Nehru Place Informal IT Market, New Delhi

Image available here along with an excerpt of Richard Sennett’s book, Building and Dwelling: Ethics of the City, Penguin Books, 2019

Although intended to be a commercial center with a market that would serve the surrounding residential areas, the development as it came up fifty years ago became a complex consisting essentially of a series of small office units. The two levels of shops in the arcades around the central courts contained few retail outlets, and were mostly occupied by offices and banks. Over the last fifteen years the situation began to change with the influx of shops dealing with computers, cell phones, and all kinds of digital accessories. Today Nehru Place is the country’s largest computer hardware market. This has helped to bring about a qualitative change in the area, including the presence of a number of restaurants. Gradually every single available space at the lower levels, including small pockets of space along lift access corridors, and basement areas, have been taken over by small scale commercial units.

Full article available here

Ville vs Cite

French language_ville: the overall city/ cite: it designated a particular place (the character of life in the neighborhood), cite can refer a kind of consciousness. The distinction is old, however, it helps clarify the difference between the built environment (English phrase for ville) and how people dwell in it.

Cite: Engels 1840, The Condition of the working-class in England in 1844, based on his testimony of scenes of daily life in Manchester. He noticed aspects of the life in the streets that did not fit the new language of class like Balzac, Stendhal, Flaubert whose characters are crashed in the city. Urban life is unsettled (all that is solid melts into air), modernity consists of the transient, as in Bauman’s term “liquid modernity.” There is also however, a need to balance between change and stability, ” distill the eternal from the transitory.” Only a precise analysis of details will make the cite comprehensible to the the urban dweller; the mental space of complexity consists of analyzing small bits of reality.

Ville-First generation urbanists: Haussmann, Cerda, Olmsted

Network-Paris | The accessible city: hygienic issues (plague), new drainage systems, boulevards to avert rebels and barricades (police state) that however served transportation and more positive social purposes and had a spectacle quality, new housing that serves as a vertical theatrical scenery, glazed facades of department stores. Design of the ville was more than utilitarian; indeed display displaced the ethical reckoning of life on the street. The Haussmannian city privileged space over place: the networked ville had diminished the cite.

Camille Pissarro: Boulevard Montmartre, image available here

Fabric-Barcelona | The equal city: once again hygienic issues, Cerda also wanted to address ethnicities and religions into a kind of cooperative socialism and produce conditions of equality between the residents. He used the additive grid, a system of equal-sized blocks with mixed housing (Dutch model) and green spaces distributed throughout the city. To accommodate turning vehicles Cerda cut off the edges of his blocks diagonally. That created an hospitable site where people could gather, space became place. His idea also embodied a danger: if one block begins to degrade, there is no reason other blocks, exactly similar in form, to succumb (monoculture).

4 6 2009 BARCELONA VISTA AEREA DEL EIXAMPLE FOTO XAVIER JUBIERRE, image available here

Artifice-New York (Central Park) | The sociable city: social value of nature in the city, Olmsted thought of parks as places where the races could mix; inclusion was more possible in an impersonal space of strangers than in the more intimate space of neighborhoods (from labor to leisure). Rural life was destroyed in favor of an integrated urban life, the park was far from central NY at the time. Modest gates were used to show that all were welcome, the landscape was totally artificial. As the city expanded, the park’s perimeter was filled with mansions for the wealthy: people inside it became less mixed. In CP nature suspends reality, artificial pleasure to promote social integration

Central Park 1870, image available here

References: all notes are excerpts from Richard Sennett’s book “Building and Dwelling: Ethics for the City,” Penguin Books 2019

Recycling Spaces, Addis-Ababa

Image taken from here

Text taken from the site:

African cities have growth rates of up to 5%; this makes them the fastest growing cities in the world today. Extrapolations show that the urban population in Africa currently doubles every 10 to 15 years. Also Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, is in transformation. Currently the home of approximately four million inhabitants, the city might triple its size within the next 30 years due to the increasing rural to urban migration, as well as natural growth. Already today, Addis Ababa suffers from a housing shortage of estimated 700.000 units. And, according to UN-Habitat, 80% of the existing dwellings are in ‘sub-standard, slum like’ conditions. Thus, in 2004, the government launched a large-scale mass housing program with the ambitious plan to erect 200.000 condominium units within 5 years. To date, 100.000 units were built during the last 7 years, out of which nearly 70,000 are handed over to end users so far. In 2011, the Addis Ababa City Administration announced to redevelop all ‘informal’ and ‘unplanned’ parts of the city until 2020.

Throughout the years, Addis Ababa, informally, developed a sophisticated recycling system in all parts of the city. “Kuré-Yalews” are roaming the streets in small neighborhoods, collecting anything that might still be useable from households. Sharing resources, they rent taxis collectively to transport their goods to Merkato’s “Minalesh Terra”, where different “workshops” immediately start to reuse and transform them. In the course of a few days, these items are returned into the cycle, being sold to the owners of small neighborhood shops as “new” products.

This recycling process is not only the source of income for many families in the city, it also keeps Addis Ababa clean to a certain extend. Most importantly, this cycle also appropriated space for recycling in the city throughout the years, which is now endangered by the current transformation of Ethiopia’s capitol.

The movie “Recycling Spaces” is a cinematic documentary on the use of space allocated to this recycling cycle in Ethiopia’s capital. Based on the daily routine and experiences of one selected Kuré-Yalew, this movie tries to tell a generic experience of thousands of inhabitants in Addis Ababa. Interviews with the Kuré-Yalwes and experts give further insight into the topic.

Link to vimeo site
Video available here

Lessons on urban cooperation

Image available here

The other day I was watching a documentary (in Greek) on Berlin’s housing problem. According to the researchers up to 2010, Berlin was one of the European cities with the lowest average rent prizes. However, this condition was dramatically changed in the more recent years as private real estate companies made massive acquisitions of state-owned housing units and then doubled the rent. In fact, people appearing on the doc claimed that it has become impossible for the weaker social groups (refugees, single families, unemployed, students) to rent a descent house.

Today I ran into this great article in Places Magazine that described the successful efforts of a band of artists to turn the Haus der Statistik into affordable housing units. This group of artists had originally formed the Alliance of Threatened Berlin Studio Houses to protect people who could no longer afford their rent from evictions. Yet in the light of the continuous privatization they developed another endeavor; to turn Haus der Statistik, a derelict building near Alexanderplatz into a “gentrification-proof island” and turn it into affordable housing units; studio space for artists and communal space for the public. After several months of research and negotiations with all stakeholders they managed to become official partners in the consortium responsible for bringing their ideas to life.

What started as a mere protest has now become a exemplary public initiative based on people’s massive cooperation. Their systematic approach helped them to establish trust and defend their claims in a way that could work. Very inspiring indeed.

The Digital Matatus project (digitalmatatus.com)

https://lsecities.net/archives/transportation-and-technology-urban-age-conference-2018/

Lack of data on popular transport enables official invisibility of (these) mobility systems in planning (…) Rallying against this, a ‘digital commons’ movement has emerged in support of better transport planning globally. This movement leverages the digital revolution to build high-quality, open and standardised public transport data for planning, information services and as the basis for moving towards a new mobility paradigm. Within this paradigm, the ability to access a wide suite of high-quality mobility options via a mobile phone becomes a more compelling ideal of freedom than simply owning or using a car. This transition to freedom of movement by not owning a car but accessing and paying for a choice of multiple transport modes via mobile-phone technology is a key step towards more equitable, clean, safe and low-emissions cities (…) with this vision, civic activists (hackivists) are using basic GPS-enabled mobile phones and other technologies to build high-quality, standardised data for public transport including dominant popular transit modes. This data is made open and shared widely to improve understanding and discussions of how to improve transport planning and build passenger information systems, the stepping stones to a new mobility paradigm (…) The Digital Matatus map and data allow us to see a critical part of Nairobi’s circulatory system (…) Evidence is growing that this kind of trip-planning information can help people make more efficient trips and, when coupled with real-time information, reduce waiting. This, in turn, improves the way passengers interact with and feel about public transport.

https://lsecities.net/archives/transportation-and-technology-urban-age-conference-2018/

Jacqueline M. Klopp, Visualising popular transport, full article available here

The ‘abrazo’ (embrace) ideology

https://www.cinetecamadrid.com/programacion/experimenta-distrito

“Experimenta Distrito” launched by Media Lab-Prado is a programme involving citizens in neighbourhood workshops hosted in the spaces of La Nave, libraries, social and cultural centres (site in spanish only: https://www.experimentadistrito.net/ )

This is one of the many initiatives taken by the mayor of Madrid in promoting the city as a warm and welcoming place as he described them in DOMUS and his interview with Manuela Carmena.

La Nave: Located in Villaverde, a district on the outskirts of Madrid, La Nave Böetticher was once a lift factory owned by the Böetticher company. An industrial building from the 1940’s refurbished for use as a public facility by Madrid City Council, and inaugurated in 2016. La Nave is dedicated to entrepreneurship and innovation and hosts a great number of activities and events related to the promotion of new technologies, technical dissemination, training, and employability. Characterized by a central open-plan space covered by a large barrel vault and a skylight, the refurbishment preserved certain historical elements as decoration and added vertical latticework inspired by the colors of fiber optics to the concrete façade. Its main areas are the Pavilion, the Tower, the Classrooms, the Auditorium, and the Containers. The building has thermo-solar and geothermal energy; it collects rainwater for watering, and it features a roof garden. The roof offers a panoramic view of the Villaverde neighborhood. (http://www.lanavemadrid.com/ )