Urban Platform in Brussels

Brussels XL Bravo 04-04-07

This weekend, there will be a 3-day long conference in Brussels organised by City Mine(d) on urban issues and initiatives concerning how to make cities more liveable. The conference begins Friday 19th November at 19:00 with a panel debate on ‘small initiatives, big challenges’. On Saturday 20th November, closed workshops will be held in the afternoon, with group discussions from 19:00 to 23:00. And on Sunday 21st November, from 10:00 til 22:00, there will be a bazaar of idea-sharing and proposals.

For more information, or to register for this event, see their webpage: http://urbanplatform.citymined.org/

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Pirate Urbanism: Delhi’s Commonwealth Regeneration

Cuius testiculus habes, habeas cardia et cerebellum. If you have people’s attention, you have also their hearts and minds.

Not so for the building constructed as the headquarters for the Commonwealth Games 2010 in New Delhi. Stark, sublime and constructed out of grey brick with seemingly arbitrary flashes of colour in idiot-purple, it is no wonder it has stirred up furious controversy.

To put it into World Cup terms, the teams are as such. On one side you have the architects, praising it’s modern feel and visionary style; on the other, grassroots organisations and a not insignificant slice of the public decrying the cost and confused over the desired architectural intention……….

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Commonwealth Games 2010 and New Delhi’s ‘Jugad’ Spirit

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New Delhi is to play host to the first ever Commonwealth Games held in Asia this coming October and, as with the London Olympics in 2012, opinion is divided. There is a powerful PR machine here feeding out reminders all over the city in the run up to the Games, with slogans such as ‘Green Delhi Clean Delhi’, in the hopes of cleaning up the rather extensive levels of pollution. New Delhi’s chattering classes, however, seem bemused at high foreign expectations.

“You do know there will be no Games?” a well-respected lawyer has exclaimed. Less pessimistic, but equally reserved architects involved in the construction of the highly controversial Commonwealth Games headquarters more humorously claimed the public and wider international community would certainly not receive the Games ‘described on the tin’, but that the government would unquestionably know what to show. And more importantly, what to conceal.

The spirit of jugad is a common concept in New Delhi, which roughly translates at best as ‘God willing’, and at worst as ‘by hook or by crook’. Many have invoked the term in relation to the Games, which are taking far longer and becoming much costlier than anticipated, as with the 2012 Olympics. The Games will be completed jugad, but it’s clear from walking the streets and talking to people that while it remains a subject of interesting debate for the Money Men, it is a worrying and at times livelihood-threatening prospect for the many million wallahs or ‘street sellers’ as harsher security restrictions are brought into place. Many are doubtful that the measures will end when the Games do.

There are those of course who proclaim that the Games connote excitement and invigoration, that they will bring life to the city. And in several respects this is true. It must be noted, however, that after each Asia Games in the 70s and 80s, there was deep civil unrest, which may or may not have been related to the Asia Games themselves. But taking into account the suspension of civil rights after the first Asia Games due to an internal ‘state of emergency’; and the holding of the second Asia Games in order to clean up the image of the regime – whispers of papering over social cracks, and governmental tin ears cannot be avoided.

As to the aftermath of this autumn’s Commonwealth Games, New Delhi dwellers must watch and wait.

Read the latest planA posts here.

Also see related blogs:

Battersea Power Station

London Olympics

Silwood Video Group

Eco Towns and Villages

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Waiting for Godot: The Silwood Diaries

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At this month’s Residents Meeting (5th May), the rolling issue of the Pocket Park was raised. The park (sans grass) has been opened, and then closed, on and off for the last 6 to 12 months, and as it is the only source of outside space provided for young people on the Silwood as part of one of London & Quadrant’s Section 106 contracts, there is rising concern by parents.

‘Health and Safety’ issues were cited as the primary reason by L & Q officials at the meeting, however the nature of these health and safety issues were unable to be clarified when enquiries were made. Silwood Video Group members were told simply that there are ‘more repairs that need to be done to the park. This has been passed back to the contractor. As soon as these repairs are done, the park will be opened.’ It is unlikely that L &Q would be unaware of specific problems (if there were any), and seeing as children climbing over the gates in order to access the park (as they habitually do) presents greater health and safety risks, such an answer has not assuaged the residents’ questions, or annoyance.

Let’s hope that Godot, in the form of the golden key to the Pocket Park, decides to turn up soon…

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The Good. The Bad. And Section 106.

Sil Workshop 28-07-05

Spectacle, having established the Silwood Video Group, have been an active presence on the Silwood Estate since 2001, and in nearly 10 years of voluntary film-workshops and attendance at Residents’ Meetings, we have seen the landscape of this slice of South-East London change, and change as a result of regeneration.

Since 2005 at the Residents’ Forum Meetings, which are now held quarterly, the residents have asked to see the business plans for development and to have access to details of Section 106, which was declared a ‘non-public document’ by the London & Quadrant NIT Manager on the Silwood. The statement was later retracted, but the Section 106 document, to date, has not been made available to residents.

Tower Homes, the commercial wing of London & Quadrant, won the planning permission rights to the land in the Silwood area, on which they intended to build luxury apartments. By law, this makes them accountable to Section 106 Agreement of the Town and Country Planning Act (1990), which states that if development is agreed upon, for example, Lewisham Council awarding planning permission to Tower Homes, then the new landowners must provide resources that are of benefit to the community that will be affected by the development. In the case of the Silwood, London & Quadrant was entrusted with the responsibility of overseeing the re-provision of community facilities, play areas/ parks, and youth centres on the Estate, which were demolished as a result of the regeneration process. The Lewington Centre was then built as a replacement for the former community centre and the Cyber Centre under Section 106.

Residents are currently being asked to pay relatively steep rates in order to use their new Centre, but the bone of contention lies in the fact that, according to the ‘Regeneration Project Initiation Document’, freely available from Lewisham Council, London & Quadrant allocated a fund of £2 million in order to meet their Section 106 obligations. On top of this, despite the claim of London & Quadrant representatives at Residents’ Meetings on the Silwood that these rates are essential to their business plan and the long-term running of the Lewington Centre, their business plan for 2009 shows that they have made a profit in the region of £120, 000. So why do they seem so unwilling to invest in fully rebuilding the local infrastructure?

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See our Silwood Video Group project pages for more information and videos.

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URBZ MASHUP workshops hit 6 cities

Like the Urban Typhoon workshops in Tokyo (2006) and Mumbai (2008) , the URBZ MASHUP workshops, too will provide an opportunity to explore a city, connect with local residents, artists, architects, designers and musicians. This workshop aims at unleashing the global imagination and celebrating locality by producing photos, videos, interviews, drawings, renderings, writing (fiction & non-fiction), installations, performances in and about specific streets and places. The output of the workshops will be exhibited physically and virtually at the end of the workshop.

The URBZ MASHUP is a seven day event comprising 5 days of workshop and 2 days of seminar + exhibition. It will be held in the following cities:

Tokyo: July 1-5, 2009
Istanbul: August 2-9, 2009
Mumbai: Nov. 22-29, 2009
Rio: February 7-13, 2010
New York: April, 2010
Amsterdam: June, 2010

For information please visit www.urbz.net/mashup

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