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Urbanites

This tag is associated with 8 posts

Seattle’s Lighthouse Apartment in the Smith Tower

For those of you who love to look inside other peoples apartments, the New York Times takes us on a tour of one of Seattle’s most interesting and until now, mysterious apartments. Word has it that the apartment had taken on the status of an urban legend in Seattle that oscillated from occupied by crazy cat lady to home for a line of artists who have passed the key from one tenant to the next. Well the legend has passed from fiction to fact as the New York Times managed to get themselves a tour and sets the record straight.

How did a 46-year-old choreographer-turned-venture-capitalist-turned mom win a long-term lease on what may be the most extraordinary apartment in the city: the space at the top of the historic Smith Tower in Pioneer Square?

Read more: A Home in the Pyramid Atop Seattle’s Smith Tower.

See the photo Gallery Here.

Babel Tales: Peter Funch’s look at life at street level.

Peter Funch is a Danish Photojournalist who resides in New York city. One of his recent works is the series ‘BABEL TALES’ which is a sometimes gritty, at other times whimsical look at urban inhabitants. Using composite photography he catches; a bride on her way down the street, a frenzy of tourists at times square, or a pimp daddy on his way home his photos offer an intriguing look at what happens on street level. Here at Urban Neighbourhood we bring you a selection of his works, but highly recommend you go to his own gallery to see the complete collection.

Babel Tales as a series of works that focus on human relations (or the lack thereof) in big cities. Peter Funch’s project is a junction between documentary photography and manipulated photography. Through repetition and juxtaposition he zooms in on human similarities and collective behavior and ends up creating a strange poetic and detailed picture of our presence both as individuals and community in the public sphere.

Jesper Elg, V1 Gallery, Copenhagen

Parkour Generations

“Camera, action, parkour. Wild cats, artists or athletes, the intentions to move and train are varied. A film by Julie Angel featuring 17 members of Parkour Generations on the streets of London.”

Antwerp Central Station & The Sound of Music

A flash mob takes on the Sound of Music at Antwerp Central Station.

Demographic Shifts

The Wall Street Journal reports on shifting demographics;

“Immigrants and minorities have moved away from cities in growing numbers since 2000, spreading the national trend toward diversity.

New data to be released Tuesday by the Census Bureau show immigrants and minorities are moving to smaller areas. While both groups are still a large share of the population in urban areas, a growing number have followed jobs to smaller communities.

The data focus on communities with as few as 20,000 people. The population figures are estimates for the years between 2005 and 2007. The change reflects growing diversity nationwide. The share of white population is declining in about half of U.S. counties, the result of immigration — primarily Hispanic — as well as generally higher birth rates among minorities.”S

The interesting thing about this article is what it says about the future, one of my favorite book series is Dune. The reason being that the whole epic story spans thousands of years, and you  get to see how societies shift over time. This shift in demographics bodes well.

The Manpower Behind the Monuments

Photo by Ghaith Abdul-Ahad

Photo by Ghaith Abdul-Ahad

It takes an army to build a monument, many of the worlds greatest were envisioned by kings and the fabulously rich, but the actual construction is often done by the poor, the disenfranchised, and in some cases ‘the owned,’ just ask the ancient Egyptians. Unions and fair pay tend to make glorious monuments overpriced.

One of the things that I have been in some way trying to do is avoid posting too much about Dubai. For the most part its a topic that I feel is blogged to death and at Urban Neighbourhood we are trying as best as we can in this electronic world of bits and bites to come up with at least semi original content. We have broken this avoidance in the past with mentions in the Heliotropic Houses article and the Lilypad Article.

Today we are going to break the ‘rule’ again, but not to fawn over yet another mega mall or the worlds next tallest building, today we bring you an article from The Guardian about the people who actually build all these monuments. The thousands of migrant labourers. Ghaith Abdul-Ahad brings us an article about his journey into Mousafah, a labour camp that these workers temporarily call home, they certainly will not be welcome to stay when they are done. To tell a story about what it is like to be the hands that build the towers and islands that are making Dubai so famous.

“Once they arrive in the United Arab Emirates, migrant workers are treated little better than cattle, with no access to health care and many other basic rights. The company that sponsors them holds on to their passports – and often a month or two of their wages to make sure that they keep working. And for this some will earn just 400 dirhams (£62) a month.

A group of construction engineers told me, with no apparent shame, that if a worker becomes too ill to work he will be sent home after a few days. “They are the cheapest commodity here. Steel, concrete, everything is up, but workers are the same.”

The article is worth the read it makes the amazing speed at which Dubai is being constructed a little more understandable and a little less fantastic.

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad visits the impoverished camps for the men building the skyscrapers of Dubai and Abu Dhabi | World news | The Guardian

Harlem and the Great Gentrification Debate

Photo: Richard Renaldi

Photo: Richard Renaldi

Gentrification is a highly contentious subject in urban circles; some people love it, preferring to think of it as urban renewal, other people see it in terms of the displacement of residents who have been priced out of their neighbourhoods and homes.

Early in July, New York Magazine had an excellent interview with Willie Kathryn Suggs.  Considered the ‘Queen of Harlem Real Estate,’ she has been a force to be reckoned with breaking a number of sales records for the neighbourhood. Her critics blame her for wantonly driving prices up in the neighbourhood for her own gain; others admire her business acumen and appreciate her savvy for recognising the direction that real estate in Harlem was going before anyone else did. If you have any interest at all in the gentrification debate, I recommend that you read this article.

Whose Harlem Is It?

Willie Kathryn Suggs, the so-called Queen of Harlem Real Estate, has sent local housing prices soaring. She’s also touched off a heated debate: Should Harlem be preserved as an affordable haven for blacks? Or sold to the highest bidder?

Willie Kathryn Suggs is walking me through a handsome four-story brownstone at 350 Convent Avenue in Harlem—or, as she puts it, “a house everybody goes gaga for.” The most successful and reviled real-estate broker in Harlem is small and intense, a prim, light-skinned black woman with wire-rimmed glasses, her hair pinned back in a clip. The house, a Suggs exclusive, is about to be listed at $3.875 million, up from the $380,000 it sold for just nine years ago. As she shows me the ornate parlor (“Four types of wood!”), Suggs mentions that she handled that sale, too, as well as one in between, in 2005, for $1.925 million. That’s two sales going on three, for a total of $6.2 million, and a tenfold run-up from the original price. From this place alone, Suggs stands to earn close to $400,000 in commissions.

Suggs has a habit—a compulsion, really—of talking nonstop and unself-consciously, changing subjects every few seconds, gesturing wildly and injecting cornball expressions that hint at the Wisconsin girl she once was, like “li’l ol’ me,” “works for me,” and “oh happy happy!” But a ripple of exasperation colors her voice as well, as though she’s convinced she’s the only sane person in an insane world. Out of nowhere, she’ll launch into derisive shrieks in odd cartoonish voices about how “stupid” people can be. “The biggest problem I have,” Suggs says, “is people think they know what Harlem is, and they haven’t a clue! First of all, they’re not brownstones. Brownstone is a building material, not an architectural style … ”

One of Suggs’s other favorite expressions is happy camper. This she reserves for the people who are sitting pretty in life, like the current owner of this house, a woman named Lovelynn Gwinn. Suggs had convinced Gwinn to buy another house in Harlem back in 1996. As the market exploded, that place soared in value, giving Gwinn the means and leverage to buy this one. Gwinn is now a close friend of Suggs’s, and runs Suggs’s firm’s Website. Gwinn also happens to be white. Their friendship, and the real-estate deals of which it was born, are Exhibit A among those who charge that Suggs is selling out Old Harlem. But to Suggs, Gwinn was just smart. She’s a happy camper. “People hate Lovelynn’s guts,” she says. “Now, did she do anything offensive? No. All she did was come to me to buy a house. I showed her how to buy a house.”

All you need to know about the current backlash against Harlem’s gentrification, Suggs says, comes down to the happy campers who bought at the right time and the stupid people who didn’t. Those who didn’t buy, she says, are just jealous, and Suggs never seems to miss a chance to rub it in—even if they’re black. “Black people can be racist,” she says, shooting me a coy look in the restored kitchen. “Hello? Reverend Wright? We’ve got our little racists running around. Some of them want Harlem to stay black. They actually think Harlem was built by and for black people. And we have to tell them all the time, ‘Excuse me, dear? We weren’t here. We didn’t even lay the bricks, right? Some of us worked on the subway tunnel, okay. But this was built by and for upper-middle-class white folks. We were the second and third owners. We were never—and I mean zero, nunca, never—the first owner of all these houses!”

Continue Reading at New York Magazine.

Urban Demographics – 'I want you to want me'

Some people may wonder what a post like this is doing on an urban neighbourhood site.  The thing is that, in order to truly understand a neighbourhood and a city, you can’t ignore the most important part: it’s people. This is a lesson that it has taken me a little while to understand as I pursue my studies in planning, but it is a very important lesson. In order to understand how to create the kinds of cities and neighbourhoods that people want to live in–that help people to live better lives–we need to pay attention to those people and what they want. While the focus of this Art installation is the dating game, it also tells an amazing amount about about what people want and how they see themselves, or at least how they want others to see them. Plus it’s an amazing mix of information, music, statistics, and art.

The interactive installation “I Want You To Want Me”, by Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar, commissioned by the Museum of Modern Art, for their “Design and the Elastic Mind” exhibition.

I Want You To Want Me explores the search for love and self in the world of online dating. It chronicles the world’s long-term relationship with romance, across all ages, genders, and sexualities, using real data collected from Internet dating sites every few hours.

The piece is presented on a 56″ high-resolution touch-screen, hanging vertically on the wall, and was installed at MoMA on February 14, 2008, Valentine’s Day.

“I Want You To Want Me”

Thanks Steven for tipping me off to the exhibit originally.