Vancouver: Victim of Its Own Success

Bas van Rossum and Jate Bleeker report on how Vancouver's affordability crisis has made the city a victim of its own success. Continue reading

Filming Cities: Mietrebellen- Rent Rebels

'Mietrebellen' is a documentary on the diversity of citizens engaging against exorbitant rents and eviction that plagues Berlin's inhabitants. Continue reading

The Suicide Cycle Tour: Madness in Madrid

Today, we bike through the streets of Madrid, trying to navigate on big roads between traffic and get some rest at one of the bike cafés in Spain's capital. Continue reading

Hong Kong Streets: Battleground of Values

Isabella Rossen reports from the streets of Hong Kong's Umbrella Revolution to look at how the city's differing views on democracy affect the streets. Continue reading

Bandung: Breeding Soil for the Creative Slum?

How does creative placemaking look like in a rural-urban slum near Bandung, Indonesia? Valerie van Lieshout describes how 'creativity' changed Dago Pojok. Continue reading

Vancouver: Victim of Its Own Success

Posted on by Bas van Rossum and Jate Bleeker in Urban Planning & Design | Leave a comment

Vancouver consistently ranks amongst the top five most liveable cities in the world. Its high rate of liveability combined with the globalization of real estate markets has driven housing prices up so high that it has resulted in an affordability crisis that affects the daily living of many of Vancouver’s not so wealthy citizens.

As a city that largely escaped inner-city highways, Vancouver is gradually becoming more multimodal (Photo: Jate Bleeker)

As a city that largely escaped inner-city highways, Vancouver is gradually becoming more multimodal (Photo: Jate Bleeker)

Vancouver’s housing market is so expensive that it is inaccessible to a large part of the population, driving lower income classes out of the city and creating homelessness. In a single year, all homes in Vancouver had increased in assessed value by $55,000, which makes it the most expensive housing market in North America. The mayor has put together a task force on the subject and is looking for new solutions in urban design and planning to combat the city’s affordability crisis. We will dig more deeply into the reasons why creating a beautiful city with rich urban design achievements can backfire on the existing population and their accessibility to housing. Continue reading

Filming Cities: Mietrebellen- Rent Rebels

Posted on by Lukas Franta in Urban Documentary | Leave a comment

Filming Cities is a monthly series on The Proto City, in which one of our authors will review a film about the urban environments that we inhabit. This month we review ‘Mietrebellen- Rent Rebels’, a German documentary about initiatives in Berlin fighting against unreasonable rent increases and evictions.

Mietrebellen- Rent Rebels (by schultecoersdokfilm)

Mietrebellen- Rent Rebels (by schultecoersdokfilm)

Mietrebellen – Widerstand gegen den Ausverkauf der Stadt
(Rent Rebels – Resistance Against Selling Out The City)
by Gertrud Schulte Westenberg and Matthias Coers
Germany, 2014

‘I hadn’t thought I need to go on the streets again to protest in my age because I’m worried where I can live.’ (one senior protester at a rally on Kottbusser Tor; original: Ich hätte nicht gedacht, dass ich in meinem Alter noch einmal auf die Straße protestieren gehen muss aus Sorge, wo ich wohnen werde.)

Berlin is famous to all of us for being a city of the creative, the young, and the hedonists, where you can have a good life with relatively low income. The city has been in decline for decades due to the separation, thus offering plenty of cheap apartments. However, in the last decade, the real estate market became more dynamic with rising prices and due to rent legislations often extremely quick. Vacancy rates dropped from 4% in the early 2000s to only 1,7% today (according to the director at urbanize festival in Vienna on Oct. 12th 2014), limiting the ability for renters to move easily from one apartment to the other. Evictions are happening on a daily basis, as real estate developers are raising rents to clear buildings of their long-time tenants in order to re-rent the apartments for a higher price. In a city with an average income of 1650 Euros monthly and roughly 17% are living of welfare benefits, rent increases of sometimes 100% are posing a severe danger to social security in the city, as many people are in danger of becoming homeless, sparking widespread protest among citizens.

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The Suicide Cycle Tour: Madness in Madrid

Posted on by Lukas Franta in Urban Mobility | Leave a comment

The Suicide Cycle Tour is an exclusive series here on The Proto City that covers the trials and tribulations of the cyclist in cities that just aren’t friendly to them, including, Berlin, BogotáBostonHong KongLondonManchesterMoscowNew YorkPortlandPretoriaSydneyTransnistria, and Vienna. This week, we ride our bikes in Madrid, the capital of Spain.

Madrid, the capital of Spain, is a typical south-European city with high densities and a generally compact layout. However, with more than 3 million inhabitants and another 3 millions in the surrounding cities and towns in the metropolitan area, Madrid is quite extensive. The Spanish housing boom led to the construction of large new towns at the fringe of the city, all connected via trains or even subways to the city center. Besides public transport, which saw big investments in the last two decades, car traffic is the main means for Madrilenos to get around as streets are mostly wide and spacious except for some neighborhoods in the center like Chueca, Malasana or La Latina with its narrow streets and irregular street grid.

Cycling Style in Madrid (Picture by Author)

Cycling Style in Madrid (Picture by Author)

Despite the summery climate Madrid has never be known as a cycling city, and during my first visits some years ago, a cyclist wasn’t a common sight on the  streets of the Spanish capital.

This seems about to change right now.

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Hong Kong Streets: Battleground of Values

Posted on by Isabella Rossen in Human Geography | Leave a comment

Hong Kong’s financial district and the surrounding roads have turned into a battleground of conflicting values the past two weeks. A reflection on the conflicting values at the root of the current protests in Hong Kong.

The traffic lights at Connaught Road still dutifully blink from red to green and back again, seemingly unaware of the fact that the street they guard is these days not the major thoroughfare it is all the other days, year after year. Instead of facilitating a merciless stream of roaring traffic, the main road connecting the east and the west of Hong Kong Island has been taken over by a mass of Hong Kong citizens who have gathered to express their voice and display their dissatisfaction with the Chinese government’s increasing grip on the city. The traffic lights stand by helplessly: in the fight against civil disobedience, the best they can do is pretend that nothing is out of the ordinary in Hong Kong.

The masses gather in Central (Photo: Isabella Rossen)

The masses gather in Central (Photo: Isabella Rossen)

The current situation in Hong Kong is anything but commonplace. Continue reading

Bandung: Breeding Soil for the Creative Slum?

Posted on by Valerie van Lieshout in Human Geography, Labour & Urban Economics | Leave a comment

A growing body of evidence, largely based on Charles Landry’s writings on ‘the creative city’, indicates that fostering cultural and creative activity is an essential strategy in building quality of a place, maximizing talent, enhancing sustainability and defining competitiveness in today’s growing knowledge economy. One of the tools to achieve this on the local level is through creative placemaking, which is perceived to turn local creative potential into economic and social benefits for the community. This article explores how creative placemaking in Bandung’s kampung Dago Pojok helps to create opportunities for socioeconomic empowerment and improvement of the physical environment of the area, in a way that it grows local potential to challenge urban inequality.

Picture 1: Transforming Dago Pojok ( picture by Amal, 2012)

Picture 1: Transforming Dago Pojok ( picture by Amal, 2012)

The rural – urban slum

Kampung Dago Pojok is located in the north of Bandung within the Dago area. The Dago area has a long history as an important hub for commerce, socializing and transport. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, Dago has become increasingly urbanized. The global process of urbanization, driven by neoliberal forces and capitalism, has resulted in the exclusion of vulnerable groups from formal urban development processes. This is due to the enormous influx of people, in which public as well as private parties have failed to address everyone’s needs in terms of housing and social services, leading to social segregation. Less advantaged groups have been driven into underserved and over concentrated areas such as kampung Dago Pojok, while growing middle classes are concentrating in New Towns and gated communities. Continue reading

The Suicide Cycle Tour: Bogotá

Posted on by Michiel Dekker in Crazy Shit, Urban Mobility | Leave a comment

The Suicide Cycle Tour is an exclusive series here on The Proto City that covers the trials and tribulations of the cyclist in cities that just aren’t friendly to them, including, BerlinBostonHong KongLondonManchesterMoscowNew YorkPortlandPretoria, SydneyTransnistria, and Vienna. This time Michiel Dekker takes us to Bogotá, Colombia.

Bogotá, the capital of a country with a not so favourable reputation. The legacy of years of violence is reflected in the impressions of Colombia by many people. The intensity of the conflict in the country has dropped over the last decade however, and chances that you will find yourself in open warfare in this city are not present anymore. Along with dropping crime rates, the city is slowly but steady crawling up the list of recommended travel destinations. And why not discover this highly contrasting metropolis, populated by almost nine million inhabitants, by bike?

A view on Bogotá, with clearly visible construction works.

A view on Bogotá, with clearly visible construction works.

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Filming Cities: I am Gurgaon

Posted on by Jorn Koelemaij in Urban Documentary | Leave a comment

Filming Cities is a monthly series on The Proto City, in which one of our authors will review a film about the urban environments that we inhabit. This month we review ‘I am Gurgaon’, a Dutch documentary about a privately developed new town on the edge of New Delhi.

I am Gurgaon by VPRO Tegenlicht

‘I am Gurgaon’ by VPRO Tegenlicht

  I am Gurgaon

Marije Meerman (VPRO Tegenlicht)

The Netherlands, 2010

 

“Of course we understand that you can’t get heaven on earth, but when you’re playing with sentiments of people with money, we want to believe that there’s going to be heaven on earth.”

 

Gurgaon, a ‘new’ Indian city and ‘economic hub’ mainly developed in the 21st century, was ought to be an archetypical residential area to comfortably host the increasing Indian (upper) middle class. This documentary, which is an episode of the weekly Dutch ‘future-affairs’ programme ‘Tegenlicht’, portrays some of the (future) inhabitants of this artificial, privately developed city. In the early minutes of the film, it shows that some of the residents indeed consider their Gurgaon gated community as a heaven-like place. It is described as ‘progressive, moving and modern’, ‘the world that we see when we’re travelling’, and ‘a Singapore for India.’ When the documentary progresses, however, it becomes clear that Gurgaon may not quite be an enviable example of decent modern urban planning. Continue reading

Coffee in the City

Posted on by Jan Rath and Wietze Gelmers in Urban Sociology | Leave a comment

In Amsterdam today, specialty coffee bars are mushrooming. Does this mean that Amsterdammers have become coffee gluttons from one day to the next? Fact is that the spread of specialty coffee bars is not confined to Amsterdam, but a phenomenon that can be observed in almost every world city, be it Vancouver, Istanbul, or Kunming. It is obvious that structural factors apply such as, firstly, the transformation of the manufacturing economy to what Alan J. Scott would label the cognitive-creative economy; secondly, the concomitant concentration in urban centres of high-skilled and on life-style and connections oriented individuals; and thirdly, the proliferation of new forms of urbanism. But how does this work in practice? Here, we examine what is actually happening in these specialty coffee bars.

The Outpost in New York's Bedford-Stuyvesant is one of the few establishments patronised by caucasian locals in a predominantly African-American neighbourhood, suggesting that gentrification is on the way (Photo: Jan Rath)

The Outpost in New York’s Bedford-Stuyvesant is one of the few establishments patronised by caucasian locals in a predominantly African-American neighbourhood, suggesting that gentrification is on the way (Photo: Jan Rath)

Older readers may still recall the typical Amsterdam ‘brown cafes’, licensed premises featuring dark wood due to years of smoking patrons. These cafes cherished a warm and cozy atmosphere by offering a drink, a snack, a friendly conversation, and a game of cards or billiards. Coffee was available any time of the day. Indeed, a pot of lukewarm and often stale coffee was patiently waiting on a warming plate. Next to brown cafes, there were ‘coffee shops’ (koffiehuizen) — not to be confused with establishments for the sale of cannabis for personal consumption. Most of the time, these were non-licensed, casual eating and drinking places with Formica tables and chequered serviettes. Koffiehuizen served coffee, tea or milk, and also light lunches such as cheese rolls, omelets, and croquets. Here too, patrons enjoyed their coffee in white china cups while sitting at a table. To be sure, at both types of premises the range of coffee products was limited to either black coffee or coffee with milk.

How different are things on the urban coffee front today? Percolator coffee is no longer existent unless in very, very hip specialty bars where slow coffee is on the menu. Now, a cup of coffee is typically freshly brewed either by a high-end shiny, chrome espresso maker, preferably of Italian design, or a less fancy and less expensive coffee machine, but always on individual order. The introduction of these newfangled machines has been accompanied by real quality improvements, or at least the pretension thereof. These improvements responded to and paved the way for a further fragmentation of consumer preferences. Where once a simple black or white coffee was a dominant feature of cafes in most cities, the production and consumption of a whole array of caffeinated beverages have been following a pattern that is commonplace in the entire post-Fordist world. Continue reading

The PIN-Only Epidemic in Amsterdam

Posted on by Donya Ahmadi in Urban Sociology | 1 Comment

Planning for Social Exclusion: The PIN-Only Epidemic in Amsterdam

We live in an era of fast-paced and precarious change whereby exclusion – as an outcome of processes of social embodiment grounded in an unequal global capitalist order – is a rising concern in numerous cities. Earlier accounts of social exclusion focused more on socio-economic factors (in particular employment status) in answering the question of what causes certain groups in an urban society to become disconnected from the normal round of living and working within that society. A unidimensional approach as such equates social exclusion with unemployment. Social inclusion in that case is realized by one’s integration into the labour market or becoming productive within the Capitalist framework.

DSC_0586

“PIN-only policies are ruling out the ones who do not have access to financial and banking services”

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Celebrating South China’s Urban Villages

Posted on by Adam Nowek in Urban Planning & Design | Leave a comment

Urban informality is hardly a new reality for the world’s cities. The term itself has a young theoretical life, being championed by urbanist Ananya Roy as a lens with which to think about how cities are planned and made without the need to approach an urban planning department. Informal settlements exist in a huge variety of forms, from the gradual occupation of the Torre David skyscraper in Caracas to the built-overnight towers of outer Istanbul, and offer ad hoc solutions for housing, retail, and community space alongside questionable building quality.

Architectural details in the urban village often have multiple functions that would otherwise be discouraged elsewhere in the formal city (Photo: psychosteria on Flickr)

Architectural details in the urban village often have multiple functions that would otherwise be discouraged elsewhere in the formal city (Photo: psychosteria on Flickr)

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