The new W hotel on the southern end of the Barceloneta beach is a new landmark. Even being quite diferent from the seashore tourist compuounds of the 1960’s, it is also a difficult to explain element in a country in which the limitations imposed to new buildings on the shore have been subject to a bitter debate, despite the growing justification given by the climatic projections regarding coastal risks.
Recently, in a blog post entitled “Monumentalising Revolution,” my commentary argued that the Monument to the Revolution in Mexico City stands as an ambiguous carrier of utopian promise, which links past and present generations of struggle. Specifically, my concluding point was that this architectural space stands as a possible symbol of “the effective participation of the present generation in shaping the utopian desires of the oppressed, linked to ongoing past and present social struggles.” Written in April, there was no anticipation in this piece of the events to come that have swirled around the student movement #YoSoy132 in contesting the presidential election process in Mexico.
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Day 2: The most remarkable chapter I read yesterday (day 2) from Critique, ‘Notes Written One Sunday in the French Countryside’, like a sermon ending in fire climax:
‘Marxism, the consciousness of the new man and the new consciousness of the world, offers an effective, constructive critique of life. And Marxism alone! …
It is serious writing:
‘The end, the aim, is to make thought – the power of man, the participation in and the consciousness of that power – intervene in life in its humblest detail.
More ambitious, more difficult, more remote than the means, the aim is to change life, lucidly to recreate everyday life.’
(p. 227 in the 1991 Verso edition of ‘Critique…’).
I think one of the most interesting things so far for me has been in Lefebvre’s own introduction to Introduction to Modernity: Twelve Preludes, September 1959 – May 1961, in which he…
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Tim Cresswell’s blog…
A couple of podcasts of lectures I have given recently are available on line.
The first is a lecture on mobility and citizenship at the Oxford University Transport Studies Unit. This can be found at
The second is a lecture on my work on Chicago (the book I am writing now) and is somewhat truncated and mostly about assemblage theory. It was given at CRASSH at Cambridge as part of their “Taking Place” series. This can be found at
So I’ve posted before on Richard Sennett’s series that begins with 2008’s The Craftsman, continues with 2011’s Together and will end, he says, with a book on the construction of cities that will follow from his earlier looks at craft and cooperation.I’m open, of course, to the criticism of his perspective I’ve heard that cities are in fact not crafts — but I want to highlight a useful metaphor he establishes in Together, pp. 208-12 in a brief section titled “Working with Resistance”:
“The third embodiment relates the artisan’s encounters with physical resistance to difficult social encounters. The artisan knows one big thing about dealing with resistance: not to fight against it, as though making war on knots in wood or heavy stone; the more effective way is to employ minimum force.” (208)
“Resistance arises, then, in physical matter itself and also in making sense of matter, the second kind of difficulty often spawned by better tools. In fighting against resistance we will become more focused on getting rid of the problem than on understanding what it is; by contrast, Continue reading
If you are heading to Paris before the end of August you might want to check out the current temporary exhibit at the Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine. This museum used to be known as the Musée des monuments francais [c cédille] and is situated in the Palais de Chaillot, which sits across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower.
The exhibit is called “Circuler. Quand nos mouvements faconnent [c cédille] nos villes,” or “Flow. When Movement Shapes Our Towns,” (their translation). By way of introduction, the museum’s website offers the following short text, of interest as it shows the ambitious nature of the ideas the exhibit tries to get across to visitors:
Our lives are made up of moments of activity and inertia, comings and goings, arrivals and departures. Space within towns and between towns is organized to support this constant movement. From the earliest days almost, towns were structured to allow for both the gathering of men, and their accumulated wealth, and, at the same time, to facilitate movement and encourage meetings and interaction.
The exhibition offers the visitor the opportunity to follow the development of urban design through the ages and explore the urban spaces and buildings which are a consequence of man’s movement across the land. The exhibition incorporates both real-world movement, dating back thousands of years, together with today’s virtual movement. Streets and squares, roads, motorways or railways, ports, caravanserail, stations and terminals, compact cities and sprawling towns – these are just some of the places and concepts, born out of our desire for movement, which punctuate the history of our land. The exhibition takes the visitor on a playful and sensory journey, presented as a theatre set. Reconstructed roads, computer generated images, films, soundtracks composed by Louis Dandrel and Bernard Lubat, transport the visitor through time and space, leading him to reflect on his environment and future. While the 20th century was characterised by a sort of “transport war” strongly influenced by the myth that progress equalled speed, the start of this century represents a time to question our travel and movement patterns. The exhibition makes numerous novel suggestions about how man can organize his life of motion. In this exhibition, Jean-Marie Duthilleul illustrates how town development should achieve a subtle balance – a balance that needs to be constantly adjusted – between movement and stillness, between places you stay in and places you pass through. When you design a town, you are designing a system to accommodate groups of people and allow for interaction. Thus the town is the result of a constant dialectic between mobility and immobility.
As has become common for temporary exhibitions, a celebrity of sorts has been designated as ‘commissaire’ of the exhibit: not really curators, they lend their prestige, fame, or institutional gravitas to the exhibit, in addition to any design input or writing they may contribute. For this one, architect Jean-Marie Duthilleul, who has an interesting professional connection to the subject: he has had a hand in designing dozens of train stations, both new and remodels. (A partial list of his projects can be found on the French-language Wikipedia, here.) For this reason, one of the stronger points of the exhibit is in fact the material on French train stations near the beginning of the tour. Another strong point worth highlighting here has nothing to do with train stations: near the end of the tour, the curators have prepared some very interesting ways to map how often, where, and when Parisians use their cell phones using data from Orange’s cell network (a corporate sponsor of the exhibit, btw). Visitors can observe mappings of cell-phone use in the city on certain important dates like New Year’s Eve, during the Fête de la Musique, etc. Adjusting some parameters the same data can be used to trace the routes and distances inhabitants take through the city–which, if one had more control over the datasets, would allow for potentially very rich ways of visualizing how urban spaces are used by various subsets of users. (Including mappings that would be akin to the bubble-map of Budapest bicycle use posted below).
Does the exhibit work, in the sense that it might successfully convey important observations and assertions from mobility and urban studies to a mass audience? Meh, in my view it’s a mixed bag. It’s certainly an interesting exhibit for visitors who go in with a particular affinity for the topics and in seeing how they handled, but it may not generate much excitement or enthusiasm in those who don’t. At times it’s too abstract and misses opportunities to engage the visitor, and at others it’s too focused on gadgetry and downright naively utopian. Still, I think it’ll be of interest to readers of this blog–check it out and post your thoughts here!
The City is back from San Francisco and New York City!
In this podcast, I discuss New York City and the politics of public space with Fred Kent (Founder and President of the Project for Public Spaces) in their New York City office. We also discussed urban social movements, gentrification, social exclusion, environmentalism, and surveillance as they relate to public space.
Subscribe to The City‘s weekly podcast or listen below.
“At certain points in the history of architecture and urban planning, the disciplinary debate on how to apply new technologies surpasses the boundaries of the professions involved. At those times, the hopes and fears found in the disputes between architects, policy makers, engineers and planners are extended to a broader discussion about urban and societal change. Then, the central issue is not merely how to solve a specific spatial problem or improve a construction method with the help of a new technology. Rather, the debate revolves around its possible impact on urban society at large. What does this new technology mean for urban culture, what impact does it have on how we shape our identities and live together in the city? When those questions surface, Dutch philosopher René Boomkens argues, the professional debate has turned ‘philosophical’. 
The discourse on ‘Sentient Cities’, that has arisen over the last few years…
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