This is the way the world ends: not with a bang but a bronchial spasm. That is, at least, according to William Delisle Hay’s 1880 novella The Doom of the Great City. It imagines the entire population of London choked to death under a soot-filled fog. The story is told by the event’s lone survivor sixty years later as he recalls “the greatest calamity that perhaps this earth has ever witnessed” at what was, for Hay’s first readers, the distant future date of 1942. -- Brett Beasley in the Public Domain review on one of the first modern urban apocalypse stories.
In the last decade, some cities have created unusual municipal projects using personal and institutional technologies and Open Data, to keep things running smoothly. In Chicago, there’s a text-based pothole tracker. Pittsburg, Chicago, NYC and other cities have snowplow trackers during winter storms. Boston asked people to adopt-a-hydrant and shovel them out after snowstorms. In Honolulu, you can adopt a tsunami siren. In 2013, the city of Melbourne assigned email addresses to 70,000 trees as part of their Urban Forest Project, so citizens could report problems. Instead, people wrote thousands of love letters to their favorite trees, and in many cases, the "trees" wrote back. [more inside]
Mark Kingwell: "Walking in a city is the greatest unpriced pleasure there is." [more inside]
Abandoned Silverdome Becomes BMX Dream Playground - Watch the final session that will shut down the abandoned stadium outside Detroit. Includes photos. (previously)
What does an Islamic urban space look like? This question has dogged intellectuals and authorities in Muslim-majority lands for centuries, but in recent decades has acquired a renewed sense of urgency amid the emergence of modernizing Islamist political movements. These groups have not only articulated new visions of the public sphere, mass politics, and economy, they have also increasingly found themselves in positions of authority to shape the cities, regions, and lands they work in. As these groups have found themselves in control, the revolutionary mandate (and widespread protest slogan) to imagine a politics “neither East nor West, but Islamic” has taken on new meanings, forcing leaders long focused narrowly on legal or constitutional change to recognize the more diffuse and institutional nature of power, and how much the production of space is a part of it. [more inside]
Amsterdam wants to be smarter than you. And it’s well on its way. The Netherlands capital is on a mission to turn itself into the smartest city in the world. Through a collaboration with government officials, private companies including telecom giant KPN, and the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, the city is quickly becoming a futuristic tech hub.
Removing Fish From a Surreal Abandoned Shopping Mall. Thousands of carp, tilapia and catfish will be relocated to less absurd settings by Bangkok officials.
Dérive is a smartphone app inspired by the Situationists that encourages you to wander your city. You can use the general deck, use one for Abu Dhabi, Biella, Ithaca, Johannesburg, Kampala, New York City, Paris or San Francisco, or make your own
[more inside]We want our tools to sing of not just productivity but of our love of curiosity, the joy of wonderment, and the freshness of the unknown. —Eric Paulos, “Manifesto of Open Disruption and Participation”In his essay “Walking in the City,” the French scholar Michel de Certeau talks about the “invisible identities of the visible.” He is talking specifically about the memories and personal narratives associated with a location. Until recently, this information was only accessible one-to-one—that is, by talking to people who had knowledge of a place. But what if that data became one-to-many, or even many-to-many, and easily accessible via some sort of street-level interface that could be accessed manually, or wirelessly using a smartphone?
Creepy masterpieces of sculpture and landscaping masquerading as children's playgrounds. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.
Ta-Nehisi Coates writes in The Atlantic:The Effects of Housing Segregation on Black Wealth. As the wealth gap widens between whites and blacks in America, and after reading this list and this list, he concludes The Ghetto Is Public Policy. [more inside]
San Francisco must change. "...the current state of permitting regulations for building and the glacial pace of infrastructure projects in San Francisco benefit very few people and risk turning it into a caricature of its former self for tourists and residents rich enough to live in a fantasy, not a living city. If there was ever a time when San Francisco needed to embrace a dynamic, expansive policy for building housing, offices and transportation, it is now." (Previously: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.)
Where do the smartest people move? A new report finds that higher intelligence is linked with rural-to-city migration, and with city-to-suburb movement.
GooBing Detroit: chronological photosets of houses and streets in Detroit from 2009 to 2013, made with the aid of Google Street View and Bing StreetSide. [more inside]
The Tower of David skyscraper in Caracas was abandoned in 1994, and remained vacant until 2007 when squatters moved in. There is now a vibrant community living within its walls.
BXL swings in the cracks is a "Collective who up-cycles waste (scrap wood, discarded domestic furniture, ...) into parasite interventions with the aim to vitalize public spaces." [more inside]
The Trickster Prince is academic and historian Matt Houlbrook's blog about the ephemera and little-known stories of the English inter-war period (and before) with a focus on class-jumping, queer narratives, "faking it", and urban society in the 20s and 30s.
Visiting the Big Apple? "Don't ask a pedestrian where a certain street is. He is usually too busy to stop, and if polite enough to stop, won't know. No New Yorker knows anything about New York." And another kind reminder: "Don't gape at women smoking cigarettes in restaurants. They are harmless and respectable, notwithstanding and nevertheless. They are also smart." Advice from Valentine’s City of New York: A Guide Book, published in 1920. [more inside]
Architecture of Doom is a Tumblr that collects images of "bleak/ gloomy/ forbidding/ desolate/ unfortunate and totalitarian architecture" from sources like Fuck Yeah Brutalism and Failed Architecture. The latter bills itself as a "research platform that aims to open up new perspectives on urban failure – from what it’s perceived to be, what’s actually happening and how it’s represented to the public" and offers some interesting essays and case studies – for example: Hotel Jugoslavija: Spacio-temporal Mosaics of Memorabilia, Function Follows Form: How Berlin Turns Horror Into Beauty, and The Poetry of Decay.
Don't Watch That TV is a rabbit hole of fun and weird videos, mostly focused on urban/ dance/ electronic music, sorted into 20 different "channels" or programs. To make this timesink more manageable, I'd like to bring your attention to their Beat This channel, wherein producers are challenged to create a new beat, from scratch, in 10 minutes. The first mix is from a young producer who goes by Swindle, and he pulls off a pretty nice track in the time allotted, joking he should do all his tracks in ten minutes. But if that doesn't catch your fancy, and all those producers names don't mean anything to you, may I present Kieren Hebden, aka Four Tet, making a beat with nothing but MJ's Thriller album as the source material, sampling and distorting it into something weird and new. [more inside]
A new Report on the State of Health + Urbanism (pdf) from MIT looks at the relationship between urban planning and public health, with some surprising findings. The cities covered are Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Minneapolis, New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. [more inside]
The Wire Poster Project features posters for each of the epigrams preceding each episode. Benefits go the Baltimore Urban Debate League.
Ask A Native New Yorker: How Guilty Should I Feel About Being A Horrible Gentrifier? Passionate response from a Bushwick native.
Paris Apartment opened for the first time in 70 years Including intriguing links to a scandalous Belle Époque art wold romance and a $3 million dollar painting. Subject of this AskMe last year but includes additional photos. [more inside]
Mechanised Japanese Underground Bicycle Parking Pictures and video of space-saving bicycle parking in Japan.
An amateur film shot in 1939 by French tourist Jean Vivier documents a trip to New York City, in color.
Will Allen's Growing Power operates urban farms. His first Milwaukee farm is three urban acres where he grows enough food to feed 10,000 people. An interview by the Splendid Table's Lynne Rossetto Kasper in support of his new book. Previously.
Tom Roeser was unhappy about the decline of his town, Carpentersville, IL. So he decided to do something about it. Roeser bought some foreclosed properties, renovated them, and then rented them out for below market value.
More than just pictures of electric Brill, Flyer and Pullman buses, trolleybuses.net has some great old street-level shots of many cities in North America.
After Forbes magazine declared Dayton, OH, one of America's " fastest dying cities," a group of local media makers created Reinvention Stories. The interactive film/multimedia experience rolls out this month in three acts.
A Contagion Of Violence
In exploring the occurrence of violence, researchers have recognized the tendency for violent acts to cluster, to spread from place to place, and to mutate from one type to another – similar to the infectious disease model, in which an agent or vector initiates a specific biological pathway leading to symptoms of disease and infectivity.Is It Time To Treat Violence Like A Contagious Disease? [more inside]
See the big picture of how suburban developments are changing the country's landscape, with aerial photos and an architect's commentary
"On a good day, the street maintenance team tasked by the New York City Department of Transportation with roadway repair might fill 4,000 potholes in eight hours. In an average week, they could resurface 100,000 square yards of road. After Hurricane Sandy, their crews removed 2,500 tons of debris. And every day, on a Tumblr called The Daily Pothole, New Yorkers can take a peek inside the workings of a city system few have likely thought about." Storyboard: A Day with New York City’s Pothole Repair Crew. [more inside]
Detroit's Lewis Cass Technical High School, Then and Now. Period photos superimposed over the historic building's abandoned interiors, presented by detroiturbex.com.
Jay Walljasper covers Detroit: Not Your Father's Motor City, The Surprise Behind Detroit's Emerging Comeback, Young People’s Fascination With Motor City is Only Part of Detroit Revitalization, A Food Commons Grows In Detroit. [more inside]
Lets Swim To Work! "Centuries of boat traffic, heavy industry, sewage runoff and toxic dumping have ingrained in us the idea that urban waterways are not places for people. Even as cities have rushed to the water’s edge over the past couple of decades, building elaborate waterfront parks and esplanades, few have taken the next logical step: encouraging residents to dive in." [more inside]
The Indonesian Street Art Database (ISAD) is an artist-run project that aims to archive street art in Indonesia as a documentation of the country’s urban culture. Art Radar delves into the ISAD archives to explore the breadth of street art in Indonesia and the concerns of the country’s urban artists.
Eric Maundu - who comes from Kenya, now lives in West Oakland and is trained in industrial robotics- transforms unused spaces into productive, small aquaponic farms. He has taken the agricultural craft one step further and made his gardens smart. He explores new frontiers of computer-controlled gardening. More information about this story. His company, Kijani Grows. Via faircompanies.com.