Saturday, October 09, 2010

Learnings from the slums

"We live in the age of the city. The city is everthing to us
- it consumes us, and for that reason we glorify it"

- quote Onookme Okome 2002, first page in Planet of slums, Mike Davis 2006

Al Jazeera's Melissa Chan reports from Inner Mongolia, where a whole town built with government money is standing empty.

Said about the slums..

This post just deals with the inconsistency of world perspectives. All quotations comes  from the article Learning from the slums from The Boston Globe.

  "We should not dismiss them because they look ugly, they look messy," says Cruz, a professor at UC San Diego. "They have sophisticated, participatory practices, a light way of occupying the land. Because people are trying to survive, creativity flourishes."

  "One of the misconceptions is that they're endless seas of mud huts," says Robert Neuwirth, author of "Shadow Cities: a Billion Squatters, a New Urban World," who spent two years living in squatter communities. "There's a tremendous amount of economic activity - stores, bars, hairdressers, everything."

  Shantytowns are "pedestrian-friendly. There are small alleyways, the streets are narrow. Children can play in the streets," says Christian Werthmann, a professor of landscape architecture at Harvard.

  "When people are relocated to places where government thinks they can be housed in a better way, they often move back," says Hank Dittmar, chief executive of Prince Charles's Foundation for the Built Environment.

  Another major concern of contemporary urban planners is ecological sustainability, and shantytowns get high marks for that, too. Teddy Cruz, who has spent a great deal of time in Tijuana, says, "These slums have been made with the waste of San Diego. . . . Aluminum windows, garage doors. Debris is building these slums."

  On a more basic level, these places can teach us about where, for better or worse, urban life appears to be headed. "Squatters are the world's dominant builders," says Brand. "If you want to understand what's going on in cities, look at squatters."

"The promise is that again and again, from the garbage, the scattered feathers, the ashes and the broken bodies, something beautiful may be born"

- John Berger, "Rumor", preface to Berji Kristin, epilogue Planet of Slums

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