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  • Mark 11:05 am on November 27, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , gated communities, urbanism   

    From gated communities to moated communities 

    From Oliver Bullough’s Moneyland pg 225-226. It’s hard not to see intimations of Elysium in developments like this:

    Take Indian Creek, for example. It is a village in Miami-Dade County, Florida, which you approach through a quiet and pleasant residential neighbourhood, all groomed lawns and bungalows; where the streets lack sidewalks, but where there is so little traffic that walking on the road feels fine. Eventually, there is a bridge, with cream guard towers on either side of it, and a wrought-iron gate between them. If you try to step on to the bridge, a voice booms out of an intercom, asking your business. If you have no business there, or if your business is (like mine) idle curiosity, then you will be told it is a private island and that you must go elsewhere. To emphasise the point, there is a heavy police presence. At the last census, in 2010, Indian Creek had a population of eighty-six, which included four of America’s 500 richest people, as well as the singer Julio Iglesias, Colombian billionaire Jaime Galinski (whose base is London, but who also has homes in New York and a couple of other places), and various others, all with a combined net worth –according to the Miami Herald –of $ 37 billion. That sum is approximately equal to the annual economic output of Serbia, which has a population of more than 7 million people. Indian Creek’s police force employs ten full-time officers, plus four reserves, and four civilian public service aides, giving the community a police officer to resident ratio of around 1: 5, which is significantly higher even than that of East Germany at its most paranoid. The village is an island, so cannot be approached except by the bridge, but the police are taking no chances in protecting what their website calls ‘America’s most exclusive municipality’, and they run a marine patrol unit day and night, seven days a week. It is, in short, a moated community, where Moneyland can become real.

    In 2012, one ten-bedroom, fourteen-bathroom house on the island sold for $ 47 million, making it south Florida’s most expensive ever property, according to the agents who closed the deal. The local press reported that the purchaser was a Russian billionaire. The photos of the house released by the agents show an airy, high-ceilinged mansion, modest yet enormous, with an infinity pool looking out on to Biscayne Bay, towards the sunrise. It has a dock with water deep enough for a superyacht, and is surrounded on the other three sides by the lush lawns of the island’s golf course. It bears about as much resemblance to an ordinary person’s house as a Bengal tiger does to a tabby cat, but it is simultaneously both tasteful and restrained. ‘Air flows in and out of the home like a deep, cleansing breath. In this open plan, where the line is eternally blurred between inside and out, entire walls part to allow the embrace of the refreshing bay breezes. Ceilings soar to incredible heights,’ the agents’ brief declares. But the closest you or me will get to it is standing at the end of the bridge, looking at a photo of it on your phone, while being intensely eyeballed by a policeman in mirrored sunglasses.

  • Mark 2:47 pm on November 25, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , iain sinclair, , urbanism   

    Iain Sinclair on the self-importance of Cambridge 

    This weekend I saw Iain Sinclair in conversation with Richard Sennett at the Cambridge Literary Festival. The highlight was Sinclair’s response to a question from the audience about his view of Cambridge. Vividly describing the antipathy he felt for a place in which one perpetually encounters “doors within doors” and “secrets within secrets“, Sinclair ended with a line that’s going to stick in my mind for a long time:

    It’s a chocked, clogged place which is much more important in principle than it is in practice. Move to London.


  • Mark 3:50 pm on May 15, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , urbanism   

    The fortress city scenario  

    A disturbing scenario from John Urry’s What is the Future? From loc 2996-3045:

    The final scenario involves the development of the Fortress City. Rich societies break away from the poorer into fortified enclaves. Those able to live in gated and armed encampments would do so, with much privatizing of what were, in many societies, public or collective functions (Davis 2000; Graham 2011; Leichenko, Thomas, Baines 2010: 142). Outside the enclaves would be ‘wild zones’ which the powerful would pass through as fast as possible. Systems of long-range mobility would only be available for the super-rich. Bauman maintains that one key technique of power is: ‘escape, slippage, elision and avoidance, the effective rejection of any territorial confinement’ –to have the power to avoid being trapped by others, to escape into ‘sheer inaccessibility’ (2000: 11). There are many examples of such elites exiting from where obligations would be extracted. The elite, we can suggest, are increasingly ‘absentee landlords’ with potential for exit mobility, if and when the ‘going gets tough’ (Bauman 2000: 13; Urry 2014a).

    This future involves ‘fortressed’ walled cities and an extensive ‘security-ization’ of populations, similar in some ways to cities in the medieval period which provided protection against raiders, invaders and diseases. Those outside the enclaves would be unable or unwilling to travel far. Long-distance travel would be risky and probably only undertaken if people or machines were armed. The rich would mainly travel in the air in armed helicopters or light aircraft, a pattern already prefigured in contemporary Sao Paulo, as noted above (Budd 2013; Cwerner 2009). Futurists Gallopin, Hammond, Raskin and Swart thus argued: ‘the elite retreat to protected enclaves, mostly in historically rich nations, but in favoured enclaves in poor nations, as well …Pollution is also exported outside the enclaves, contributing to the extreme environmental deterioration induced by the unsustainable practices of the desperately poor and by the extraction of resources for the wealthy’ (1997: 34). 

    Such an energy-and knowledge-starved city would entail falling standards of living, a greater focus upon the ‘products’ of the increasingly privatized security industry, probable re-localization of mobility patterns, towns and cities built for visitors deteriorating into ghost towns, and an increasing frequency of resource-related ‘new wars’ (Kaldor, Karl, Said 2007). These would involve private mercenaries as well as statist military forces; de-professionalized armies (sometimes made up of ‘boys’); the use of cheap weapons bought through the market/ internet; an asymmetry of military force with no fixed ‘fronts’ or treaties and peace processes; the military targeting of civilians through, inter alia, suicide bombing and drone attacks; the role of warlords combining entrepreneurial and military skills; and the tendency for such wars to last interminable periods of time. Lives in the Fortress City would be conducted with the continuous spectre of warfare, the militarization of young men and the raping of women and girls as constant threats to a decent life. 

    This is a ‘neo-Mediaevalist’ vision of cities of the future. As in the Middle Ages, there would be little democracy, limited state power to govern legitimately, many non-state bodies with a mix of military and ideological powers, much illegal movement of peoples across borders, various empires, many new wars and intense conflict over scarce resources. City lives would be as in Hobbes’ Leviathan: ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short’. Lovelock points to the ‘peaking’ of oil, gas and water, as well as ‘western life’ more generally. Shortages will make economic production and social lives more local than appeared likely during the increasingly mobile twentieth century (see Chapter 3 above).

  • Mark 10:46 am on October 30, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , urbanism   

    How the Pentagon imagines the future of cities 

    This is absolutely fascinating:


  • Mark 9:54 am on November 9, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , urbanism   

    On the Street Where you Live: Bourdieusian analysis of socio-spatial hierarchy 

    This looks really interesting:

    ‘On the Street Where you Live’: Bourdieusian analysis of socio-spatial hierarchy

    BSA Bourdieu Study Group Event

    Tuesday 2nd December 2014

    Key Note Speakers:  Dr Paul Watt (Birkbeck) Dr Michaela Benson (Goldsmith) Dr Tracey Jensen (UEL) Dr Simon Harding (Middlesex University) and Stephen Crossley (Durham)

    The relations between the social world and urban space have been of interest to sociologists since the Chicago School’s human ecology tradition. In today’s globalised world, urbanisation is increasingly manifesting itself in people’s everyday lives, expressed through the diverse social, cultural and political space in which class, cultural and gender differences are continuously produced, contested and reworked. The move towards austerity in UK government’s fiscal policy, the weakening of state planning for urban growth and changes in residences from state property to private property has resulted in escalating house prices and the gentrification of traditionally ‘no go’ areas for the middle-class.  Social divisions and sociocultural relationships are becoming ever more spatially generated.

    In Distinction (Bourdieu, 1984) survey data was gathered in Paris, Lille and an unspecified agricultural town. However, Distinction focused on social class and the spatial dispositions and relation to the ‘cosmopolitan metropolis’ habitus of Paris – as major global city – was unexplored (Butler, 2002). Nevertheless, Bourdieu’s conceptualisation of distinction as a relation of social differences is useful in analysing socio-spatial hierarchy of neighbourhoods as well as the wider processes of segregation along preconceived lines of ‘race’, ethnicity, religion or social class.

    Over the last decade urban studies have increasingly drawn on Bourdieusian theory to examine the practices and trajectories of individuals and classes in an urban setting. This event will bring together participants for discussion and debates on socio-spatial stratification on an increasingly middle-class city as well as social exclusion of  the inner-city working classes and the usefulness of Bourdieu’s theory in analysing these issues.


    9.15-9.45 Registration and Refreshments Introduction
    10.00-11.15 Key Note: Dr Michaela Benson (Goldsmith) Place-making? Middle-class residential choice, trajectories and dynamics.
    11.15-11.30 Comfort Break

    11.30-13.30 Panel Key Notes:

    Dr Tracey Jensen (UEL) A Good School and a Decent Cup of Coffee: connecting the mundane desires of parental gentrifiers to the politics of displacement

    Stephen Crossley (Durham) ‘Looking at the family from the inside out’: social space and symbolic power in the Troubled Families Programme.

    Dr Simon Harding (Middlesex University) The Street Casino: Survival in violent street Gangs (London Street Gangs using Bourdieu)

    13.30-14.30 Lunch
    14.30-15.45 Key Note: Dr Paul Watt (Birkbeck) ‘On the Street Where You Won’t be Living for Much Longer’: What Bourdieu Can and Cannot Offer Urban Studies’
    15.45-16.15 Refreshment Break

    16.15-17.15 Workshop Discussions

    Workshop One: Dr Michaela Benson

    Workshop Two: Dr Paul Watt

    Workshop Three: Dr Tracey Jensen and Stephen Crossley

    17.15-17.30 Closing Remarks

    This event costs £28 for BSA student members, £33 for BSA-members and £43 for non BSA members.

    Refreshments and lunch are included

    Early booking is recommended as we anticipate this to be a popular event. There will be 30 places available.

    The event will take place at the BSA meeting room in Imperial Wharf London

    To register for this event please go to the BSA events site

    For further info contact: events@britsoc.org.uk  or (0191) 383 0839

    For academic queries contact: Jenny Thatcher: u0933657@uel.ac.uk

    For more info about the BSA Bourdieu Study Group: http://www.britsoc.co.uk/studygroups/bourdieu.aspx

  • Mark 7:14 pm on June 7, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , urbanism   

    From “I’m alright, Jack” to “Fuck you, Jack” 

    The title comes from Owen Hatherly (though I can’t remember where he says this). His point is about the transition from a society which is disinterested in solidarity to one that is positively antipathetic to it:
    Bpd5WxKIgAE5c-j(Via @jackiHS)

  • Mark 5:06 pm on April 29, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , solitude, , urbanism   

    Why ask “why talk”? 

    Screen shot 2014-04-29 at 18.03.07

    Well this is interesting (sort of). Though it reminds me of the ‘Free Hugs Society’ some peculiarly obnoxious students at Warwick established a few years ago, something which prompted them to go around grabbing strangers while being seemingly oblivious to how intrusive and problematic this was to many of the people being grabbed. The people behind it seem to be predominately social marketers (see also the partners) which contributes to the irritating, though interesting, zeitgeistyness of the project. I’m fascinated by the process which leaves “why talk?” as a coherent question that can be answered by invoking popularised notions of social capital.

  • Mark 7:19 am on January 22, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , urbanism   

    Queering the Creative City – Call for Papers 

    CfP – please feel free to forward and address any queries to the organisers.

    Queering the Creative City – Call for Papers

    Royal Geographical Society with IBG Annual Conference, London, 27-29 August 2014.

    During the last decade, an increasing interest has been seen by urban and economic geographers around the creative economy, creative cities, and ‘creative class’, informing the development of a strong and rigorous body of academic research in the area (Chapain et al 2012). Within this debate, the work of Richard Florida (2002) continues to remains highly influential for policy-makers in search of economic growth and urban regeneration in a time of austerity, and has informed an abundance of urban branding and creative city developments. Whilst substantial critiques have been levelled at this work (eg. Peck 2005, Markusen 2006) one of its more contentious elements remains underexplored – that of ‘Technology, Talent, Tolerance’, which argues that “Gays can be thought of as the canaries of the knowledge economy because they signal a diverse and progressive environment that fosters the creativity and innovation necessary for success in a high-tech industry” (Florida and Gates 2001).

    This session aims to interrogate and unpack this aspect of the urban and economic geography literature to ask: where do queer bodies and identities exist – and are placed – within the creative city, and in the wider contemporary political agenda about the creative economy? What are the relationships and tensions which operate in this space? We welcome empirical, theoretical and policy-related abstracts, and are open to receiving proposals for non-traditional presentations. We also welcome abstracts that bring together the literatures around queer geographies, and regional and economic geographies on industrial clusters and cities.

    Potential themes include (but are not limited to):
    • Queering the constituents of the ‘creative class’, ‘creative city’, ‘creative economy’ and ‘creative industries’.
    • Careers, jobs and work identity
    • Entrepreneurship and self-employment
    • Queer spaces, places, and venues
    • Critical race theory
    • Queer intersections
    • Communities of support and resource mobilisation
    • Digital environments and built spaces
    • Grassroots innovation, anti-capitalism, contested spaces, and sites of resistance.
    • Place branding

    We are looking for abstracts of 300 words to be submitted by February 14th 2014 to Georgina Voss (gsv20@sussex.ac.uk)

    Chapain, C., Clifton, N., & Comunian, R. (2012) Understanding Creative Regions: Bridging the Gap between Global Discourses and Regional and National Contexts. Regional Studies, 47:2. 131-134.
    Florida, R . (2002). The Rise of The Creative Class, and How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, and Everyday Life. New York: Basic Books.
    Florida, R. and Gates, G. (2001). Technology and Tolerance – The importance of diversity to high-technology growth. Washington, DC: Urban Institute.
    Markusen, A. (2006) Urban development and the politics of a creative class: evidence from a study of artists. Environment and Planning A, 38;10. 1921 – 1940
    Peck, J., (2005). Struggling with the Creative Class. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 29:4. 740-77

  • Mark 6:01 pm on January 3, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: the fall, , urbanism   

    The Fall – Way Round 

    I just can’t find my way
    I just can’t find my way
    I just can’t find my way

    I just can’t find my way
    I just can’t find my way
    I just can’t find my way



  • Mark 8:44 am on October 7, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: alex gibney, ballard, , , one hyde park, , urbanism   

    Money, Power and Opportunity in the Late Modern City, or, isn’t it a shame J G Ballard isn’t around to see this? 

    This documentary by Alex Gibney, director of the Corporation amongst others, takes as its starting point the disjuncture between Park Avenue Manhattan and the other Park Avenue over the river in the Bronx. The former is home to some of the wealthiest people in the country whereas the latter is a site of endemic deprivation:

    40 Park Ave, New York City, is home to some of the wealthiest Americans. Across the Harlem River, 10 minutes to the north, is the other Park Avenue in South Bronx, where more than half the population needs food stamps and children are 20 times more likely to be killed. In the last 30 years, inequality has rocketed in the US — the American Dream only applies to those with money to lobby politicians for friendly bills on Capitol Hill. 

    It’s a startling and provocative documentary. However I would have enjoyed more reflection both upon how such affluence and poverty can co-exist within the context of the city and the everyday lives of the super-rich. This co-existence has always fascinated me about London, as the only world city I’ve ever lived in or really know to any meaningful extent. It’s also something which is increasingly under threat, as ‘reforms’ of housing benefit look likely to create a situation which even prominent conservatives have described as a ‘social cleansing’ within the city. Given the absence of rent controls (and their continual failure to even enter into debate as a possibility) and soaring house prices, as the global elite desperately seek relatively safe investments, housing benefit paid to those on low incomes has led to far higher payments in London then elsewhere in the country. These effective subsidies to private landlords are now being capped, with the likely implication being a large demographic restructuring of the population of London. But obviously the wealthy denizens who remain still need people to serve them… this perhaps is where the lives of the rich and the poor intersect most in an otherwise divided city. But what are these everyday lives really like? We don’t actually know. But a fascinating project being undertaken by a team from Goldsmiths, KCL, LSE and York is investigating precisely this, as described by Roger Burrows in a post for the LSE Politics Blog:

    With few exceptions, the very wealthy have not been examined in any detail; this despite the signal increase in their numbers globally, including in Britain, and widespread popular interest in their (mis)fortunes. There is also the suggestion that the super wealthy are ‘moving away’ from the larger ranks of the professional middle classes, and our project is designed to take forward these concerns in a developed, systematic and substantial way.

    The number of individuals who might be considered as ‘super-rich’ can be operationalized in any number of different ways and as part of this project we will examine a range of these. One sensitizing conceptualisation is that offered in a 15-year series of reports by Capgemini and Merrill Lynch. These analyses distinguish between High Net Worth Individuals (HNWIs) and Ultra-HNWIs (UHNWIs). HNWIs are defined as people who hold financial assets in excess of $1million – so this excludes residences, collectables, consumer durables and consumables. In 2010 there were estimated to be some 10.8 million HNWIs globally with wealth totalling $42.7 trillion. UHNWIs – a subset of this group – are defined as those who have financial assets of $30 million or more. In 2009 it was estimated that there were just 78,000 such people across the globe (but holding over one-third of total HNWI wealth). The geographical spread of HNWIs is much as might be expected: 31 per cent in North America; 31 per cent in the Asia-Pacific; 29 per cent in Europe; with the residue located in Latin America, the Middle East and Africa.

    The few empirical social scientific studies of the super-rich that do exist tend to be nested within the long tradition of studies of elites. This is an important literature, which informs our work, but the existing conceptual tool kit that this tradition provides, focused on corporate interlocks and social network closure, needs to be radically re-worked to allow an analysis of the dynamism and complexity of the materially rich metropolitan and globally-oriented class now inhabiting significant sections of global cities like London – home to a disproportionate number of the world’s billionaires.


    In addition to exploring the extent of proactive socio-spatial dis/engagement by the affluent we will also set out to explore the extent and forms of attachment (if any) that wealthy individuals and households have to specific neighbourhoods and urban centres. Do they, for example, develop similar forms of ‘elective belonging’ as spatially mobile members of the middle classes? While the degree to which genuinely super-rich households are ‘footloose’ has often been cited in political debates about inequality and the taxation system, there is little in the way of empirical evidence to help adjudicate on the matter. How important is attachment to neighbourhood in ‘holding’ the rich ‘in place’? This is a significant question if we are to better understand the degree to which the super-rich feel that lifestyle and urban services are substitutable at urban and international levels. Linked to this concern we note the somewhat scant knowledge we currently possess about the links that the contemporary urban rich have with the arts; to galleries and other distinctive service infrastructures – the kind of ‘soft’ attributes of place often identified as influential in attracting a creative and innovative milieu.


    Nothing is as emblematic to me of the long term trajectory of London than One Hyde Park. This once-in-a-life-time investment opportunity offered to the world by Christian and Nick Candy quickly smashed records when its incomprehensibly expensive and gaudily decorated apartments went on the market after years of hype.

    But the ownership of the apartments is shrouded in a veil of secrecy. Plus the owners are not actually there:

    Designed by the architect Lord Richard Rogers, who also designed London’s iconic Lloyd’s building, One Hyde Park has divided Britain. Gary Hersham, managing director of the high-end real-estate agency Beauchamp Estates, says it is “the finest building in England, whether you like the style or you don’t,” while investment banker David Charters, who works in Mayfair, says, “One Hyde Park is a symbol of the times, a symbol of the disconnect. There is almost a sense of ‘the Martians have landed.’ Who are they? Where are they from? What are they doing?” Professor Gavin Stamp, of Cambridge University, an architectural historian, called it “a vulgar symbol of the hegemony of excessive wealth, an over-sized gated community for people with more money than sense, arrogantly plonked down in the heart of London.”

    The really curious aspect of One Hyde Park can be appreciated only at night. Walk past the complex then and you notice nearly every window is dark. As John Arlidge wrote in The Sunday Times, “It’s dark. Not just a bit dark—darker, say, than the surrounding buildings—but black dark. Only the odd light is on. . . . Seems like nobody’s home.”

    That’s not because the apartments haven’t sold. London land-registry records say that 76 had been by January 2013 for a total of $2.7 billion—but, of these, only 12 were registered in the names of warm-blooded humans, including Christian Candy, in a sixth-floor penthouse. The remaining 64 are held in the names of unfamiliar corporations: three based in London; one, called One Unique L.L.C., in California; and one, Smooth E Co., in Thailand. The other 59—with such names as Giant Bloom International Limited, Rose of Sharon 7 Limited, and Stag Holdings Limited—belong to corporations registered in well-known offshore tax havens, such as the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Liechtenstein, and the Isle of Man.

    From this we can conclude at least two things with certainty about the tenants of One Hyde Park: they are extremely wealthy, and most of them don’t want you to know who they are and how they got their money.


    Is this the future of the city? Luxurious developments owned by absentee landlords who have purchased them as investments, tended to by an army of service staff bussed in from the periphery of the metropolis. There’s something about the vacated nature of One Hyde Park which grips me (and not in a good way) given this vacuity – in more than one sense – goes hand-in-hand with all the staff on call. As a metaphor for the economic structure of neoliberal capitalism, it’s a grim one which, unless something changes, could become ever more accurate.

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