Send in the planners! The architects! From Can Dialectics Break Bricks, René Viénet, 1973.
These are my top 12 picks for this weekend’s This is Not a Gateway festival at the Bishopsgate Institute, in no particular order…
Full programme http://thisisnotagateway.squarespace.com/2013-programme/
Olympic Dreams // POST OLYMPICS
Simon Ball, audio Zai Tang
Consisting of over 7500 individually photographed still frames, Olympic Dreams questions the nature of the dominant line surrounding London’s Olympic Park. This line has come to represent a border between the Olympic elite and local residents, who are pushed away from a movement that claims to embody inclusion and community. The film questions these values by revealing the imposing nature of the fence alongside images that constitute the Olympic edge-lands, taking the viewer into a space that is free from the utilitarian connotations of the fence.
Rethinking Acts of Citizenship through Burning Cars and Concrete // INSURRECTIONS, RIOTS AND REVOLUTIONS
Images of young people burning cars in urban peripheries often bring French banlieues in 2005 to mind, when thousands of cars were set on fire during a period of three weeks. However, this trend has become quite common in urban peripheries across Europe. This presentation aims to take burning cars in the peripheries of Gothenburg, Sweden, in the late summer of 2009, as an entry point to rethink the notion of acts of citizenship.
Slavery and the City: An Urban Exploration // FINANCIAL DISTRICTS
Kate Donington, Nick Draper
To what extent was the City of London complicit in the system of slavery? What forms of power – commercial, political, cultural and beyond – did City slave owners wield? How has this shaped the physicality of the City? Drawing on the 1838 Slave Compensation Registers which were created to manage the payment of compensation to slave-owners on the abolition of slavery in the Caribbean, Mauritius and the Cape of Good Hope, researchers from UCL will discuss who benefited financially from slavery, and examine the contemporary legacies of slave-ownership in the City.
Artists Behind the Wall: Regeneration Games in Olympic East London // POST OLYMPICS
Sarah Scarsbrook, Simon Cole (Hackney Tours)
A discussion about urban regeneration, gentrification and the creative economy. How has the artist community in Hackney Wick formed a major part of the Olympic led regeneration in the area? With the knowledge that artist communities actively aid the gentrification of run down areas in cities, should artists take more responsibility over the areas they move into today?
Property Guardianship - A Critical Overview // LEGALITIES OF SPACE
Property guardianship, ‘anti-squatting’ or ‘protection by occupation’, is a growing addition to an increasingly fragmented UK housing sector. The rise in property guardianship (for which one must both pay, and render services) coincides with legal curbs on squatting in the UK. It has been marketed as the ‘acceptable’ form of squatting, and a way of preventing the ‘unacceptable’ type. However, is the main function of property guardianship to preserve the value of private property? Is this about the management of space rather than the provision of secure and democratically-available housing?
Creating Subjects: A Study of a Private City // LEGALITIES OF SPACE
A study of ‘private cities’ in India, where corporate entities take on the role of the State in the arena of urban governance, and subsequently disenfranchise local populations. The discussion will explore the legal processes that were utilised by the State and corporate houses to create private cities; how a private city functions; how do private cities affect the role and status of citizenship witin the larger built environment and; how is the changed ethos of citizenship connected to the changes within the larger political economy of India?
Controlling chaos: formal informality in Berlin // URBAN INDUSTRY
Jana Perkovic, Georg Hubmann
Governments bend rules for big capital everywhere: no news there. But what to make of the support the city of Berlin is showing to micro-entrepreneurs and local initiatives, incorporating ‘temporary uses’ into large redevelopment projects, even orchestrating informal occupation of space? The city has embraced its subculture for the purposes of image-building, and attracting ‘real’ capital. Is this creative resistance or co-opting? A discussion about social movements, the planning framework, and the contradictory policy of city institutions.
Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Bankers But Were Too Angry To Ask // FINANCIAL DISTRICTS
Since 2010 anthropologist Joris Luyendijk has been embedded in London’s three main financial districts. His mission has been to reveal the everyday culture of the ‘world of finance’ in his powerful ‘Banking Blog’ on the Guardian’s website. He invites festival-goers to a critical conversation about the lives, motivations, hopes and fears of those that work in these centres as told to him.
Recording community history, strengthening collective memory. The artist as archivist of grassroots struggles in the post-industrial city // URBAN INDUSTRY
Tayrn Edmonds, Laura Maragoudaki, Julie Ballands (Archive for Change)
What is the importance of grassroots testimonies of urban change in developing critical perspectives on planning and regeneration? What is the importance of collective memory in encouraging future resistance and change within city environments? How is ‘community’ defined by different urban players and what is the affect of this? What are the inherent complexities around issues of representation and interpretation in the artist’s role, and exploring how artist initiatives can be integrated in community infrastructure- how can we really be grassroots?
‘What the eye doesn’t see’: How urban design has impacted identity, community and nationalism in Istanbul // CITY MEANS INEQUALITY
Atakan Guven, Omer Cavusoglu
Turkey continues with a deeply centralised urban planning model. Urban policies are dictated by economic growth, earthquake mitigation and aspirations to become a key figure in the region. Such declarative planning activities have been instigated by figures of political power, who invite financial investment with architectural brand names. Is this the right direction for a city, spoiled with impressive urban geology and obscured socio-cultural memory? What did we get here and why are we witnessing community displacement?
States of Exception in Olympic Cities // POST OLYMPICS
Are mega events such as the Olympic Games and the World Cup ‘Trojan horses’ making use of elite athletes in the pursuit of corpo-government interests? Are these temporary globalised events the spearheads for enduring cultural and legal transformations that go beyond the wildest neo-liberalist ambitions in everyday circumstances? How can citizens of cities that might hold future globalising-mega-events, resist these brazen, dazzling and relentless attempts at denuding them of their rights, land and money?
Re-imagining Urban Addis Ababa // CITY MEANS INEQUALITY
Clara Rivas Alonso
How is the neoliberal model of urban spatial organisation or class cleansing globalized adapting itself to the idiosyncratic features of the localities where it is implemented? In Amharic the word used for development is the same word for control. In Addis Ababa this could also mean the disappearance of public space. Do those implementing this model share the same interest in concealing the democratic potential of public space? A discussion about how neoliberal strategies of urban development are being deployed in this very young city.
Photograph: Chris Ware/Getty Images from the Guardian
In 1934 an artificial beach was created on the shore of the Thames in front of the Tower of London. Its easy to forget when talking about projects like Paris Plages or the London based Reclaim the Beach parties, that the idea of having access to the water for leisure in industrial cities has existed for a long time!
The text below is from the Historica Royal Palaces microsite on the Beach…. (have a look at the very bad photo gallery with excellent photos)
For many years prior the children of the East End had played on the pebbled and rocky foreshore of the Tower of London at low tide. This dangerous practice – indeed, sometimes even fatal – led the Tower Hill Improvement Trust to create a safe beach for the children of the local area.
In its report entitled The Great Goal, the Trust said: ‘Now, on this very spot where, in the Middle Ages the penalty for trespass was also death for man, woman or child, a safe playground for little ones is to be constructed.’
King George V gave his permission for children to ‘have this tidal playground as their own forever’ in a letter read out by Lord Wakefield, President of the Council for Tower Hill Improvement, at the opening of the new beach.
The rocky and pebbled shore was covered with more than 1,500 barge loads of sand, and Lord Wakefield himself had paid for a patrol boat and watchman to keep the children safe as they played on the beach.
Wakefield was referred to as ‘one of the greatest hearts and far seeing minds of our time’ by the Lord Mayor, who also attended the opening, along with other local mayors, the Bishop of London and the Lieutenant of the Tower, representing the Constable of the Tower.
The Times reported that as Lord Wakefield cut a white tape to open the beach ‘the ladder was lowered, to the music of cheerful siren-blasts from ships in the Thames’ and children rushed down to use the beach and enjoy the treat of buns, chocolate and unlimited lemonade at the opening day spread.
The beach proved to be extremely popular. Hundreds of thousands of visitors (some estimates suggest up to half a million) flocked to the beach in its first five years. Considering the limitations this was a huge number. The river’s tide was low enough for people to get on the beach for only a couple of hours a day, and the beach was not open throughout the whole year.
The beach remained open to the public between 1934 and 1971, apart from during the Second World War. Its popularity continued.
The beach was closed in 1971 owing to pollution and the water being deemed unsafe to bathe in. And although much of the sand has washed away, a considerable amount remains. And at low tide it still looks – and smells – like the seaside.
Without much real evidence, admittedly, this kind of thing makes me think of pop-up projects of today and things which have been getting press recently like Spacehive or the High Line and wonder if perhaps there are simpler ways to make improvements to urban life. Perhaps we don’t need to over brand everything or generate catchy names or throw vast amounts of money and projects which are essentially PR.
Maybe there is something to learn from these kind of simple urban improvement projects of the past for how we view the same kind of thing today, and we should remember that public realm projects which seek to improve the environment for city dwellers are not such a new idea.
Thats the final question in What Happens When A By-Pass Is Built a book for kids published in the early 1970s seemingly to help kids understand why by-passes are a good thing. It attempts to give a balanced outlook but seems to come down pretty squarely in “bypasses are the answer”. The book is a delightful cry for the freedom modernism, especially the last few pages, be great to see some of the others in the series especially “A district is reborn”.
Great to find this Colin Ward paper earlier…
In the post-war decades popular mythology held that every acre of Britain was precious in the interests of agriculture. Farmers were free to destroy woodlands and hedges, drain wetlands and pollute rivers and water supplies in the interests of increased production. Now that the bubble of over-production has burst, the same people are subsidised for not growing and for returning habitats to what is seen as nature. This results in golf courses and publicly-financed set-aside.
Unofficial settlements are seen as a threat to wildlife, which is sacrosanct. The planning system is the vehicle that supports four-wheel-drive Range Rovers, but not the local economy, and certainly not those travellers and settlers seeking their own modest place in the sun. These people have bypassed the sacred rights of tenure, but still find their modest aspirations frustrated by the operations of planning legislation. Nobody actually planned such a situation. No professional planner would claim that his or her task was to grind unofficial housing out of existence, and nor would any of the local enforcers of the Building Regulations.
Colin Ward was an anarchist who sadly passed away in 2010, he wrote on many topics including anarchism, urban issues and education.
Happened across this research a few years ago, but didn’t make a note of it. Happily it just popped courtesy of this piece on Strange Maps. The post takes its lead from a lamenting Daily Mail article back in 2007.
The picture above is a hand drawn map from some research conducted for the Rowntree Foundation. Featured in the Guardian in 2008 the map was used to help understand how young people in the UK understand territory
As part of the study, researchers spoke to children across the country and asked them to draw a map of their neighbourhood, marking where they feel safe or afraid, and the boundaries they would or would not cross.
Taking a slightly late look at this article on the Londonist discussing options for various spaces in London, some derelict some not which could be turned into gentrifying examples of NYC’s High Line.
Of course what isn’t being discussed is what are the possibilites for leaving these spaces alone? Perhaps London needs derelict areas in its centre. Following the Olympic example in Hackney Wick, does every “wasteland” need to be tamed as a a high function urban park?
On the south side of Tower Bridge just behind the Mayor’s office and in the shadow of the shard, a “derelict” patch of grass. Next door development has started on another long standing empty plot of land.
I don’t think is a particulraily new concept, but interesting to see it framed via the NYC’s Highline project.
The High Line has become a tourist-clogged catwalk and a catalyst for some of the most rapid gentrification in the city’s history.
The Highline project is something which seems so successful it also seems to win over the usual cynics so its interesting to have it challenged. I am sure there are plenty examples which can be seen in London as well, in similair kind of projects. Perhaps this is all best seen in the “Keep Hackney Crap” fiasco.
Gentrification might be making cities unliveable in the for the majority of people, look at Owen Hatherley’s comment piece in the Guardian this week on socially mixed communities. The article discusses Government plans to remove less affluent residents from what are seen as “better” areas, turning London into perhaps what many see as a very divided Paris. The article also threw up the Red Vienna period which I’d never come across before, interesting to learn that 60% of Vienna is still in some sort of social housing set up.
I dont know who the woman is presenting this program, and you have to try and ignore the accents of everyone who talks during the program if you want to take them seriously but its intersting, with hindsight, to hear people making these kind of criticisms at the time this was produced (late 1960s).
I am till trying to come to grips with what happened in London post-war in terms of development and programs like these are very interesting in terms of critiquing modernist developments much nearer to the time when they were actually taking place.