March 30, 2006

Some Orwellean premonition incarnate in marble, concrete and glass.

On Monday I had the privilege of joining a group of ARU architects and surveyors on a trip to Canary Warf. Since Iím harbouring somewhat of an obsession about all things architectural as a result of my dissertation, I merrily tagged along for the ride. This is the third time I have met with various architects to Ďtalk spaceí and Iím gradually building up a clear picture of what Iím really arguing about; not to mention a little black book of potential contacts.

The highlight of the day was a guided tour round the Citigroup building.

Canary Warf is a strange environment; not least because its entirely artificial (the land was obtained by draining docks). From the point of view of someone studying public spaces* it is however fascinating. The preconceived notion of city spatiality has been turned on its head here. By that I mean that this space is no longer constrained by many of the limitations existent in the city- listed buildings, parks, diversity of inhabitants, expansion. (this is a contentious issue) Henri Lefebvre said no space is completely neutral; there is always something pre-existent to constrain or shape the emergent environment. Here however this seemingly iron law of cityscapes had been defied. Probably the most intriguing feature of this is the transition from horizontal to vertical living. By this Iím referring to the locating of transport links, amenities, work and leisure space vertically. In doing so maximising available space. However, its not just the layout of the island that is radically different from the rest of London.
For anyone not in the know- Canary Warf is a privately owned island. Consequently the Canary Warf Group (who own it) operates a strict policy on entrance. The island itself only has four points of road access, with the undercarriage of every vehicle being x-rayed upon entry. DLR trains are monitored continuously and security is very tight. In light of September 11th and July 7th itís understandable that security should be so tight; but I was also surprised to hear that skateboarders, buskers, the homeless and other Ďundesirablesí can be refused entry too. The outcome is on the one hand a clean, ordered, regulated environment- on the other something sterile and man-made. My belief that places emerge in an organic process; the gathering of facilities around significant spaces or following the natural corporeal flows; simply isnít applicable here. Itís an empty shell, which literally imports its inhabitants. An island state.
I donít think Iím necessarily stretching this belief too far to say that it feels like some Orwellean premonition incarnate in marble, concrete and glass.

However this wasnít all despairing thoughts about the demise of the city as a fusion of the pragmatic and the fantasy. Since we had the privilege (literally) to be shown round the Citigroup building- culminating in an opportunity to view the world from the 44th floor. Its here that you really get a feel for the mood of the place (Iím hesitant to say Ďspirití it implies something natural) Itís amazing! Panoramic views aside, you can see the way in which this is a totally unique environment. I feel there is so much more that could be said on the topic, but the photos speak for themselves.
In short I would say that passively imbibing our built environments disenables us from being able to be reflexive about them. This trip really awakened me (vertigo and sore feet aside) to what I am trying to write about.

*Itís not strictly public- but for the purpose of the discussion makes a useful example

Write to you anonÖ


February 03, 2006

Blogging– the zipless dialogue?

Two interconnected thoughts….

First….I've just read candidate manifestos…this got me thinking, I don't have time to get to know every candidate personally, find out about their motivations, who they really are etc. Yet manifestos allow me to see some of their key points….and then somehow I have to make a decision…..based on one side of A4 facts…..

…Second…Never being one to overemphasise the melloncholia of everyday life…it has been brought to my attention that this blog is very very boring. Which in a world where first impressions count and no body really has the time to get to know one another, I must therefore seem boring. Am I boring? I dunno…..but seriously, what happened to just being human (I dont mean that in a particually philosophical way, or that we are all animals, or even that be are now bionic) instead of wearing our lives as it were on our internetual sleave. That's to say in blogging, and googling, and all these fun things the internet was obviously invented for, we are engaging in dialogues with people all over the world who have never met us, and yet make judgements about us on the basis of really arbitrary stuff (ie: colour of our blog, ugly pics of us)

For all my frustration, I cant help wondering if this is just an extension of what we do in everyday life, just on a much bigger scale….it's worldwide arbitrary judgements about people you probably don't know, and who most likely don't know you. I just don't know if this is a good thing, I mean I'm all for dialogue, but do we ever really understand one another this way. People construct and reconstruct themselves all the time acording to situations*, we can in this internetual age withold or promote select facets of our personality (manifestos are a great example of this*) Can we really respond to one another at face value? or is this a good way to have dialogue without the crap, the history, even the consequences….the zipless dialogue?

In short, if I stumbled across this blog I'd probably think "that's pretty boring stuff there" and I know me, I live with me! But then would I really like my whole life to be able to be summarised into an internet site or campaign manifesto? Nope, not really. So in conclusion, I have a suspicion that there is far more to people than meets the blogging eye…....at least for me there is….

write to you anon…

*This is me getting all Goffman

*NB- not to be read as if im suspicious of all the candidate manifestos, I don't suspect anyone of being particually dodgy or lying, it's just a generic comment!!!!!


October 31, 2004

Feed your inner anarchist, or just curious….

feed your inner anarchist, or just curious, what is this i see before me??

If you thought the person who wrote love poems all round social studies pathways in multi-coloured chalk last year was a hero, then have a look:

link

This is soooo worth going to! aside from being really fun, it has a serious message.

read, quick

v


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