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A few subversive things…

I haven’t posted in a while, and I can blame that on a number of things – illness, marking, administration, family – but  the bulk of most of my ‘free time’ has been devoted to writing (the fact that writing is now something done in our free time is I think, rather sad). The book is well on the way, and there’s a few papers forthcoming on the subject of cultural quarters and Tactical Urbanism. I’ve also been reading Bradley Garrett‘s book Explore Everything: Place-Hacking the City, which I had the pleasure to review for the Antipode Foundation.

Also, I have been aiding the Long Live SouthBank (LLSB) campaign which is calling for the preservation of the undercroft skate park in the face of demolition as part of the South Bank Centre’s Festival Wing plans. LLSB made a video ‘The Bigger Picture’  (embedded below) which puts the campaign in the wider context of the contemporary nature of urban development. I had the pleasure of being interviewed for the video, but more importantly, it gives a balanced and objective account what’s going on with these plans (and there is also a very revealing video on how the South Bank are committing ‘cultural vandalism’ here). If you feel compelled to sign the petition, then please do so now, the deadline is the 3rd January 2014 and we need as many signatures as possible by then.


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Time Lapse Urbanism

It seems a day does not pass without a new professional time lapse film of a city landing in my Google Rea…, Feedly or twitter stream. They all seem to follow a similar pattern; they’re shot at night and from an elevated position perhaps with a slow pan; they contain a collection of shooting angles that span highways, bridges or capture the throng of a pedestrian-heavy zone; some will have the seemingly ubiquitous (and simply annoying) tilt-shift effect (which seems to make everything look miniature) perhaps added to increase the visual metaphor of the ‘God’s eye view’ of the city engendered by such films (a good list of the best ones can be found here). Some of my particular favourites are from Dubai, Sydney, Melbourne, Quito and this rather Miévillian offering of New York. Time lapse films represent the vibrancy, complexity and gleaming aesthetics of urban life, or at least a particular kind of urban life. For me though, the increasing proliferation and professionalisation of these films is an interesting trend because it could be seen to represent a number of cross-cutting contexts and themes that have been debated in contemporary urban geography discourse of late, but also, the time lapse video could be viewed as part of urban entrepreneurial strategy.  Continue reading


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Save the South Bank’s Undercroft

The Subversive Beauty of the Undercroft

The Subversive Beauty of the Undercroft

On the 6th March this year, I tweeted about plans to redevelop the South Bank in London. The following day, the full extent of these plans were detailed. The new ‘Festival Wing‘ development includes “the under-used spaces from the undercrofts” being turned into retail outlets, and the creation of a “new riverside area for urban arts”. This translates as the reconfiguring of the iconic skateboarders ‘mecca’ (known simply as the ‘undercroft’) into a row of shops, as it is a key site of entry into the new Festival Wing. Moreover, the plan is to create a new site in which the skateboarders and graffiti artists can go, situated a few hundred metres further west, under the Hungerford Bridge (more details here).

For me, this exemplifies many of the problems associated with current urban redevelopment policies. Not only is it a case of a consumerism that is predicated upon a rarified notion of urban culture trumping a subcultural community, but the notion that the skaters (and associated activities) can be ‘rehoused’ in a designated area shows a complete lack of understanding of how such activities work, and what they can bring to a city’s cultural offerings. There are many (inter-connected) reasons why I am in such staunch opposition to this particular part of the development, but for the sake of clarity, I have delineated them into 3 key points…
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Toronto, “the World in One Place…”

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First off, an apology as I’m hideously late with this seeing as though I got back from Toronto at the end of June. But nevertheless, I felt that I should perhaps at least try to document my brief but exhausting visit to the ‘Hollywood of the North’. Thanks to the people at the Martin Prosperity Institute, I was invited over to their annual Experiencing the Creative Economy conference, and a big part of the scheduling is designed so as we get to see and experience as much of Toronto as physically possible in 4 days (short of an urban exploration tour with crowbars and manhole cover keys). Suffice to say, it was nowhere near as much as I wanted to experience, but as with any city I visit, I try to seek out as many instances of urban subversions or subcultural urbanity as I can. What follows then is a brief story of those which I saw…

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Some other posts…

This is a rather self-serving post (so apologies in advance), with a few links to other pieces of work in other more enlightened parts of the internet. I have been concentrating recently on my research into so-called media cities, and how they help, or indeed hinder in the formulation of the illusive ‘creative buzz’ that is so sought after by urban planners. Urban creativity, as we all know though, extends beyond these places into marginalised, subversive, subcultural and informal places, and the ‘creative city’ policy drives around the world need to recognise this – something which I hope, comes out through these articles. Enjoy. Continue reading


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Creative Failure – cr8net 2012

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cr8net 2012 at the Royal Institute of Great Britain

Failure is a dirty word. Business leaders won’t stand for it, politicians try to hide it and generally, it’s seen as something to avoid. But it seems, given the talks and discussions today at #cr8net hosted by CIDA, it is essential for creativity. The stories of how creativity has escaped the shackles of prescribed education via playful experimentation with software, and how networking with everyone who will throw a business card at you is critical to success, they sum up the rhetoric of the creative industries for the last 15 years or so. But is failure such a critical part of what constitutes creativity? Does allowing for experiments to fail really aid creative businesses? Or is it more the will to take a creative idea and putting it into practice in a meaningful way?

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Cross-discipline creativity and Steve Jobs

It is perhaps with a little bit of poetic justice that I saw Mark Brittin of Google speak at MediaCityUK two days before Steve Jobs passed away – the message Mark gave was one that Steve had been actively living and preaching pretty much his whole adult life. I’m not going to eulogize about Apple and Jobs here, there are plenty of other blog posts today that will do that (here’s a particularly good one). Instead, I wanted to talk about what that message was, namely the importance of diverse inter-disciplinarity for creativity and innovation.
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