Archive for November, 2011

November 30, 2011

train market

November 30, 2011

Yards are evil

November 29, 2011

City Project- Lia Soorenian

My project will be analyzing the physical and cultural affect of lawns. I will be looking at the environmental harm that is done by maintaining each individual lawn. Some examples include the use of pesticides leading to eutrophication in lakes and  a waste of space. The culture affects include understanding the American Dream through a consumerist perspective and changing our view of what is effective. Lawns then become a symbol for a consumer nation that refuses to see the consequences, such as the waste and environmental damages, to their actions. Plus, there is the notion of the sublime and what we consider the “natural world” and how that affects our thinking of vegetation in our living environment.

Also, I will be comparing the lawns to porches and the the difference between the city and the country. This includes the development of suburbs and the beginning of red lining. I will be covering suburbs in New York City and Los Angeles.

After the background of lawns from an environmental and urban approach, I will be showing the results of my research about alternatives to lawns. For example, I will be discussing the benefits of community gardens, wheat growth, and other uses for the space that is commonly used as lawns. Overall, I am arguing the several types of harm that lawns cause and that we can come up with  solutions to better our current way of thinking.

November 28, 2011

“socio-natures” / urban foraging

November 28, 2011

Urban Nature

Seurat, “Sunday on la Grand Jatte” 1884

Frederick Olmstead’s Central Park

Anne Whiston Spirn, p. 111

November 28, 2011

Urban disasters — New Orleans

November 28, 2011

Urban Environmental Justice— Bronx, NY

November 28, 2011

The Economic Politics of Safety vs. Public Space – Jess Lambert

A Red Light District doesn’t only attract people looking for sex, but also tends to bring in drugs and violence as a result of the lawlessness that already comes with prostitution and having to run businesses behind closed doors. As a result, most Red Light Districts don’t act as a celebration of sexuality, but instead have a negative stereotype that is multiplied by the drugs, violence and other illegalities, to the point where it becomes a social anathema. As we have discussed in class, the hours of the day affect our idea of safety greatly, and such a district, which operates fully at night – would threaten the perceived safety of the surrounding neighborhoods. As Solnit commented on in Walking After Midnight, female writer Sarah Schulman ‘explores the charms of East Side Manhattan in the 1980’s…”[to] walk the streets for hours with nowhere to go but where she ended up”. Solnit also capitalizes on the dangers for women walking alone, especially in urban areas. Although today dangers still exist, the ability for women to have that freedom is not taken for granted. However, in the case of residential areas near such districts that attract dangerous types, it serves to limit that freedom to walk around in your own neighborhood, and the freedom to live without ever present fear for safety.

           Specifically, my project focuses on the abolishment of the Times Square Red Light District, and how it affected the wealth in neighboring communities. Think of it this way: where you live is judged according to many factors, including safety and desirability. In the ratings scale, the higher rated, generally the higher property value. The higher the property value, the most desirable and expensive it will be, and the wealthier the residents. Therefore, with the ‘cleaning up’ of the Red Light District, the Upper East Side, and neighboring communities became more desirable and safe, inviting higher property values and contributing to the predominance of wealth in those areas. With the Red Light District in place, I can guarantee due to safety and overall social distaste compounded due not only to sexuality and lewdness, but mostly to the illegality of certain attracted cultures, that the area would be less desirable, and reserved for people who can only afford to live in areas listed as ‘bad neighborhoods’.

My project intends to deal with not only legality, sexuality, safety, gender, space, wealth, etc. – but is also focusing on how these decisions on spaces and use of public space have deeply impacted the city as we know it today.

November 28, 2011

Crafting the City: Le Corbusier’s Vision in Songdo IBD

My research is in city branding and marketing, and the effects of globalization breeding light into the idea of city as a product.  I decided and finally chose a new city that I want to use as my case study.  I chose to deviate from my initial plan, (1) because handful of like-research have already been done on the previous cities I’ve mentioned (Athens, Dubai, etc.), and (2) because I wanted to pick a city that better fit the idea of a “product city.”  So the new “city” I chose is Songdo International Business District in South Korea, which oddly enough is not a city yet.  It already has everything a city can ask for, except for the physical manifestation of it.  It’s been designed and fabricated from scratch, and the entire city is currently “under construction.”  (More information about Songdo IBD can be found here, or my paper in the near future 🙂 ).  Of course, when I first read about this development, I thought of Le Corbusier.

 

“Cities aren’t created by any one specialist or expert.”
— Excerpt from the description of the film, Urbanized by Gary Hustwit

I’ve noted on the blog earlier this semester on the quote above: what would Corbusier think of such statement?  As Jon commented, and as anyone who is familiar with Corbusier’s work would agree, he would probably hostilely disagree.  However, Songdo IBD on the other hand bears very much of the vision held by Corbusier, if not taking it another step.  Everything about Songdo is a fabrication.  From the land it (will) stand on, the infrastructure, the architecture, and even the people: it is designed on a man-made landscape with buildings and roads designed from a clean-slate for the international citizen.  For this project that Corbusier would have killed to do, a New York based architecture firm, Kohn Pedersen Fox, took on the job of coming up with the master plan for Songdo IBD.  In the process, Songdo is being shamelessly branded, marketed, and advertised, taking what have been a figurative idea of a “city as a product,” and making it literal.  We’ve moved from branding pre-existing cities for the tourist market, to crafting a city for the international-citizen market.  Furthermore, if college campuses work as intellectual capitals of the global nation, brining in different perspectives from all around the world for a more comprehensive discussion, Songdo proposes to be the same, but as an economic capital of the global market.

My Take on Songdo IBD

During my research, I’ve found that most discussions surrounding Songdo City is that of a positive one, praising its innovative and sustainable practice.  However, I’m taking a rather negative stance toward such development, along with Nicolas Lemann of the New Yorker, in asking: Are we thinking too much about the future that we’re leaving behind the present, and the past?

 

— What’s more important?

I plan on discussing the lost heritage of the nation and a skewed sense of sustainability bred by Songdo development.  For one, a modern city has taken its toll and breached far beyond the meaning of a city, to the point where a city is thought of as a place not made by the people but simply composed of.  The de-humanization of cities and the cultural heritage that follows is something to be thought of in light of these prefabricated cities.  On the other, the sustainability as we speak of today is a selfish mask that works to save our own asses from the Day After Tomorrow and neglects the immediacy of our internal Crash.  Sustainable practice today is a privilege, and it is not a choice for some, mainly lower-class, citizens.  I want to explore how a “sustainably-made city” may be different from a “city of sustainable practice” and the affects of each to the citizens of a city.

November 28, 2011

Kathy Garzon, From Lagos to Rio. Slum Control

Favelas in Rio represent the state of this country: marginality, inequality, discrimination. Favelas have just recently been put in the map by Brazil, as its government has always tried to make them invisible. However, how cans a government makes these settlements invisible to the public? Many of the favelas in Rio are located in the hillsides; thus, they are distinguished in the midst of the resorts and wealthy neighborhoods.  We have read in class, how slums and favelas are more an area of commerce and mobility, where the people are acquiring money to survive. The issue lays in the government negligence to this community and the members are left in their own. As the members of the favelas have not institutions and help from the state, the development of informal economy starts. Matthew Gandy explains how the informal economy developed in Lagos due to “micro-trading networks” (p 46), which creates rivalries over territories, and violence. The ones in control created the gangs, and as Gandy said, “[this criminal network] seek to exploit the vulnerability [of the community].” This problem of Gangs are also seen in the favelas in Rio. I am interesting in researching how the favelas are rule by the gangs and for many in the community is how they gained a lot of day-to-day resources, as this gangs are seen as the only alternative to gained protection and power.

November 28, 2011

Catal Huyuk ~ Chad Rosenbloom

For my project I will be exploring the extent to which ecologically sustainable urban communities have existed in the past.  One of the goals of my research is to gain a better understanding of the relationship between spatial organization and cultural norms.  I ask the question: is there a connection between decentralized forms of social organization and an ecological sensibility?  I will examine several different case studies throughout history, the most interesting of which I think is the preindustrial Anatolian settlement of Catal Huyuk (located in modern day Turkey).

In class we have spent a great deal of time looking at various civic spaces from contemporary and historical perspectives, whether Paris in the nineteenth century or the West African megalopolis of Lagos today.  Through this examination we have extracted meaningful insights into the broader structural factors and social arrangements that produce certain types of urban experiences.  Based on my research thus far, the settlement of Catal Huyuk represents something profoundly unique in the history of civic life: a large permanent settlement of “citified” hunter-gatherers.  This runs contrary to the view of Neolithic societies as being driven purely by necessity and struggle; Catal Huyuk was a preindustrial civic community with a lively and diverse cultural life.  It was the universally cherished connection to the Mother Goddess that gave the urban experience meaning for the people of Catal Huyuk.  I am interested in how this case study complicates modernist notions of progress.  If a stable and vibrant culture such as Catal Huyuk existed thousands of years ago with such strong ties to nature and an intimate sense of community, shouldn’t questions be raised regarding the ethical and practical legitimacy of the current system of production and the social relations it has produced?

November 28, 2011

Effect of the Suburb on Philadelphia – Grace Diliberto

In researching the process of gentrification in Philadelphia, the immense effect that the development and popularization of the suburb in the 19th century had on the city has become clear. While this issue has more of an effect on Philadelphia pre-gentrification, it is still instrumental in understanding the process of urban renewal that followed this urban decline.

In class we have read and discussed the development of the suburb and how it came about as a result of the ideal becoming an escape from the city through finding refuge in nature. Being outside of the city, in the ‘country’ came to be viewed as the ultimate freedom and escape. This development was, however, greatly propelled by the government as well with the Federal Highway Act which contributed to a rise in automobile transit and, therefore, allowed for more sprawl-like living (a.k.a. suburbs), a push for home ownership through the use of mortgages, and creation of standards required to loan eligibility. These standards required houses to be detached, set back at least 30 feet from the street, single-use, and preferably new.

The rise of the suburb resulted in a significant exodus of people from cities all across the country. Philadelphia did not bear the brunt of this migration well. Starting after World War II, Philadelphia began to transform into a dark and blighted city in social and economic decline as city residents moved out to the suburbs in increasing numbers. Aided by the rise of the car, people desired more space, greenery, and privacy from the street and public life. Additionally, the availability of the car made commuting much easier. Often people would commute from the suburbs, thus leaving the city deserted after the typical work day. With the city turning into a ghost town after the work day, many stores and businesses began to suffer as well. Philadelphia fell into a pattern of population decline that has only this year been halted.

November 28, 2011

Re-thinking the Public in Public Spaces

My project has changed a bit from my initial focus on the governance of urban public spaces. My main focus is now a critique of the urban studies discourse surrounding public space, which imposes a range of functions and benefits onto public spaces which I believe to be exclusionary. Additionally, I am critiquing of public space as referential to a single public. As we have talked about in class, public spaces are rarely truly public in that they do not cater to entire populations, but rather privilege normative groups over minorities. Why does this always seem to be the case? Also, if public spaces are exclusionary more often than not, why is there so much literature lamenting their destruction in the name of private spaces? I know that the privatization of public spaces can lead to even greater exclusion than state-controlled public spaces are capable of fostering, but at a certain point it seems like we urbanists are all just voting for Obama so that Mitt Romney won’t become president, if that makes any sense. What I mean essentially is that we are simultaneously selling ourselves short and distracting ourselves from structural and historical marginalizations by defending public spaces as we now know them.

I also want to look at efforts to revitalize neighborhoods through changing the physical landscape (i.e. adding a park, creating a bike lane) and how they too are shaped by an exclusionary idea of public space. For example, we can see through Times Square’s transformation in the past 30 years that a certain public was privileged over another, and that through a reconfiguration of the physical space and governance tactics, a “blighted” neighborhood turned into a rather vanilla neighborhood. How do our ideas of the public as a singular concept tend to reinforce the unfortunate blighted-gentrified binary that so many (NYC) neighborhoods seem bound to? I’m not sure yet, but I smell a relationship!

November 28, 2011

The local homestead in the global city

Saskia Sassen writes, “there is no such thing as a single global city.”  Urban homesteading echos this statement by maintaining an intense focus on the local.  This focus is achieved by adapting to one’s surroundings by using as many resources in the immediate environment as possible.  Urban homesteaders focus on consuming items they have produced themselves, as well as locally grown and produced items.  They are dedicated to eating foods that grow easily in the city’s climate, and incorporate practices such as urban foraging and dumpster diving to constitute a locally produced diet.  But how can the urban homestead emphasize the local in a globalized city?

To what is a homestead rooted, if the modern city has numerous global roots itself?  Is urban homesteading a resistance to the global city? and is it an attempt to locate the city’s essence?  Although New York City and Tokyo may be similar in economic terms, they are still located in geographically different places on earth, existing in different climates with different ecosystems and weather patterns.  Homesteading suggests a return to localized knowledges and an emphasis on place within the surrounding environment.  Saskia Sassen suggests, “recapturing the geography of places involved in globalization allows us to recapture people, workers, communities, and more specifically, the many different work cultures, besides the corporate culture, involved in the work of globalization.”  Urban homesteading seeks to recapture actors and spaces on the ground, and highlight their unique conditions.

But how is urban homesteading engaged in globalization itself?  How does a focus on the local become part of a larger global dialogue?  Sassen’s pushes toward cities that are “partly de-territorialized and partly spatially constructed,” with global conversations and connections rooted in the local.  The urban homestead model is developing into a global idea: an appropriatable urban lifestyle that can be adopted in any space, but with local welfare as a necessary priority.

 

 

November 28, 2011

Hallie Greenberg, City Project

For my project I am writing about ethnicity in Omaha, Nebraska. Omaha has always been a home away from home. Even though I grew up 1500 miles away, it has always been a special place with special memories. I knew that doing a project on Omaha and ethnicity would be educational for me. Although I have spent much time in Omaha, I have learned that my view of the city is biased, subjective, and limited. Before this project, I did not pay attention to Omaha’s economic disparities or racial divide. I did not know that Omaha’s percentage of black children living in poverty ranks first in the United States or that Omaha has the third-highest black poverty rate among America’s largest metro areas. The realities of these statistics were shocking.

When we spoke about Shrinking Cities (especially in the Midwest) I immediately thought of Omaha. Not because it is a shrinking city, but because it’s the opposite. Omaha is an over-performing city in the midwest. Omaha is a thriving city with a diversified economy.  Per-capita and median household income exceed and unemployment is well below the national average. So why are African Americans underperforming in an overperforming city?

This is the question I have tried to answer. I have enjoyed researching this topic, focusing on the history and how Omaha arrived at where it is today. The section of my paper that I enjoyed writing the most was about the future. I enjoyed organizing my thoughts and research into six action steps for the short and long-term in Omaha. I wrote them as if I had no spending limit, so they are extensive. But I think of them as an investment in society… and I wish more people did too!

November 28, 2011

Chicago and increased Bike mobility – Hannah Otto

 

Designing a city with hyper-mobility is very difficult. Bikes help keep people mobile. Certain areas of cities have a need for mobility and others should be designated for human interaction.  Biking is a good way to bridge the gap between the fast paced hyper-mobility of a city and the relaxed in-mobility of certain cities. When designing a city, urban planners generally think about how to get cars from one place to another.  For example, Los Angeles with its large urban sprawl is not a bike friendly city and can not accomodate for the increased popularity of cycling.  On the other hand in Chicago there is an increase of the use of bicycles and every city needs to adapt to this demand.  Bicycle activists have argued for years that bikes are not a large hassle if they are considered in urban planning.  Bike lanes keep cyclists and motorists safe while not impeding traffic or parking.  Chicago is blessed with many wide streets that can easily accommodate for bike lanes.  Bike lanes are simply the easiest solution to keep everyone safe; there is not enough room for separate, protected bike paths all over the city.  Riding on the sidewalk is not an option for cyclists because of the risk of collisions with pedestrian traffic. Chicago has begun to add bike lanes and accommodate for cyclists on the road.  This further shows the rising popularity of bicycling as a way for further mobility for city dwellers.

City of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan for increasing bike mobility:

http://www.treehugger.com/corporate-responsibility/rahm-emanuels-bike-plan-for-chicago-seems-promising.html 

Chicago Bike Lane Design Guide for Urban Planning:

http://www.activelivingresources.org/assets/chicagosbikelanedesignguide.pdf

November 28, 2011

The Hajj and Vidler

As part of the hajj requirements, scholars and planners are setting the groundwork for a comprehensive hajj database. Like Bentham’s Panopticon in the Vidler reading, the hajj database would act as the control center that would watch over all the incoming worshippers without them knowing who is being watched when. This would be an innovation in hajj security because over the past few decades, stampedes, fires, and illegal pilgrims have impaired the success of the hajj and made the Saudi Arabian government look unprepared in the eyes of Muslims and the world.  By giving up some personal freedom and privacy, pilgrims would be promised greater security and help in emergencies. Vidler explains in our reading,

Pain and pleasure being the sovereign masters of mankind, and quantity being the measure of satisfaction, the aim of “directing men’s actions to the production of the greatest possible quantity of happiness” would be fulfilled automatically by rewarding pleasurably the greatest number according to their interest, and painfully reminding those who might not conform that their own interests were involved integrally with the rest. (Vidler 57).

Although some may be concerned with how much information is being given to the Saudi Arabian government, it is in the interest and happiness of the whole to protect the people. Thus, even if someone were to be unhappy with the rules, it would be a requirement that all worshippers who wish to take part in the pilgrimage hand over their information, and those that fail to supply the information be turned away.  In order for the database to recognize each pilgrim, pilgrims would be required to wear tags around their arms the entirety of their trip to Saudi Arabia. Various offices throughout the country would have access to a variety of personal pilgrim information through the hajj database: police, places if assembly, managers, the visa office, the hajj terminal, any place there were mobile tag scanners. Although mainly invisible, this database would be a very powerful and integral part in control the large population of Muslims that comes to the hajj every year.

November 28, 2011

Women in Cities – Ginny Hanusik

I am focusing my project on how gender shapes the city experience. Originally aimed at being an analysis of the Safe Cities Initiative started by UNIFEM and UN-Habitat, my project has turned into an exploration of what exactly makes city life different for women and, in turn, what is being done around the world to liberate a woman’s right to the city.

My research took a turn after discovering that several programs with the same intentions were established before Safe Cities. The UN decided to fund their own program after hearing about the successes of such projects that were created and implemented by local NGOs. One of the most prominent organizations involved in urban women’s issues is Women in Cities International (WICI) and it was their report on how to create gender inclusive cities published in November of last year that influenced the UN’s response to this issue. Their report, which is a hands-on guide to conducting research as well as a informative tool, addresses the concerns of women in Argentina, Russia, Tanzania, and India. By comparing surveys and collected data, we start to see similar experiences and opinions amongst these women that are on different continents. A piece of information that stood out to me the most while reading this was the statistics that were displayed regarding a woman’s reaction to sexual harassment. When asked about what she does to avoid sexual harassment or assault in a specific neighborhood of the city, 45 – 85% of women said that they avoid going out after dark. The numbers are really astonishing and explicitly demonstrated the inequality women are facing on a GLOBAL level.

The piece we read by Rebecca Solnit (A History of Walking) ties into the problems we see here with women in public space at night. In the cases of the women surveyed for the WICI program, they are literally being forced to remain in the home for fear of their safety. How are we supposed to transform the urban landscape without first transforming the social structures and ideals of a society? To start, a majority of the report’s findings point to a lack of maintenance of the physical aspects of the city itself. Abandoned spaces are susceptible to a lack of police patrol and therefore crime. Transportation systems are outdated and do not serve as beneficial to a majority of the city’s residents. Poor lighting and lack of public telephones leads to a helpless situation. All of these characteristics of a neighborhood that is not gender inclusive shows us just how important public space is to the residents of a city. When women are able to walk the streets without fear, they advance their status in society.

 

Here’s a link to the full report:

http://www.womenincities.org/pdf-general/gicp_baseline_compress.pdf

November 28, 2011

Gabe Adels-Koolhaus the Skater

Virtually every article that deals with re-appropriation of urban space relates directly to the philosophical exploration of skateboarding. Street Skating is a means to invent a use for space generally designed for one purpose. Stairs lead to buildings, and handrails help to protect people from falling. By flying down a set of stairs on a skateboard, one is generally challenging the presumptions of the architect and maintainer of the space, who envision primarily function, and secondarily, aesthetics. You could do any number of combinations of flips and spins with the body or board, the possibilities have not been explored or invented yet. Skateboarding re-appropriates and invents spaces for athletic and creative expression amidst an urban landscape defined by singular utility and the conformity of economy.

Skateboarding covers the gamut of urban spaces, both public and private. It demonstrates that private spaces may be open to the public, and supposedly public spaces, like parks patrolled by security guards, are actually private is some ways, in that they are intended for specific use by specific people. It raises questions about property lines, which as Koolhaus states, are,”…originally a conceptual and abstract legal division design to divide, enclose, and exclude…” In addition, Koolhaus praises the informal city of Lagos, to which he attributes, “constant reassessment of urban property boundary conditions and of socially constructed space.” Both on 674.

November 28, 2011

Street Art, Violeta Borilova

I am researching urban art in Barcelona. I came across a Youtube video of an interview about graffiti from a non illegal perspective. The owners of street shops have always been irritated by the graffiti written on their metallic shutters which appeared overnight, after the owner had spend their day cleaning up. What occurred to some owners and graffiti artists, was a new business consisting in adapting the graffiti form, and using it as advertising. As the owner of the Tabacos shop said, graffiti artists respect each other, in the sense than when there is a wall, or a shutter with a design, others do not touch it (generally speaking, there is always some vandalism). What occurred to this owner is to contact a street artist and ask him to design something on his shutter that will promote his business overnight. What this has created is the idea that graffiti can be legalized when there is permission from the owner himself. The concept of street art being legal is controversial. If an option is to ask permission form the owner himself which will then legalize it, questions of who owns what becomes complicated. In other articles there was the argument that the street is for everybody to enjoy, and graffiti was not to be part of it because it destroys the designed and planed sidewalks, walls… Also there is the argument that the streets are owned by the government which is responsible for cleaning up the graffiti. The government of course, is not in favor of graffiti since a lot of money is being wasted in paint.

This made me think of Senntett’s article, Flesh and Stone. There is a quote on page 18 which says:”The body moves passively, desensitized in space, to destinations set in a fragmented and discontinuous urban geography.” He brings up the idea that streets are designed to be followed in a specific manner. The destinations through which one has to walk are set up by paths, bridges… Since the streets are designed to be followed in a certain pattern, it perhaps takes away the personality of the walker. Instead of being able to walk through desired paths, the walker is being controlled by a set geography. In my opinion, what street artists are doing, is enhancing the already set path. As Larry Ford said in his Spaces between buildings: “The cost of designing one exterior wall is simply a lot lower than the cost of designing four, and especially if each wall is to be beautiful, symbolic, detailed, and functional in its own right. More often, most walls are basically banal.” A lot of walls are banal, generally painted in white or gray tones, street artists see the opportunity to decorate this spaces. In a news report a street artist was interviewed and he said was that one of the reasons he painted was to catch people’s attention to their surroundings.  The walls are plain and most people don’t pay attention to the buildings, or the walk itself. He argued that by painting, he catches people’s attention towards the spaces between buildings, and the building themselves. This argument I believe it to be very true. When walls are plain, and people just walk by each other and not look up, makes the journey quite monotonous. However, if walls are decorated with art, which does not have to permanent but is instead renovated overtime, this planned city will have a character which reflects that city’s identity. I believe this will make people become more aware of their surroundings, and perhaps will become more active  in their city. The most difficult question is however, is to make the differentiation between artistic expressions, and personal signatures or meaningless/vulgar writings.

Sorry, the video is in Spanish.