What makes the city of the future? How do you heal a divided city?
In Radical Cities, Justin McGuirk travels across Latin America in search of the activist architects, maverick politicians and alternative communities already answering these questions. From Brazil to Venezuela, and from Mexico to Argentina, McGuirk discovers the people and ideas shaping the way cities are evolving.
Ever since the mid twentieth century, when the dream of modernist utopia went to Latin America to die, the continent has been a testing ground for exciting new conceptions of the city. An architect in Chile has designed a form of social housing where only half of the house is built, allowing the owners to adapt the rest; Medellín, formerly the world’s murder capital, has been transformed with innovative public architecture; squatters in Caracas have taken over the forty-five-storey Torre David skyscraper; and Rio is on a mission to incorporate its favelas into the rest of the city.
Here, in the most urbanised continent on the planet, extreme cities have bred extreme conditions, from vast housing estates to sprawling slums. But after decades of social and political failure, a new generation has revitalised architecture and urban design in order to address persistent poverty and inequality. Together, these activists, pragmatists and social idealists are performing bold experiments that the rest of the world may learn from.
Radical Cities is a colorful journey through Latin America—a crucible of architectural and urban innovation.
Text and Image via VERSO Books
Recover the Streets arises from the need to interconnect different European projects that work with urban art in their respective cities; the need to offer artists the possibility of interacting with other European creators, of improving their visibility and finding new expression formulas; the need to boost urban art as a regenerator of new city visions; to create participative processes that bring culture, and in this specific case, urban art, closer to population sectors that do not normally participate in cultural events.
Recover the Streets is a collaboration project between five European cities that, using urban art as a tool and common language, purport to interconnect artists and cultural agents from all these cities, promoting the exchange of artistic and social experiences; recovering, in each one of them, a debased space by means of a collaborative process that engages the social agents of the neighbourhoods where the activity takes place, and providing citizens with a new perception of urban art and its ability to activate social and cultural dynamics.
A project that will last for 8 months, which has united a total of six cities from different parts of Europe, where institutions and cultural agents have committed to promoting urban art, thus offering an open and diverse collaboration framework which has already given rise to sporadic collaborations outside the programme, among some of the cultural agents involved:
• Zaragoza (Spain): Sociedad Municipal Zaragoza Cultural
• Besançon (France): Association Juste Ici
• Toulouse (France): Mairie de Toulouse
• Colonia (Germany): Association artmx e.V / Cityleaks Festival
• Zagreb (Croatia): Association Centralna Jedinica
Know more HERE
The discovery of a law governing the growth of cities means that future urban populations can now be forecast in advance. When you live in a city, you can sense its pulse, experience its pace of life and get to know its unique character. It’s almost as if a city is a living, breathing entity in its own right.
That may be little more than the fantastical imaginings of city dwellers who tend to humanise all things inanimate. And yet, there is much demographic evidence to show that cities have their own unique identity, even though they are made up of millions of seemingly independent individuals.
One test of the idea that cities are coherent entities is the ability to predict their future characteristics based on their past behaviour. Text and Image via MIT Technology Review. Continue THERE
IN 1995 GEORGE GILDER, an American writer, declared that “cities are leftover baggage from the industrial era.” Electronic communications would become so easy and universal that people and businesses would have no need to be near one another. Humanity, Mr Gilder thought, was “headed for the death of cities”.
It hasn’t turned out that way. People are still flocking to cities, especially in developing countries. Cisco’s Mr Elfrink reckons that in the next decade 100 cities, mainly in Asia, will reach a population of more than 1m. In rich countries, to be sure, some cities are sad shadows of their old selves (Detroit, New Orleans), but plenty are thriving. In Silicon Valley and the newer tech hubs what Edward Glaeser, a Harvard economist, calls “the urban ability to create collaborative brilliance” is alive and well.
Excerpt from an article written at The Economist. Continue HERE
For decades, we have reached for the skies with bricks and mortar, steel and glass and have literally built places in the clouds. But the only way is not up: a few adventurers are airing out the dark corners and infusing contemporary culture and a new lease of life into forgotten underground spaces.
Every space erased from human memory, boarded and bricked up, and consigned to oblivion by us, hears the resounding echoes of Wim Wender’s words: “In a million years when no one will be around anymore to even remember us faintly, some of these places will. Places have memories. They remember everything. It’s engraved in stone…”
Yet a few souls remember the abandoned, the forgotten, and the buried residuals that contemporary architecture inevitably creates. These visionaries see the potential and beauty – and gradually, such spaces are infused with a new lease of life.
Excerpt of an text written by Gabriel Tamez, mb! by Mercedes-Benz. Continue HERE
“Every room is a new battle. […] Avoid cities if you can. If you can’t, avoid enemy areas. If you can’t do that, avoid entering buildings.”— Israeli officer quoted in US Army urban warfare manual, as reported by Vernon Loeb
Avoid cities if you can. I can’t find the original source for this quote, but it has made its way into both Disarming Iraq and The Resilient City, where I first read it. It certainly is an evocative sound-bite, so I really hope someone actually said it. As P.D. Smith explains in his ‘guidebook for the urban age,’ cities were always designed as war machines. The original meaning of polis was ‘citadel,’ and the very form of early cities was carved out by “the defensive wall,” their “most prominent and visible feature.” He continues,
“Elaborate fortifications turned early cities into military machines – soaring watchtowers, gates protected by symbolic lions and bulls, battlements, walls wide enough for three chariots, ramparts, moats and ditches.”
While modern urban warfare has moved on from the simple symmetries of fighting off the enemy at the gates, today’s city is no less a war machine. Indeed, war has now seeped inwards, splintering the citadel a thousand ways.
Excerpt from a text by Jad Baaklini via The State. Continue HERE
The Grand Domestic Revolution (GDR) is an ongoing ‘living research’ project initiated by Casco – Office for Art, Design and Theory, Utrecht as a multi-faceted exploration of the domestic sphere to imagine new forms of living and working in common.
Inspired by US late nineteenth-century ‘material feminist’ movements that experimented with communal solutions to isolated domestic life and work, GDR involved artists, designers, domestic workers, architects, gardeners, activists and others to collaboratively experiment with and re-articulate the domestic sphere challenging traditional and contemporary divisions of private and public. Now GDR goes on, evolving in different scales and extensions, taken up and transformed in different cities, sites and neighborhoods by those who desire to carry on the GDR from their own home base or by those already engaged with it in their local languages and practices.
Text and Images via The Show Room
While the rest of the world is urbanizing, Latin America is urbanized. The region has four of the world’s 19 megacities (cities with populations over 10 million people) and 78% of all its people currently live in urban areas. Latin America’s concerns over urbanization, therefore, are based on the substantial amount of people currently in cities as opposed to the anticipation of populations to come. For example, of the one billion increase cities will experience by 2025, the United Nations estimates Latin America will only add about 127 million to its population. This is not insignificant for sure, but the slower rate of urbanization does change the nature in which urban planning occurs.
Excerpt of an article by Vanessa Leon, at Urban Times. Continue HERE
Palazzi di Parole is a project by Nicolo Quirico. The works are medium to large size, the size is determined by the structure of the building photographed, which is printed directly to pigment technology, a collage of pages from antique books. The result is a print-rich layers of matter and the result is always different. The books are multilingual, so why are our cities, multiethnic and multicultural, and are selected from those published during the lifetime of the building. The first works are dated 2010, there are pictures of Milan, Como, Lugano, Paris, Marseille, Barcelona, New Delhi … the project is evolving.
Translation via Google Translate.
In the first installment of this series we discussed how data in cities can give visibility to values that were previously neglected or misunderstood. Here we will look at the city of Copenhagen and see how people- focused-data, people-first values have become embedded in the administration and institutionalized in the city over the last 40 years. These, amongst other factors contribute to Copenhagen as one of the most liveable cities in the world (according to The Economist Intelligence Unit, and Monocle Livability indices).
The city of Copenhagen actually has a municipal department specifically for city life. In addition to the typical departments of planning, transportation and parks, the social life of the city, the human dimension of creating the conditions to encourage public life have also been allocated resources and a budget. Beginning already in the 1960s, people-first strategies began to be embedded in the governance of the city, and institutionalized at different levels. It was a movement, critically not of one individual’s political vision but a generation of politicians, planners, and citizens supported in-part, by the collected data to shape their vision by Prof Jan Gehl and Prof Lars Gemzoe. The department now has the ambition that by 2015 80% of Copenhageners will be satisfied with the opportunities in the city to participate in public life.
Text and Images via making cities for people … a blog, run by Gehl Architects, where we share experiences and knowledge and explore creative solutions to making cities places of quality for all people. Continue HERE
Matthew Gandy is an urbanist and academic who writes and teaches about cities, landscapes and nature. He directed the Urban Laboratory at University College London (UCL) from 2005 to 2011 and has been a visiting scholar at Columbia University, Humboldt University, Newcastle University and UCLA. His extensive writing and knowledge of urban landscapes bring together culture, politics, environment and cinematic representations to produce prescient and alluring research.
What do you think are the highlights and limitations of recent media productions about cities and urban change, particularly in the Global South?
Some of the best writers on cities are journalists. Examples are Jonathan Raban’s “Soft City” about London in the early 1970s and Siegfried Kracauer’s vignettes about everyday life in Weimar-era Berlin. In terms of recent art about cities, there are classic examples such as Hans Haacke’s “Manhattan Real Estate Holdings, a Real-Time Social System” (1971), as well as works by Gordon Matta Clark from the same period that remain very influential.
Recent examples of really important representations of cities include cinema: a film that really stands out is Andrea Arnold’s “Fish Tank” (2009). Arnold uses an architectonic eye to explore landscapes of alienation on the edge of London. Another great urban film is Robert Guédiguian’s “La Vie Est Tranquille” (2000) set in Marseille. It reminds me of other “cross-section” narratives such as Robert Altman’s depiction of Los Angeles in “Short Cuts” (1993), where we learn about the city through intersecting story lines and chance encounters. Examples of this genre from the Global South include Alejandro González Iñárritu’s striking use of Mexico City in “Amores Perros” (2000) and Dev Benegal’s Mumbai in “Split Wide Open” (1999).
What aspects are not being explored in the media?
Cost constraints, distribution problems and so on constantly militate against the possibility for more diverse forms of cultural production. We need space to allow new things to be created and experienced across all creative media.
How do these compare to past cultural representations of cities?
There was undoubtedly a very intense period of creativity in the 1970s, but I think creative production comes in waves, particular conjunctions of time and place: New York in the 1970s, Berlin in the 1990s and early 2000s, arguably London in the 1990s.
Excerpt from a conversation with Andrew Wade from Polis. Continue HERE
Image above: Los Angeles River (2003). Source: Matthew Gandy
From the publisher’s description:
In cities around the world, individuals and groups are reclaiming and creating urban sites, temporary spaces and informal gathering places. These ‘insurgent public spaces’ challenge conventional views of how urban areas are defined and used, and how they can transform the city environment. No longer confined to traditional public areas like neighborhood parks and public plazas, these guerrilla spaces express the alternative social and spatial relationships in our changing cities.
With nearly twenty illustrated case studies, this volume shows how instances of insurgent public space occur across the world. Examples range from community gardening in Seattle and Los Angeles, street dancing in Beijing, to the transformation of parking spaces into temporary parks in San Francisco.
Drawing on the experiences and knowledge of individuals extensively engaged in the actual implementation of these spaces, Insurgent Public Space is a unique cross-disciplinary approach to the study of public space use, and how it is utilized in the contemporary, urban world. Appealing to professionals and students in both urban studies and more social courses, Hou has brought together valuable commentaries on an area of urbanism which has, up until now, been largely ignored.
Insurgent Public Space
Speakers: Professor Craig Calhoun, Professor Bruno Latour, Alan Rusbridger, Professor Judy Wajcman, David Adjaye, Professor Geoff Mulgan, Lord Richard Rogers, Polly Toynbee.
This event was recorded on 14 May 2010 in Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building.
In this exciting half-day conference two panels on ‘Public Life and Public Policy’ and ‘Cities and the Public Realm’, discuss these themes in the context of the work of Professor Sennett, the eminent sociologist whose recent books include The Culture of the New Capitalism and The Craftsman.