What do Bangladesh and New Hampshire have in common? According to The Big Picture, they have roughly equivalent GDP. The above map compares the economic output of each state to another country’s GDP. Though this doesn’t necessarily comment on cities in particular, it makes some interesting points and comparisons when considering development of cities and states in the USA, and around the world.
A couple of my favorites:
Bangladesh and New Hampshire – Bangladesh has a total population of 160 million, more than 100 times the size of the population of New Hampshire.
California and France – if California was a separate country, it would have the 8th largest GDP in the world.
Michigan and Argentina – this map, however, was made in 2007, so I wonder if Michigan’s GDP has now shrunk to a smaller country’s GDP.
Alabama and Iran; Kansas and Malaysia; Oregon and Israel; Arkansas and Pakistan.
Credits: Image of the 50 states from The Big Picture.
Polis is honoured to post an e-interview with Professor Marcuse on one of his current projects: the formulation of a theory of critical planning, and the attempt to make critical urban theory useful to the U.S. Right to the City Alliance.
Please give us a brief overview of your work in formulating a theory of critical planning.
After 20 years of practicing law, defending civil rights cases, unions, tenants, as well as better-paying clients, I decided to quit law and get a PhD in urban planning because its seemed to me that urban planning represented a combination of my two main concerns: understanding how the system we were living in actually functioned, and doing something about the injustices and inequalities it created. It is where the rubber of theory hits the ground of reality, notably in cities. But much of urban planning, I found, did not deal with issues of justice and equality, but rather with technical arrangements to facilitate the functioning of the system as it was, injustices and all. So I’ve tried, over almost 50 years, to focus on those problems of urban policy that involve the difficult issues of social justice, such as rent control, homelessness, global competitiveness, gentrification and displacement, mortgage foreclosures, racial discrimination, social movements, feminist critiques, planning education, on most of which I’ve been active and published extensively. The work on Critical Planning is, in a sense, my attempt to put it all together.
Gender is an issue that has gradually been gaining importance in urban planning theory, public policy and urban development projects. Today, equal gender relations are widely considered as an intrinsic component of social justice and the right to the city, as evidenced by research, practical and policy activities at various scales. How are you planning to integrate gender in your theory of critical planning?
Gender relates to urban planning in two related but separate ways. One is in obvious (if thought about) real discrimination, the burdens imposed unfairly and to the benefit overwhelmingly of men, with limited access to professional positions (one early dissertation I supervised at Columbia (Jacqueline Leavitt, 1976) dealt with then astonishingly small number of women in planning). Housing is geared to maintaining women as housewives; transportation and suburban development generally limits women’s access to jobs, education, recreation; credit is more difficult for women to obtain than men, etc.
Gender issues also relate to planning through their contribution to the symbolic linking of ascribed characteristics (in this case gender) with relations of power, domination, inclusion and exclusion. Resistance to gender discrimination thus is parallel to resistance to other forms of discrimination, based on race, ethnicity, sexual preference, disability and immigration status.
Both aspects need to be combated wherever they appear.
What sort of process are you using in attempting to make critical urban theory useful to the US Right to the City (RTTC) Alliance? How and why did this collaboration begin?
I may be partial as a former SPARCie, but the line-up at 361 Degrees — a joint conference on design and informal cities to be held in Mumbai at the end of October — promises to make it an incredible event. Featuring international practitioners with decades of front-line experience in community-focused urban development and activism, as well as academics who blend theory and practice, this is one conference that will definitely transcend development platitudes.
When Jiang Pengyi first moved from his lesser developed hometown to Beijing, his impressions of an ancient city in rapid urbanization left him with a deep sense of cultural shock and alienation. Once a cityscape and architecture photographer, he now uses the medium to recreate a personal viewpoint of the city he lives in.
I don’t remember when or where I first read it. I remember remembering forward - Is this possible? - knowing that in its reading I would find the dimensions of an inquiry that would always drive me: What is the City?
So I return to “La Calle” regularly. Is it a clue to a method? A theory? A practice of the city? Perhaps a lucid fragment? Or maybe a totalizing representation? A coded master-plan? An aesthetic whimper among the clamor of chaos?
La Calle “The Street” is a monument in the landscape of urban thought. A moment that reminds me (forward) that the city will always be unattainable and whatever truth I claim for it will be shaped by a shadow before me: a frame of my own making.
US in this case is a double entendre - referring both to the nation it is intended to rebuild and reimagine (through better urbanism, city building and a rethinking of the American Dream) and to the actors involved- the proverbial us. But one question that was rarely asked, at least not in any serious way, was who is this us? The irony of a group calling itself "CEO's for Cities" launching a "for us, by us" campaign in the name of everyday Americans seemed lost on everyone. If everyone wasn't so earnest and nice, I would have felt as if I was in a live-action parody of a David Harvey book.
Yet the issue here is not simply whether this group - which is more university president and foundation head than corporate titan - should be spearheading a popular campaign to reinvent how we live. Many of the ideas they promote - liveability, connectivity, opportunity through transit, biking, DIY urbanism, pedestrianism, arts, culture, good design - are ones most of us have endorsed in the virtual pages of Polis. Nor is this a canned critique of neoliberalism - public-private partnerships and an active non-state urban activism are as old in America as cities themselves.
But throughout the conference, the word "progressive" was used from time to time, by both SPUR and CEO for Cities, despite few explicit references to social justice, poverty, inequality, despite a rhetoric surrounding talent, creativity, capacity and clustering that owed far more to Richard Florida, Michael Porter and Amartya Sen than to Henri LeFebvre, Peter Marcuse or john powell. Can a campaign and a convening that does not explicitly include either the poor or issues of poverty be called progressive?
Both out of respect to my hosts, who were kind enough to have me and feed me over a course of two days, and in the interest of debate, I hope that this comes across as the question that it is meant to be, even if my biases (both here and in previous posts) are somewhat clear. It is certainly a sore point for SPUR, an organization with a storied yet checkered past, one that includes so many of San Francisco's truly legendary reformers but also a period in which, as the San Francisco Planning and Urban Renewal Association, it provided some of the intellectual weight behind a federal and municipal bulldozer which gauged massive holes in the African American community, wounds which are still felt to this day. But I have many friends, colleagues and co-conspirators who are active parts of SPUR and similar "mainstream" organizations who would argue that their more conciliatory rhetoric is more "progressive" because it can reach across ideological divides and does not fear development, business or capital.
It is an issue which goes beyond urbanism to broader questions of development and democracy, and which is far more important than simply a question of labels or semantics. What exactly does it mean to be progressive in the contemporary urban environment? Do those of us who cling to a critical urbanism that demands overt conversations about injustice and inequality risk losing something if we define out those who do not? Or is the concept of progressiveness at risk if it can be stripped of these once core issues? At the very least, it is an important question, one which unfortunately was left off the table this week in San Francisco.
"everyday socioecological consciousness is suggestive of new political opportunities. At one level a focus on the everyday presents an overwhelming diversity of sites around which environmental politics could be forged and conceived. But more importantly it emphasises an environmental politics which, while rooted within human experience and action, conceives of this experience within broader ecological communities of living things and objects. Consequently, an everyday politics of the environment becomes a politics which emerges from a human context, but is never conceived of on human terms alone."
Mark Whitehead, from Between the Marvelous and the Mundane: Everyday Life in the Socialist City and the Politics of the Environment, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 2005.
This is part of a collection of quotes related to cities. They don't necessarily reflect our views, just things that may be interesting. Please feel welcome to add others.
Credits: Photo by Peter Sigrist.
In the early 1990's, Cuba entered into a severe crisis due to the collapse of the Soviet Union and its associated economies in Eastern Europe. These countries supported around 80 percent of Cuba's economy, which was based on intensive single-crop agriculture and was highly dependent on imports of agricultural sub-products, such as fertilizers. Cuba also had to import most of its food from other countries. The Soviet Union had been paying much higher prices for sugar than the price in the capitalist international market. In a very short period Cuba's agricultural system collapsed, posing a serious threat to something that had been taken for granted: food.
To learn more about urban agriculture read the first article from 2009 DPU News.
As unlikely as it seems, I find myself agreeing with this idea. I know that corporations are too often engines of profit at the expense of a common good. However, as collections of minds working for a shared purpose they are highly effective and full of potential.
It seems that individual gain is the motivating force that holds corporations together and tears them apart. What could take its place? Coercion, ideas, and altruism have their limits. Basic self-interest seems to be a constant. It may not be our highest calling, but we can count on it. In making use of self-interest to effectively address ecological problems from poverty to environmental degradation, architecture can play an important role.
Actually, this calls for an explanation of what I mean by architecture. I don't see it as a rarefied pursuit, distinguished from building and design by its rigor, as Peter Eisenman proclaims in a recent interview. Discussions at mammoth, Free Association Design, faslanyc, dpr-barcelona, Places, HTC Experiments, Quiet Babylon, and BLDGBLOG are expanding the field of architectural thinking to include ecological processes, activism, technology, and even corporate systems.
This past summer, 15 Bronx public high-school students came together to break down the Community Benefit Agreements, CBAs, which are unofficial agreements between a real-estate developer and a community. The result: an educational poster.
One outcome of this strategy is the project “Making Policy Public”, which includes a series of foldout posters that are published four times a year. Created in close collaboration with policy advocates and design professionals, these posters are giving much-needed answers to vulnerable groups in the city. One issue, for example, called Vendor Power! explains the rights of New York’s circa 10 000 street vendors. Another recent triple-launch focus on non-citizens, youth, and formerly incarcerated people–outlining the situations they face on the fringes of the criminal justice system with titles such as I Got Arrested! Now What? and Immigrants Beware!
CUP is also engaging the community through workshops and other teaching tools. On a slushy Friday last February, I participated in one such workshop, in connection with the launch of the Affordable Housing Toolkit, part of CUP’s “Envisioning Development Toolkit” series. In an empty corner store on the Lower East Side, CUP staff member John Mangin explored the mechanisms of the city’s affordable housing policy together with a group of housing advocates, who aimed to use the kit to educate the tenants they already worked with. Opening the red box we found a colorful felt chart, an informational book, and a post card with the address to an online map. The purpose: to teach participants about income demographics, rent levels and the technical definitions of affordable housing–thereby empowering them to dare to ask the crucial question: “Affordable to whom?”
John Mangin, who has a background in policy and law, said that in the last few years the government has been getting better at recognizing its obligation to educate the public. Nevertheless, many decisions are made without adequate public participation, even if there are channels written in the city and state law for public participation to happen. “Our mission is kind of twofold,” he said. “First, we want to help people understand how things work. But secondly, we would like people to want to participate. And that’s where the designers and artists come in.”
The Affordable Housing Toolkit from 2010 was designed Glen Cummings, MTWTF. CUP staff member John Mangin explains the educational felt chart.
But it is not only graphical experts that make CUP’s urban education so engaging. Another branch is the youth education programs, varying in length with a reach of over 500 students each year. Here, the students themselves create the educational artwork, ranging from videos to comic books, models and exhibitions. In the longer “Urban Investigations” the students make site visits and conduct interviews with the help of a teaching artist. The programs are focused on specific questions: Where does our garbage go? Can illegal basement apartments be legalized? Why are there homeless people when some buildings stand empty?
Credits: CBA poster developed together with CUP Teaching Artist Hatuey Ramos-Fermin, and Teaching Assistant Prudence Katzewas. Image on street vendor from CUP. Image on toolkit from CUP. Image on John Mangin by felt chart from CUP. Image on students conducting interview from CUP. Image on students at table from CUP.
Credits: Image of Dongdaemun History and Culture Park, the first phase of a new design district designed by Zaha Hadid, will be built around Seoul’s ancient city walls, from the New York Times. Image of Paul Cocksege's Drop, Size + Matter, London Design Festival, from http://www.morfae.com/0182-london-design-festival.
Rosario, located in the province of Santa Fe about 300 kilometres northeast of Buenos Aires, was a city that suffered greatly during Argentina’s 2001 economic crisis, with poverty levels reaching almost 20% by 2003. One of the responses of the city’s Socialist government was the creation of an Urban Agriculture Office, in the Solidarity Economy Department, initiating an extensive programme across the city that enabled people to grow their own food. Slowly the programme expanded and improved, with the Office serving as a meeting place for people to come and ask for a plot of land in their neighbourhood to grow food, receive seeds as well as the infrastructural, technical and social support they needed to set up or join a garden plot.
Urbanists, artists, activists and academics alike should take note of the latest exciting URBZ workshop to hit the urban circuit. The next Urban Typhoon workshop will be held from the 9th to the 16th of November 2010 in Khirkee Village, New Delhi. The event has been organized by URBZ in a special partnership with KHOJ International Artists’ Association.
“The Urban Typhoon workshop invites artists, architects, activists and academics from all over the world to ideate with residents, grassroots groups and other users of Khirkee Village, New Delhi. The event aims to reclaim the locality by collectively generating multiple ideas, visions and plans for its future.”
Building on the words of many past participants, as well as the international reputation that these events have garnered, workshops such as Urban Typhoon and the URBZ Mashup are exciting, transformative, and incredibly inspiring. For those who are not familiar with the Urban Typhoon workshop, I would strongly encourage you to explore the experiences and outputs of the previous workshops in Shimokitazawa and in Dharavi Koliwada.
Through the partnership with KHOJ, this particular event hopes to emphasize the 'special' role of the artist within the city. For all of the details of Urban Typhoon Khirkee Village, visit the URBZ website here.
Credits: Image of Urban Typhoon Shimokitazawa from URBZOO.
Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, De Wolk was a newspaper reporter for 15 years before moving to broadcast and online journalism. He is a senior lecturer in San Francisco State University’s journalism department and co-created its online journalism program, among the nation’s first.
Note: This Q&A is adapted from a phone interview. All sentences are direct quotes, but they have been combined without indicating omitted material.
How has the way that major newspapers report on urban affairs changed over time?
It’s deteriorated. The number of reporters is down significantly. The number of what I would call quality news outlets has shrunk. The kind of people that have gotten into news management has really deteriorated. When you’re working in a monopoly business…there’s no need to be really good. You’ve got people that own these mass media outlets that are used to essentially drug profits. Now they’re not getting those kinds of profits, and they don’t know how to respond to it. They add more work with fewer people, so the quality diminishes.
In the longer term, obviously the shift in demographics has gone from an urban to a suburban population. Since most Americans now live in what we would call the suburbs, the coverage has shifted away from urban America.
Zero1, an art and technology Biennial hosted by the city of San Jose, will begin next week from September 16 -19. An impressive array of visual art, performances, film screenings, symposiums, artists talks, and urban gaming will all center around this year's theme, Build Your Own World.
The future is not just about what’s next. It’s also about what we can build to ensure that what’s next matters. How can we, as resourceful, innovative, and knowledgeable local and global citizens build and participate in a desirable future in the face of global climate change, economic meltdown, political instability, and cultural divisiveness?
The 2010 01SJ Biennial is predicated on the notion that as artists, designers, engineers, architects, marketers, corporations and citizens we have the tools to (re)build the world, conceptually and actually, virtually and physically, poorly and better, aesthetically and pragmatically, in both large and small ways. 01SJ is about how powerful ideas and innovative individuals from around the world can make a difference and come together to build a unique and distributed city-wide platform for creative solutions and public engagement.
In addition to the main events, local organizations such as the Buckminster Fuller Institute and San Jose Museum of Art will also be hosting parallel programs and exhibitions. This sounds like an event not to be missed.
Credits: Image of Art Barn Concept Sketch by MTAA.
The potential burning of the Koran on the commemoration of the 911 attacks set in motion a controversy of global dimensions that underlined the intersection of spectacle, memory and conflict in urban space. This inflammatory gesture in a day of solemn remembrance represents the staging of fundamentalisms circulating in our own backyards. In this post, I offer a window to place that blurs the political relations that bind symbols, memory and built form in the city.
Far from a symbolic gesture driven by politics, religion or ideology, Opa-Locka’s emblematic place-making derived from a shrewd profit-driven scheme. Its vision was the work of Glen Curtiss, a renowned early 20th century aviator/entrepreneur who invented the aileron. Curtiss came to South Florida in 1916 with the intention of opening an aviation school (1). Miami’s geographic location close to the Caribbean and Latin America, offered the perfect base for the creation of an airline industry ready to embark on a hemispheric path.
- Clever Crosswalk Squashes Jaywalking, by Making it Legal
- Not a Whodunit. More a Whydoit
- Urban Plight: Vanishing Upward Mobility
- At Lincoln Center, Information Is Architecture
- CUBEOpen 2010
- Highway jam enters its 9th day, spans 100km
- Junkitecture and the Jellyfish theatre
Credits: Photo Chad Batka for The New York Times
For the curious urban anthropologist landing in a metropolis for the first time, international phone card advertisements can provide a window into migrant communities and multicultural makeup of a city. While phone card services have been traditionally targeted to particular socioeconomic brackets, the flourishing of Internet-based telephony -- think Skype, Google Voice and such -- intersecting with greater access to the web means that the demographics of inexpensive phone calls overseas is one that is perhaps less skewed. All this is further convoluted by easy access to prepaid mobile phones for local calls. And perhaps, when going forward generationally and considering the strong diaspora connections in particular online social networks -- such as orkut in Brazil and India, or Friendster and Southeast Asia -- these dynamics are more hidden in bits and bytes than they are surfaced in the cornershop of a city. (Danah Boyd of Microsoft Research mentions a few interesting observations regarding the social division between orkut and Facebook in Brazil, quoting Pedro Augusto at the Centro de Tecnologia e Sociedade in Rio).
Credits: Photo from the author, taken outside a shop in Marseille, France
|Existing structure in its former use as a petrol station|
|Construction of cinema seating|
|Testing the enclosing curtains, isolating the space from the street for screening films|