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City Picks #1: Top Reads on Cities

Here are a few articles and blog posts that I have read this week and that I found particularly informative and/or thought-provoking.

Hong Kong. Or: just a random flashy image of a city. (by enricoferri65)

On the Smart City; Or, a ‘Manifesto’ for Smart Citizens Instead

If you are only going to read one piece this week, it shoud be this one. Dan Hill, who somehow always manages to write pieces that present new ways of thinking, published this article about ‘smart cities’. I encourage you to sit down and take time to read this essay (which is over 11.000 words), because Hill provides very timely and sound critique on the smart city dialogue. He says technology is culture nowadays, so we cannot do without but just have to find the right way to orient our cities regarding networked technology. Therefore he poses some highly relevant questions and suggestions that should definitely be picked up by other urban thinkers and practicioners. One think I especially agree with is his argument that smart city visions are often too much focused on the hardware and the systems, rather than on the citizens. The systems approach might give us insights into patterns and levels, but “gives us little detail or colour in terms of those original starting points for the city, which tend to be qualitative rather than quantitative, slippery, elusive, transient, subjective.” Moreover, he argues that “smart” is too vague a term, and that we should talk about “active citizens” instead. Read. the. essay.

Design as Politics: Belfast
In this extensive post, Rory Hyde not only gives a good contextualization of the tense urban situation in Belfast, he also goes into the potential role of architects (if there is any) in conflicted terrain and proposes several alternative strategies for engaging with it.

A backyard in Belfast, right against the city’s peace line (by Rory Hyde).

Is Urbanism the New Trickle-Down Economics?
The Urbanophile (Aaron M. Renn) always is on point with well-founded articles on urban issues. This piece is interesting because he compares urbanism to trickle-down economics, saying we cannot just expect good urban environments (that are usually only being promoted by a self-interested class) to contribute to social justice issues and upward mobility.

Hipster Trap in Brooklyn. “Urban milieus that are perfect for Millenials riding around to microbreweries on fixies do not improve social justice and equity,” says Aaron M. Renn.

The Politics of Dread - An Interview With China Miéville
For the magazine Metropolis M, Juha van ‘t Zelfde interviewed China Miéville, a British fantasy-thriller writer and professor in creative writing. The interview touches on some extremely interesting themes that I would like to read and think more about. It goes from a (fictitious?) pre-apocalyptic London in times of austerity and subversion, via dubstep and dread, to the sublime and Rem Koolhaas talking about the countryside. The online version of the interview is nicely supplemented with video’s of the music discussed.

Plan B’s Ill Manors, a video Juha van ‘t Zelfde and China Miéville discuss.

Poverty Below the High Line
polis is one of my favorite websites, because they always publish good articles that go in depth on social side of cities. This article an example, going into the case of New York City’s High Line, which was regenerated roughly over the past 10 years. The surrounding and initially run-down neighborhoods provided a fertile soil for profitable redevelopment, but the public money pumped into the project created problems for long-time residents who now cannot afford the increasing cost of living. The author, Sahra Mirbabaee, says that “commodifying ostensibly lower-class spaces for supposedly higher classes is both patronizing and divisive.”

The High Line. (by Elitism)

Filed under urbanism

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