The streets of the poor quarters of great cities are, above all, a theater and a battleground. There, unaware and unnoticed, every human being of the city is a poet, a masker, a warrior, a dancer: and in his innocent artistry he projects, against the turmoil of the street an image of human existence.
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.
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).
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
References: all notes are excerpts from Richard Sennett’s book “Building and Dwelling: Ethics for the City,” Penguin Books 2019
Students protest the classical pastiche designs made for the Medical School (1968) at the University of Louvain/ University agrees to the formation of a student committee/ Students produce a counterproposal by Lucien Kroll who had no ties to the University/ Kroll organises collaborators and students into teams and turns design into an assemblage of disparate political fractions/ Work is done in his studio at a distance from the institution to ensure freedom/ Collaboration becomes “a kind of architectural method acting” accepting every outcome even if it defies prevailing arch conventions (de Graaf)/ Kroll, when denied the participation of le Roy, his preferred gardener, also engages the adjacent community into participating in the landscape component/ For two years this is an harmonious collaboration/ However, University representatives who visit the site oppose the outcome and the budget increase and fire Kroll/ Kroll exposes the contractor for high pricing but is then accused of vandalising the building site during his open call to the neighbouring community/ The building is highly criticised as a “failed experiment” and “less than a sum of its parts” (de Graaf)/ Petitions for the building’s demolition are opposed by massive support (Excerpts from Reinier de Graaf’s book: Four Walls and a Roof)
In a DOMUS article dated back in 2010, Kroll is presented as “icon of democratic architecture”:
Communication through architecture is an eminently political act, Kroll maintains: the architect is the catalyst of a creative process and social dynamic, in respect to which they make their knowledge available for the translation of interpersonal relationships into a suitable space (…) architects must step out of themselves and put themselves in the shoes of future residents.Full article available 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
Parangoles concept and form were introduced by Hélio Oiticica (1937-1980) in an attempt to expose the chaotic web of relations of being-in-the-world. Oiticica worked to transform the “spectator” into a “participant. The colorful, improvised capes/cloaks encourage unpredictable movement that in turn signals the transition from the art-object to the body-subject:
we must be willing to get out of our comfort zones in order to reclaim the physical and symbolic spaces produced by hegemonic forces that attempt to confine relations between our own bodies and the bodies of others
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.
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.