BEAUTÉ BRUT: Preston Bus Station

Completed in 1969 by Keith Ingham and Charles Wilson, a pair of architects working for British firm Building Design Partnership (now known as BDP), the 170-metre-long structure became the largest bus station in Europe and a poster child for the Brutalist style.

The colossal scale of the structure – it boasts 40 gates for double-decker buses on both its east and west sides – is seen as both the building’s greatest feature and, by some, its failing. It faced demolition in 2013, following reports that a much-needed renovation could cost as much as £23 million due to the size of the project. But its popularity amongst both local residents and architects led to a heritage listing that blocked any future redevelopment of the site. (Dezeen)

Now, as its renovation is completed, it’s plain that the bus station deserves to stand alongside the other robust civic masonry that Preston, like many industrial cities, boasts: the neo-Greek Harris Museum and Art Gallery; the Edwardian baroque Sessions House. (Guardian)

Preston Bus Station by Building Design Partnership

Preston Bus Station by Building Design Partnership

Preston Bus Station

Image result for Preston bus station

Preston bus station © Alamy

 

 

Image Credits: Wikipedia, Lancashire Council, 20th Century Architecture, Dezeen, Tom Clarke, theplanner

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)

 

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)

High Rise (2016) – Ever wanted something more?

Ben Wheatley shot a movie about my thesis 😀 Can’t wait to see 🙂

The movie is based on J.G. Ballard’s novel written in the 1970s. However, considering the housing situation, condo developments, branded housing projects, housing enclaves, and various forms of exclusionary housing, it is very much about contemporary urban issues.

High-Rise is a 2015 British science fiction action thriller film directed by Ben Wheatley, starring Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, Luke Evans, Elisabeth Moss, James Purefoy and Keeley Hawes. The screenplay by Amy Jump is based on the 1975 novel of the same name by J.G. Ballard. It was produced by Jeremy Thomas through his production company Recorded Picture Company.

In September 2015, the film received its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, and its European premiere at the 63rd San Sebastián Film Festival. The film is scheduled to be released in the United Kingdom on 18 March 2016 by StudioCanal.

Check amazing trailers out! I absolutely love that they shot the first trailer as a housing project advertisement.

 

What a Bloody Screw-up: Venice Syndrome

 

Venice Syndrome brilliantly tells the story of a city turning to be a museum and loosing its soul by loosing its citizens.

 

What a Bloody Screw-up: Venice Syndrome

 

Director: Andreas Pichler
Release: 2012 (imdb)

From the synopsis:

Twenty million foreigners visited the city last year. That’s an average of 60,000 day. And this year it will be more still. By comparison, there are only 58,000 inhabitants, the same amount as they were after the Great Plague of 1438. And next year it will be fewer still.
For the city is becoming uninhabitable. Venice’s own urban life has almost collapsed; it scarcely still exists.

The film shows what remains of Venetian life: a subculture of tourist service industries; a port for monstrous cruisers which is waiting to be expanded; Venetians who are moving to the mainland as there are no longer affordable apartments to be found; an aged noblewoman who treats the municipal council with scorn; a realtor who is considering abandoning the sinking ship.

A Requiem for a still grand city.
An illustration of how common property becomes the prey of few.
An elegy to the last Venetians, their humour and their hearts. (venicesyndrome.com)

 

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

Video

Psychotic Spaces: Condo Commercials

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

If we look at new condo commercials closely, they present truly psychotic spaces, spaces with no connection with reality.

One recent example is Redrow Condo commercial from London (below). The commercial was pulled after widespread criticism (Telegraph).

Another example is Quasar Istanbul commercial. We see everything in the promotional film, but the houses themselves. The thriller/horror movie trailer and a long one. The real deal starts after 00:52.

The two commercials show us examples of psychotic spaces framed in such commercials: spaces away from reality, wrapped with superpowers and unreal scenes.

Both make people feel that they are walking in delusions of a person…

Maybe it is time to come back to reality.