Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Interesting Articles

All, in some manner or another, on the metabolic nature of cities:

Planetizen - Beyond the Corbusian Cult: Reflections on Chandigarh's Capitol.
With everything from state to city wearing a somber garb, emergency security measures were implemented to safeguard the administrative center. Barbed wire fences with guard-posts, gates and gunmen had fortified the complex and entry to the Capitol had become far more limited than ever before.

What surprised me was that the Capitol had never been presented this way. It had always been projected in architecture and planning volumes as that original Corbusian figment. Its photographs were either from the early fifties, before any of this had happened, or they had been carefully cropped to erase the barbed wires, gateposts, and weeds, and showcase only the sculptural purity the buildings. The articles had always celebrated the Capitol as a Corbusian achievement, and the only thing that mattered was his original vision, not its legacy. All these years, I had been duped into seeing the Capitol through a manipulated viewpoint that had disconnected its history and denied me any knowledge of its evolving identity.

And perhaps the most important two lines you might ever read if you hope to understand cities:
It affirms that architecture however purposeful and masterful is but a pawn in the complex socio-cultural game of city-making. Monumentality and civic pride are eventually not architectural but socio-political phenomena, and inasmuch as visionary aspirations are critical to their conception, the expectations and circumstances of those who "own", adopt and appropriate it are even more critical to their nurturing.
Design Observer - Metabolic Dark City: Hong Kong's Walled City of Kowloon.
One should be wary of any flawed social commentary from architects, such as Rem Koolhaas’ infamous flyover of Lagos, Nigeria. George Packer, in "Megacity: Decoding the Chaos of Lagos," said, "The impulse to look at an 'apparently burning garbage heap' and see an 'urban phenomenon'… is not so different from the impulse not to look at all." The reality of the city is this: it is fluid and boundless, an agglomeration of layered fragments of junk and ruins. Old television sets, broken furniture are lugged up to the roof and abandoned. It would be a nightmare for any of us, but what of the people that live there? As documented in City of Darkness by Greg Girard and Ian Lambot, some were able to survive and thrive in Hak Nam. Chui Yiu Shan, for instance, became a property developer and real estate agent who thrived in spite of or maybe because of the lawlessness inside, making $20,000 a month dealing with property transactions.
The New Republic - The Detroit Project.

All this might make Detroit seem like the most hopeless case in the global history of the city. But it is hardly the worst and certainly not hopeless. Europe is filled with cities that have risen from similarly miserable conditions.

Take Belfast, which suffered not only industrial decline and disinvestment, but also paralyzing religious guerrilla warfare. Although it received the same sort of hammer blow from globalization as Detroit, it now has steady job growth after decades of losses. Its economic output leapt 35 percent per capita between 2000 and 2005.