Tag Archives | Urban Planning

On The Consumerist Order Of The New City

cityNew Left Project describes the reshaping of the meaning and rules of our cities:

The commercialisation of the urban landscape has resulted in the privatisation of public space. As manufacturing industries have diminished and the consumer and service economy has grown, the places we inhabit have radically changed. As city centres have become tributes to consumption, private interests have permeated these spaces. Although these places hold the semblance of being “public”, they are owned by corporate interests and are therefore under private control and not accountable to the public.

The quasi-public space of the commercial city centre is unwelcoming for a growing number of citizens. Non-consumers, such as the homeless, the unemployed, the poor, the young and the old are branded as ‘others’ to the hegemonic consumer order. The right to the city is increasingly a privilege for those with the material and cultural capital to consume. The quest for clean and sanitized space has meant that ‘out of place’ individuals who fail to match up to a highly circumscribed model of ‘consumer citizenship’ are hidden from view.

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Facebook Building Walled Corporate City For Employees

Via Valleywag, Silicon Valley workers will have the opportunity to disappear inside Facebook, for good:

If Facebook staffers opt to move in to work, they’ll be getting a very sweet deal out of it: the Anton Menlo project includes all the comforts of suburbia and college combined. What 20-something engineer wouldn’t want to live in a walled compound?

Work is only five minutes away—and thanks to mediocre or non-existent public transit options, no one from The Outside will be able to easily visit. It’ll be like you never existed on Earth before joining Facebook.

To really finesse that You’ve-been-removed-from-the rest of society vibe, a six-foot wall surrounds most of the project.

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Inside Henry Ford’s Failed Planned-City Jungle Utopia

fordistanDamn Interesting on the forgotten history of Henry Ford’s surreal Fordlandia, a rubber-plantation-slash-corporate-city in the Amazon where workers would have American values stamped into them, and which was ultimately abandoned at a loss equivalent to $200 million today:

By the late 1920s, automobile tycoon Henry Ford’s hundreds of thousands of new cars needed millions of tires, which were very expensive to produce when buying raw materials from the established rubber lords. To that end, he established Fordlandia, a tiny piece of America which was transplanted into the Amazon rain forest for a single purpose: to create the largest rubber plantation on the planet.

In 1929, Ford purchased a 25,000 square kilometer tract of land along the Amazon river, and immediately began to develop the area.

Scores of Ford employees were relocated to the site, and an American-as-apple-pie community sprung up from what was once a jungle wilderness. It included a power plant, a hospital, a library, a golf course, and rows of white clapboard houses.

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Designing A City Impenetrable To Drones

Chapati Mystery lays out plans for the hypothetical Shura City, a place of beauty and atmosphere and freedom of movement, but no fear of U.S. drone strikes:

Drones work by detecting patterns, identifying individuals, and extracting data. I dreamed up Shura City to fight against drones with humanity and community. The city is a “black box” impenetrable to data miners and military-trained individuals but it is not a prison.

It is at best expensive and at worst impossible to build armor that can deflect any American bomb. Shura City instead uses inscrutability as its armor. Its windows are protected by computerized mashrabiyas that blink and recombine into various QR codes to jam leering cameras. Its expansive courtyard is protected by latticework with backlit (by color-changing LED) windows that allow for sunshine for children and stars for young lovers, but also make face detection tricky with color blocks and changing shadows.

Badgirs and minarets do their part to provide wild fluctuations of temperature (so that individual bodies are difficult to identify with infrared) and to provide high-wattage radio towers to interfere with wireless communication.

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Guerrilla Urban Planners Redo Mexico City By Painting Bike Lanes, Sidewalks, And Crosswalks

This Big City talks to Camina, Haz Ciudad, a group which extralegally redesigns public space to benefit ordinary residents:

Camina, Haz Ciudad started as a project to recover space for pedestrians. It was inspired by a modern development that happened here in Mexico City in an area called El Puente de los Poetas. Amazingly, there was no pedestrian infrastructure at all, the whole place seemed to be designed for cars. A group of citizens decided that couldn’t be, so they painted a sidewalk in an area where lots of people walked but had no safety. But the sidewalk was erased, and the people who painted it were really mad.

With our first painted bike lane [which is 5km and ends at Congress in Mexico City] we were trying to make a political point. We didn’t have any expectation of how long it would last. But the bike lane is still in place.

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Hurricane Sandy Robin Hoods Steal From NYC Luxury Sites To Aid The Poor

Last month’s hurricane further widened the massive economic inequality of New York City — Manhattan has recovered, while poorer outer-borough areas affected remain seriously damaged. Via Grist, an anonymous civic group has taken it upon themselves to correct matters, as their press release explains:

Over the past two weeks, a group of concerned New Yorkers has been expropriating thousands of dollars worth of tools and materials from luxury residential developments across Manhattan and delivering them to neighborhoods devastated by Superstorm Sandy. Confiscated materials, some of them never even used, include: shovels, wheelbarrows, hand trucks, hard bristle brooms, industrial rope, contractor trash bags, work lights, work gloves, flashlights, heat lamps, and gasoline.

Liberated from their role in building multimillion-dollar pieds-à-terre for wealthy CEOs and Hollywood celebrities, these tools are now in the collective hands of some of the hardest-hit communities in the city where they are now being allocated and shared among the people who need them most.

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An Urban Surveillance Map Of Vancouver

The Vancouver Public Space Network mapped CCTV locations in the metropolitan core, revealing the geography of surveillance:

The preliminary map that we created indicates the places where surveillance cameras could be found prior to the installation of extra cameras for the Olympics.  We are particularly concerned about the surveillance legacy that the Olympics may leave behind, and will be monitoring the city government to make sure that this network is removed once the party is over. In all, the map represents the locations of 1500 of the 2000 cameras we found.

Public spaces are inherently places in which we can be observed by other people, and where we can observe others. However, the VPSN is concerned about the way that intense video surveillance, particularly networked, centrally monitored systems, might negatively affect the way that people enjoy public spaces. In the United Kingdom, which has intensive public video surveillance, security cameras have been used by security officers to harass people and to profile individuals based on race and socio-economic status.

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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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Honduras Signs Deal To Allow Investors To Build Three Privately Run Cities

Well, corporations have nothing but contempt for local laws, people, or cultures, so their pursuing this extranational private city-colony model makes sense. The Washington Post reports:

Investors can begin construction in six months on three privately run cities in Honduras that will have their own police, laws, government and tax systems now that the government has signed a memorandum of agreement approving the project. An international group of investors and government representatives signed the memorandum Tuesday for the project that some say will bring badly needed economic growth to this small Central American country and that at least one detractor describes as “a catastrophe.”

The project “has the potential to turn Honduras into an engine of wealth,” said Carlos Pineda, president of the Commission for the Promotion of Public-Private Partnerships.

The project is opposed by civic groups as well as the indigenous Garifuna people. Oscar Cruz, a former constitutional prosecutor, filed a motion with the Supreme Court last year characterizing the project as unconstitutional and “a catastrophe for Honduras.”

“The cities involve the creation of a state within the state, a commercial entity with state powers outside the jurisdiction of the government,” Cruz said.

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1970′s Era S&M Dungeon Unearthed in Kentucky

Picture: Yice (CC)

Aren’t archaeology and “history” fascinating?

I don’t see how the identity of the owners is going to remain secret for long, though, as property tax assessments are part of the public record.  Keep an eye out for some interesting revelations about Grammie and Gramps in the coming months.  From Joe Arnold of WHAS11:

LOUISVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) — The mystery of an underground sadomasochism club continued to unravel on Tuesday after WHAS11 News aired images of what work crews discovered during Whiskey Row stabilization efforts.

Judging by the state of decay in the collapsing buildings, demolition crews had estimated the club dated to the 1970′s, but e-mails and posts to WHAS11′s Facebook and Twitter accounts reflect a  more recent sadistic history.

Click here to see pictures from inside.

A former founding member told WHAS11 that LATEX, short for Louisville Area Trust EXchange, was in operation in the mid to late 1990′s with close to 1,000 dues paying members.

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