovering from the Great Depression, Germans might have seen the new roads as a sign the Hitler regime could jumpstart the economy. (cityLab)

According to Voigtlaender, the results shows “strong evidence for changes in voting behavior in one of the most salient examples of infrastructure spending”(cityLab).


(Image Credit: cityLab)

The analysis presents quite a picture of the relationship of consent building for authoritarianism via construction and infrastructure spending. However, the authors also conclude that the positive image of this spending is a constructed illusion.

Why did motorway building reduce opposition to the regime? … …the Autobahn demonstrated the new government’s determination and competence in a convincing fashion; even without direct economic benefits, Germans could plausibly have decided that Autobahn construction marked a welcome change from the perceived ineffectiveness of Weimar governments. This is the aspect that propaganda emphasized the most. Voters may have perceived motorway construction as a sign of “competence”, along the lines of Rogoff (1990), and seeing the work taking place in one’s district may have made it more salient. (Highway to Hitler)

For a contemporary example of for such relationship check Turkey case. Turkey has been going through a rise of an authoritarian regime and construction boom since the early 2000s. Building an extensive road network is one of the main points of the propaganda of AKP governments. Bayraktar’s statement, former Ministry of Urbanism,  below shows the emphasis on the roads and road network and its usage in propaganda.

Erdoğan: İnşaat sektörünün olmadığı ülke bitmiş demektir

(Image credit: BHT)

You can demolish a house, a cemetery for a road. The path of the roads is definite. This road will serve for 1,000 years. Two thousand years. (hurriyetdailynews)

The discourse is all over the speeches of many politicians of ruling party from top to bottom ranks such as this one below:

We would even demolish a mosque to build a road: Turkish PM

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has reaffirmed his government’s determination to go ahead with construction projects that have generated harsh criticism particularly from environmentalists, while accusing protesters blocking the construction of engaging in banditry. (hurriyetdailynews)

The determination of the government to build roads and empty houses of TOKI can be read in relation to the case of Hitler.

Our results suggest that infrastructure spending can indeed create electoral support for a nascent dictatorship – it can win the “hearts and minds” of the populace. (Highway to Hitler)

Run it Down to Tear it Down: America’s Public Housing Stock

The Future of America’s Public Housing Stock: Demolition by Neglect

In D.C., federal funding to renovate or maintain existing affordable housing units has been cut virtually in half.

It’s not just that the federal funding typically allocated to local housing agencies has been steadily declining since 2000 (though it has). And it’s not just that the majority of the nation’s public housing stock has reached a certain age, requiring repairs that go well beyond superficial sprucing (though that’s true, too). What’s threatening the very future of urban public housing in the U.S. is the combination of those two trends with higher-than-ever demand for affordable housing. It’s all coalescing into “a perfect storm” of problems, according to Todman.


Also check Right to the City Alliance Report: We Call These Projects Home

The Compactness/Sprawl index


A very comprehensive work (The U.S. Cities That Sprawled the Most (and Least) Between 2000 and 2010) about sprawl and compactness of cities in the US, worth to have a look:

A new report from Reid Ewing and Shima Hamidi of the University of Utah, lead researchers on the aforementioned rankings, gets at that question. Ewing and Hamidi scored the largest 162 U.S. urbanized areas on the Sprawl Index — or, if you’re feeling optimistic, the Compactness Index — for 2010. (Urbanized areas reflect development better than fixed metro area boundaries do.) Then they applied the index to the same cities in 2000 to show the change over time.


(Image credit: CityLab)

Promotional Films of New Towns of Scotland

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


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!!


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


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