Exotic Cruise Holidays and Colorful books


Pop-up shops have recently become a familiar phenomenon in the world's big cities. Tessa Dikker discusses to what extent all these 'pop-ups' are desirable. Continue reading

Filming Cities: Domino Effect


A couple struggling in search for a common goal while being agonizingly aware of the transcultural differences in a region of instability and Continue reading

Manchester's Northern Quarter: Fostering or Exploiting Authenticity?


Authenticity is often considered as the magic ingredient for cultural and commercial regeneration of post-industrial neighbourhoods. But what is considered authentic and to what extent can authenticity be 'used'? Valerie van Lieshout looks for answers in Manchester's Northern Quarter. Continue reading

UberCYCLE: Transport innovation in Amsterdam


While Uber-POP is under attack, a new initiative is launched in Amsterdam: Uber-CYCLING. Enjoy the most typical Dutch experience for only a few euros! Continue reading

Life and Death of Shopping Streets in Vienna


A walk through a shopping street is a window into the history of a neighborhood, with old and new stores right next to each other. Vienna has quite some nice storefronts dating back to the 1950s or even older. Continue reading

Exotic Cruise Holidays and Colorful books

Posted on by Tessa Dikker in Human Geography | Leave a comment

Ten years ago, the word ‘pop-up’ probably made you think of these annoying windows that appeared on your computer screen, seducing you to book an exotic cruise holiday. Or perhaps you would melancholically recall these wonderful children’s books that actually proved somewhat too fragile to browse through without parents.

Pop-up books are no longer the main reference regarding the concept 'pop-up'. Source: Topeka Library

Pop-up books are no longer the main reference regarding the concept ‘pop-up’. Source: Topeka Library

Nowadays, the concept and term pop-up is widespread known as it has become a strong force in the urban fabric. A pop-up refers to the task where architects, entrepreneurs, communities and municipalities stand to deal with the constantly changing world and public space. This is at least how Jeroen Beekmans and Joop de Boer frame it in their book Pop up city: City-Making A fluid World.

New forms of pop-ups continuously pop up: pop-up galleries, pop-up camping sites, pop-up churches, pop-up psychotherapy practices, pop-up restaurants, pop-up bars, pop-up hairdressers, pop-up libraries, pop-up discotheques, pop-up taxi ranks and even pop-up bowling lanes.

The term pop-up appears to be a buzzword for everything temporarily and this phenomenon seems to fit perfectly with mobility, volatility, authenticity and exclusivity: typical characteristics of the post-industrial economy. At the same time the concept of pop-ups neighbors with the emphasis on an experience economy, massclusivity (exclusivity for the masses) and ‘planned spontaneity’, according to trendwatching.com something that typifies today’s consumer par excellence.

Lastly, the activities of pop-ups drive on strong and extensive social networks and social media. People inform each other about new locations and openings. And the need for physical human contact is met when the online community around a brand, shop, style or museum comes together in a temporary form in the off line world. Continue reading

Filming Cities: Domino Effect

Posted on by Leon van Keulen in Urban Documentary | Leave a comment

Beach of Sukhumi (Photo by: Guy Degen)

Beach of Sukhumi (Photo by: Guy Degen)

Domino Effekt

Elwira Niewiera and Piotr Rosolowski (Abkhazia; 2011)

 

A couple struggling in their search for a common goal while being agonizingly aware of the transcultural differences in a region of instability and transition.

 Struggles of transnational migrants

The documentary makes very clear what individual struggles there are to be found in the everyday lives of transnational (i.e. Russian) migrants in Abkhazia. Whether or not this is arguably legitimate in terms of the historic political struggles seems irrelevant, when looking at the multi-cultural couple and the decent living they try to uphold. It is a struggle of people; two persons in particular: Rafael and Natalya. Rafael struggles for independence and recognition of his Abkhazian identity, while the ambitious Russian Natalya seems to be denied and degenerated by her family-in-law. It is the perfect setting for a story of an impossible love; one strives for his identity, while the other – secretly – would have loved to have lacked the identity she currently holds.

Rafael and Natalya: two lives one world (Still from the documentary)

Rafael and Natalya: two lifes one world (Still from the documentary)

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Manchester’s Northern Quarter: Fostering or Exploiting Authenticity?

Posted on by Valerie van Lieshout in Human Geography | Leave a comment

Nowadays, The Northern Quarter is often defined as one of the most exciting parts of Manchester. Its buzzling and vibrant nightlife, distinctive shops, mixture of bars and restaurants and creative industries, suit the needs of hundreds of daily users.  Strikingly, the area used to be known for its heavy industry and poor working class inhabitants.  Until very recent, the area basically lacked everything attractive. Cultural and commercial regeneration in post-industrial neighbourhoods has become a global tool for urban success. Bearing in mind the incredible transformations underlying contemporary urban life, how much do users and inhabitants actually care about the changing atmosphere in neighbourhoods?

The Northern Quarter (Source: author, 2014)

The Northern Quarter in 2014 (Source: Author)

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UberCYCLE: Transport innovation in Amsterdam

Posted on by Rothar Kolesa in Urban Mobility | Leave a comment

Disclaimer: This article was meant as an April Fool’s Day article. Read more at the bottom of this article.

The private transportation business has been news in every city where transportation network provider Uber introduced its services. In an earlier report on The Proto City, we reflected on the disruptions in the taxi industries around the world. Especially the UberPOP service, in which private drivers can offer transport, has drawn quite some media attention because of its disruptive effects on the taxi industries. In Spain, Thailand, Germany, France and the Netherlands the service has now been forbidden. In most cases, if not all, Uber however decided not to suspend the service. Governments decide it is time to take measures: in Seoul, Paris and Amsterdam, authorities recently raided Uber’s offices in order to obtain recent records of the banned service. In the latter, so far, it has still not yet forced Uber to abandon their practices.

While being prohibited in many countries, sitting on the back of someone's bike has been part of Holland's cycling culture for centuries. Picture by Amsterdamized, Flickr

While being prohibited in many countries, sitting on the back of someone’s bike has been part of Holland’s cycling culture for centuries. Picture by Amsterdamized, Flickr

On the contrary: In Amsterdam, the business seems to be taking yet another strategic step in order to affirm its place in Amsterdam’s taxi industry and is working on introducing a brand new unique service: UberCYCLE. It is based on the same system that makes the UberPOP service work. However, instead of offering a car ride, individuals can now offer to give travellers a lift on the backseat of their bike.

It is not the first time that Uber takes cyclists into account. In Seattle, you can order a ride with bike-racks on the back of the car, so that you can drive home and take your bicycle along. In New York City, there exists something called UberRUSH, a bicycle courier service. Amsterdam now seems the perfect place for testing a new service in which people can share their bikes. ‘If it doesn’t work here, it won’t work anywhere’, seems to be the underlying motivation. Not surprising: Amsterdam is a relatively small city with an excellent bicycle infrastructure. On distances until 4 km, cyclists are often quicker than cars. Is UberCYCLE an idea prone to succeed or will it be just a short trend?

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Life and Death of Shopping Streets in Vienna

Posted on by Lukas Franta in Photography, Urban Planning & Design | Leave a comment

A walk through Vienna’s small neighborhood shopping streets.

Shopping streets are lifelines of cities and their neighborhoods, providing the surroundings with stores to do their daily and not- so- daily shopping, to sip on a cup of coffee or a beer while meeting friends.

Just like neighborhoods, shopping streets change over time, altering both their appearance as new shops open up and old ones close down. Most often, the transformation of a shopping street is connected to gentrification (Zukin 2008, 2009), so that the mix of stores and cafés mirrors the clientele frequenting the street.

Hip shops meet old design. (picture by Cedric Mayer)

Hip shops meet old design. (picture by Cedric Mayer)

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Lost Vegas: A Night Walk on Fremont Street

Posted on by Adam Nowek in Photography | Leave a comment

Vice. Excess. Indulgence. The Las Vegas Strip holds a number of well-deserved stereotypes that emerges from a tourism sector that is almost uniformly centred around gambling, late nights, and a sense of corporate-sponsored hedonism.

Neon lights at the Golden Goose (Photo: Adam Nowek)

Neon lights at the Golden Goose (Photo: Adam Nowek)

Martini-shaped neon on Fremont Street East (Photo: Adam Nowek)

Martini-shaped neon on Fremont Street East (Photo: Adam Nowek)

Llamas stay for free on East Fremont Street (Photo: Adam Nowek)

Llamas stay for free on East Fremont Street (Photo: Adam Nowek)

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Yuppie Voting Behaviour: Urban Electoral Earthquakes?

Posted on by Jorn Koelemaij in Human Geography | 2 Comments

19 March 2014 was a historical day for the city of Amsterdam. On this day, the ‘Kremlin at the Amstel’, which was one of the rather cynical nicknames of Amsterdam’s city hall due to the decades of hegemony by the local labour party, has fallen. Since WWII the party had always been the biggest. Hence, the Dutch capital was a reliable strong hold for the social democrats. Where the labour party lost, others won. Big winner of this most recent elections was D66, who are presenting themselves as progressive and pragmatic, or ‘social-liberal.’ This striking shift in the political landscape raises questions. Can the collapse of labour be regarded as a one-off incident, or is this electoral outcome a logical result of Amsterdam’s recent demographic and socio-cultural changes? To what extent are similar patterns visible in other European capitals? And is there a reason to worry about a growing urban-rural divide?

D66 is one of the political parties in Holland that has its own boat at Amsterdam's annual gay pride (picture by Geoff Coupe, flickr)

D66 is one of the political parties in Holland that has its own boat at Amsterdam’s annual gay pride (picture by Geoff Coupe, flickr)

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Konza Technology City: Between Vision and Reality

Posted on by Eline Splinter in Urban Planning & Design | Leave a comment

In recent years, numerous plans for New Towns have been developed throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Ambitious initiatives include Hope City in Ghana, Kigamboni City in Tanzania and Konza Technology City in Kenya. The visualizations of these future cities look very modern and aesthetically pleasing, and in the plans the ambition to create a “world-class city”, an “eco-city” or a “smart-city” is put forward.

The emergence of New Towns throughout Africa is a very recent phenomenon. Although the actual construction of most of them has not started yet, they already have a prominent role in the media. Many find these plans very promising, as the visions for these New Towns reflect the notion that Africa is “rising”. However, they have been heavily criticized as well. It has been argued that these planned cities stand in stark contrast with the contemporary urban situation in Africa, which is plagued by housing shortages, congestion and pollution. Why are these New Towns being developed and how feasible is their construction really?

Konza

Figure 1: An impression of Konza Technology City by the New York-based firm SHoP Architects. Source: Shoparc.com

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Students and the Right to the Neo-liberal University

Posted on by Donya Ahmadi in Urban Sociology | 1 Comment

The case of the student occupations in Amsterdam

The past two weeks Amsterdam has witnessed the rise of a rapidly growing student mobilization. On Friday February 13, the student collective ‘The new University’ occupied the Bungehuis, in an act of protest against the financialization of the University of Amsterdam (UvA) and the unwillingness of the university’s executive board to take student claims into consideration. The Bungehuis is one of the iconic buildings of University of Amsterdam wherein the Humanities Faculty is primarily located. The occupation has moved on to the Maagdenhuis, the building from which the university is governed, as of Thursday night. By then, the protestors of the New University were joined by the ‘Humanities Rally’, another group of students with a similar mission.

The initial spark of the student mobilization, however, was the squatting of the former common room of the Spinhuis back in September 2014. The common room was an autonomous student space located at the heart of a historic UvA building in the city center of Amsterdam which was to be eradicated due to the organizational reforms that led to the relocation of the faculty against the will of many students and staff. The squatting of Het Spinhuis was a public act of defiance and protest that not just called attention to property speculation and to the physical struggle over the use of privatised space, but also to the reclamation of a space symbolic to multiple generations of UvA students whose political ideas, memories and friendships took form in that very room. Although the collective was forced out of the building in January after the court ruled in favour of their eviction, its impact on rendering student politicization and mobilization visible both on and off university grounds remains significant.

Picture of het Spinhuis during occupation (picture from https://hetspinhuis.wordpress.com)

Picture of het Spinhuis during occupation (picture from WordPress)

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A Local Cow at Global Schiphol Airport

Posted on by Michael Schwind in Urban Sociology | 6 Comments

Finding the local at the international airport

“Are you sure this is Paris, France?” — In Jacques Tati’s famous film Playtime (1967), an American travel group arrives at the airport of the French capital and is obviously puzzled with the identity of the place. The uniform architecture, with its glossy polished marble floor and endlessly reflecting glass façades, allows no other option than a great confusion among the travellers. The vast emptiness of the airport misses any sign or hint of the desired travel destination.

That first sequence of Playtime holds the mirror up to the urban and architectural utopias of modern rationalism in the 1960’s and humorously illustrates what happens when homogeneity becomes alive; much to the cost of the American travellers, who keep desperately looking for the familiar Parisian historic buildings they know from their travel guides.

Schiphol and the Amsterdam ‘Vibe’

If we were to adapt Tati’s movie to the present, this scene would have to be rewritten. Today, arriving at Schiphol leaves no doubt about where we are. Little is left from the seemingly heartless and dehumanised monotony of airport-architecture. At Schiphol, we literally blunder into the “cultural taste” of Amsterdam and – by extension – the Netherlands. Excessive imagery of windmills, clogs (Klompen), kissing couples, Gouda, among others, spread out over the entire Schiphol Plaza – the shopping and welcoming area of the airport – giving us the assurance, yes; ‘I am [in] Amsterdam’. Literally, we encounter the articulation of a pronounced symbol-driven localism, almost a false sense that we are already in the heart of the city, gazing at Dam square’s Koninklijk Paleis.

Welcome to Schiphol Airport; welcome to the Netherlands

Welcome to Schiphol Airport; welcome to the Netherlands (picture: Michael Schwind)

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