Tag Archives | cities

On Fighting Against Hegemonic Urban Development

BayOfRage reveals infrastructure and redevelopment projects in Oakland (and beyond) as a means of reshaping cities for social control:

Further development will not open space for meaningful social activity and will only constrict it — In the slew of development projects coming down the pipe, residents will be free to consume, travel to and from work, or stay inside to not bother anyone.

Mistakes in architecture will never be repeated in future developments. The UC system learned the danger in building large plazas where dissident students could gather during the free speech movement at Berkeley. University of California campuses built since the sixties are subdivided into a number to smaller campuses, to better contain and neutralize student revolt. Housing projects are built to make the space transparent and easily surveillable, often by the administrators of social services. Likewise, we can be entirely sure that the city of Oakland will never allow the construction of another space like Oscar Grant Plaza, where thousands of people were able to gather, meet their needs and organize an assault against capitalism.

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Oakland’s Law Enforcement Economy

A lot of thought is devoted to the prison-industrial complex, but what about the political economy of police and law enforcement? Pueblo Lands on the Oakland Police Department:

Oakland’s position within the Bay Area’s police and law enforcement economy is characterized by extraction. Oakland spends roughly 40 percent of its general fund budget on cops. The surrounding majority white and middle class suburban cities of the East Bay benefit from Oakland’s massive spending on cops via the redistribution of tax dollars from Oakland to other municipalities.

Most of Oakland’s cops don’t live in the city, meaning that their salaries and other compensation are spent on mortgages, consumer purchases, healthcare, and other forms of taxed consumption where they live. Thus, by our rough calculations, based on data provided by OPD and assembled from a database of public employee pay for 2010, at least $126 million left the city in 2010 in the form of officer compensation.

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Queen Rat: Victorian London’s Sewer Succubus

Toshers were scavengers who explored the vast, ancient sewers of Victorian London in search of lost coins and salvage, but even greater rewards awaited those fortunate enough to encounter the legendary Queen Rat. As Mike Dash of Smithsonian Magazine reports:

…A second myth, far more eagerly believed, told of the existence (Jacqueline Simpson and Jennifer Westwood record) “of a mysterious, luck-bringing Queen Rat”:

This was a supernatural creature whose true appearance was that of a rat; she would follow the toshers about, invisibly, as they worked, and when she saw one that she fancied she would turn into a sexy-looking woman and accost him. If he gave her a night to remember, she would give him luck in his work; he would be sure to find plenty of money and valuables. He would not necessarily guess who she was, for though the Queen Rat did have certain peculiarities in her human form (her eyes reflected light like an animal’s, and she had claws on her toes), he probably would not notice them while making love in some dark corner.

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How Drones Will Change Life In Our Cities

Ready yourself to hear, “Pizza incoming from above”. Animal New York on how petite unmanned drones are poised to reshape the urban environment, possibly as soon as three years from now:

The spread of do-it-yourself robotics could radically change the news, the police, business and politics. And it could spark a sort of drone arms race as competing robot users seek to balance out their rivals. Imagine police drones patrolling at treetop level down city streets, their cameras scanning crowds for weapons or suspicious activity. “Newsbots” might follow in their wake, streaming live video of the goings-on. In nearby zip codes, drones belonging to real estate agents scope out hot properties. Robots deliver pizzas by following the signal from customers’ cell phones.

These aren’t just fantasies. All of these things are happening today, although infrequently and sometimes illegally. The only thing holding back the robots is government regulations that have failed to keep up with technology.

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On Urban Inequality And The Tree Gap

stelprdb5187894_tnMay we demand the presence of trees? Despite their secret importance, the appearance of trees in American cities corresponds with wealth, Per Square Mile reveals:

Research published a few years ago shows a tight relationship between per capita income and forest cover. They found that for every 1 percent increase in per capita income, demand for forest cover increased by 1.76 percent.

It’s easy to see trees as a luxury when a city can barely keep its roads and sewers in working order, but that glosses over the many benefits urban trees provide. They shade houses in the summer, reducing cooling bills. They scrub the air of pollution, especially of the particulate variety, which in many poor neighborhoods is responsible for increased asthma rates and other health problems. They also reduce stress, which has its own health benefits. Large, established trees can even fight crime.

Fortunately, many cities understand the value trees bring to their cities.

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Los Angeles’ Hidden Original Subway System

Gelatobaby‘s Alyssa Walker went on an unmissable clandestine urban exploration tour — through the abandoned subway system nestled below L.A., revealing an uninhabited sub-city filled with strange sights:

Behold the Subway Terminal Building, hidden in plain sight in the middle of downtown LA, where at one point during the 1940′s over 65,000 riders were shuffling down into the depths of Los Angeles to board a train which traveled beneath the busy streets. We found ourselves in a vast, pillared space that, even with the tracks and trains removed, felt very much like a subway station. We did reach the end, where there was, of course, graffiti. After being used as a fallout shelter, the tunnel was sealed in the 1960s.

sub

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Ikea Is Building Its Own City

ikeaIf you’ve ever lingered in a display at an Ikea store, wishing you could remain there forever, now is your lucky day. The Globe and Mail reports:

The Swedes now want to place you and 6,000 neighbours into a neglected corner of your city, design an entire urban world around you, and Ikea-ize your lives. Ikea’s city-building ambition is in a triangle of post-industrial wasteland in the far reaches of East London. Their vision is to turn this grey netherworld into a tightly packed neighbourhood they’ll call Strand East.

This will be an all-rental private neighbourhood, run and overseen by a private company. And here is where living in an Ikea neighbourhood might come to resemble a long day in an Ikea store: The company wants you to be in a neat, clean, pleasant environment. And it very much wants you to have fun. Those things that normally just happen in life will be carefully managed from above.

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Why Walking Is Political

Commuters-on-railway-stat-008Via the Guardian, Will Self argues for the symbolic, basic importance of walking as a force against corporate and state control:
Put bluntly: deprived of mechanized means of locomotion – the car, the bus, the train – and without the aid of technology, the majority of urbanites, who constitute the vast majority of Britons, neither know where they are, nor are capable of getting somewhere else under their own power. Year on year, the number of journeys taken on foot declines – indeed, on current projections walking will have died out altogether as a means of transport by the middle of this century. Now we are alienated from the physical reality of our cities.
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An Overview Of America’s Urban Monsters

Atlantic Cities examines legendary mythological creatures of our country’s metropolises, including the horned Goatman rumored to hide in Ft. Worth’s Lake Worth and the tiny red dwarf blamed for all of Detroit’s historical woes. Most of these reveal more about our collective psyche and fears rather than what is actually secretly living in our midst — although a notable exception is the mole people (lower left) living below the surface of New York, who turned out to be very real, if elusive.

monsteres

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King City Artist/Writer Brandon Graham Talks About Graffiti, Cities, Moebius and More

king-city-coverKing City by Brandon Graham is a comic book about a guy named Joe and his cat Earthling in a far future metropolis run by spy gangs and evil sorcerers. It’s full of weird drugs, black magic, luchador masks and oddball humor. Via Technoccult:

I know you haven’t done graffiti in a long time, but did being involved in the graffiti scene in Seattle as a kid affect the way you perceive the urban environment? Do you think you’d draw cities the same way if you hadn’t been a part of that?

Yeah, I think it definitely affected how I think about cities, certainly the way you interact with your environment when you’re running around drawing on it. It’s nice to be able to fuck with the world around you – changing signs or just writing a response to an ad directly on the ad or having to draw something to fit on the surface you’re drawing on.

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