Amsterdam's Afterthought: Touring the A10

Adam Nowek (@adamnowek) provides a photoessay about the Amsterdam Ring Road, the city's foremost afterthought of urban mobility. Continue reading

Indelible City Pride: Urban Tattoos

Patricia Roach explores the phenomena of urban tattoos. Why do people decorate their body with hyper-local signs like subway maps or a city's coat of arms? Continue reading

Can Detroit Boogie back?

Detroit is generally considered as the prime example of urban decline. Skadi and Maarten explore its current state and encounter promising new initiatives. Continue reading

The Walking Dead: Rethinking the Amsterdam Canal

In this article, architect Louise de Hullu and urban sociologist Leon van Keulen investigate new possibilities for a walkable Amsterdam canal. Continue reading

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

Amsterdam’s Afterthought: Touring the A10

Posted on by Adam Nowek in Urban Mobility | 2 Comments

Many cities are defined in part by their urban road networks: Los Angeles had its freeways famously categorised as bourgeois or gangster by Ice Cube, while Vancouver’s outright rejection of an urban freeway has made it unique amongst North American cities. But Amsterdam is one city where the freeway is primarily an afterthought for most.

I recently participated in a workshop organised by Failed Architecture called Amsterdam’s Ring Road. The workshop joined together the creative vigour of students in the System D Academy programme at the Sandberg Institute and a variety of urban planners, architects, and researchers. The primary aim was to tackle the fundamental questions of the city’s ring road as architecture but also as infrastructure: how does it breathe life into a city that, by most metrics, has largely rejected the privately-owned car?

141014.024 (Photo: Adam Nowek)

141014.024 (Photo: Adam Nowek)

141014.023 (Photo: Adam Nowek)

141014.023 (Photo: Adam Nowek)

141014.022 (Photo: Adam Nowek)

141014.022 (Photo: Adam Nowek)

Car ownership and freeway development came relatively late to the Netherlands, with the resulting effect that Dutch highways are technologically superior to many of their peers. Continue reading

Indelible City Pride: Urban Tattoos

Posted on by Patricia Roach in Urban Sociology | Leave a comment

In the last moments of t-shirt weather, get outside and do a little people watching. Pay particular attention to bare skin: especially exposed calves, shoulders and upper arms. What do you see? Ink, ink, everywhere, ink. These days, everybody seems to have a tattoo. What was once a practice in Western society reserved for soldiers and subaltern groups like bikers, circus performers and ex-cons, tattooing is now securely mainstream. It’s a curious practice: a permanent commitment to a single statement. Whether it’s a sweetheart’s name or favourite flower, as soon as the needle hits the skin, there’s no turning back. Regrets be damned.

The classic triple X Amsterdammer tattoo (Photo: FaceMePLS)

The classic triple X Amsterdammer tattoo (Photo: FaceMePLS)

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Can Detroit Boogie back?

Posted on by Skadi Renooy and Maarten Markus in Labour & Urban Economics | 3 Comments

There is no city that has undergone such a tumultuous development history as Detroit. Once being the fastest growing city and music capital (Motown records) of the United States, the city was a dream for capitalist entrepreneurs and top-down city planners. Fueled by the thriving auto-industry, Detroit’s population grew to almost 1,9 million inhabitants in the 1950s. The sky was the limit and policy makers and planners even started to lay-out a plan for three million inhabitants. But the rapid era of growth suddenly stopped, and Detroit’s golden days were over much sooner than expected. Due to global economic restructuring, the auto industries left for cheap labor destinations. And along with the manufacturing industry, Detroit’s’ population fled the city in distress, leaving Detroit with high unemployment, little services and a financially drained municipality behind. Over the last decades, the city has seen its population cut in half and has been called the biggest Urban Failure in the United States. To turn the tide, multiple public, private, and grass-roots efforts are undertaken to get the city back on its feet. However, looking at a devastated Detroit, is there still any potential for a comeback? And if so, how effective are the efforts currently undertaken? Curious about these dynamics, we hopped on a bicycle to find out what might cause the Motor City to boogie back.

The Detroit Train-station: Once the highest station in the U.S, now left abandoned (Photo: authors)

The Detroit Train-station: Once the highest station in the U.S, now left abandoned (Photo: authors)

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The Walking Dead: Rethinking the Amsterdam Canal

Posted on by Louise de Hullu and Leon van Keulen in Urban Planning & Design | 4 Comments

In search of Walking Space

TRRRING! ‘Get out of the way!’ A widely heard cry as a result of an insurmountable irritation among cyclists in Amsterdam. Where this irritation stems from? From either the wandering pedestrian, the inattentive tourist or the Amsterdammer walker. Amsterdam cyclists, as well as motorists, either complain about pedestrians structurally blocking the road, or the seemingly careless attitude of tourists jumping in front of cyclists. And to a certain extent, they have the very right to complain. Many times, pedestrians are indeed walking on everything but the designated sidewalk. Sidewalks are for pedestrians, streets are for cyclists and motorists. However, on the other hand, isn’t it very unfair to blame the pedestrian for walking on streets instead of sidewalks? When one looks critically to the way the Amsterdam streets are used and designed, one immediately realises that the streetscape is highly unbalanced. In June of this year, Het Parool and some other local blogs argued about the problems concerning pedestrians. The space for cars and cyclists is tremendous, whereas the sidewalks are sometimes non-existent, highly fragmented or blocked by parked cars, bicycles, scooters and goods stalled by the local shop. Given these factors, one can only come to the conclusion that every time a pedestrian walks on the street, it is an active search for walkable space, which, let’s face it, Amsterdam lacks.

Blocking Walkable Space on the Keizersgracht Amsterdam (source: maps.google.nl)

Blocking Walkable Space on the Keizersgracht Amsterdam (source: maps.google)

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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 grew in the past decades in the metro area (CRTM- presentation). Wide and spacious streets  provide for ample space for cars, with the exception of some neighborhoods in the center like Chueca, Malasana or La Latina having 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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