Monday, December 28, 2015

From Better! Cities & Towns
A city street is a terrible thing to waste

To stop the killing of pedestrians we have to change the way we build our streets. Until we prioritize pedestrian safety over traffic flow, we will never get to zero deaths for pedestrians, cyclists, drivers, or their passengers. But the good news is that when we do make streets that are safe for pedestrians, traffic still flows—and it becomes easy to design streets where people can want to get out of their cars and walk, enjoying public life. Which, after all, is what city life is all about. Read more: A city street is a terrible thing to waste | Better! Cities & Towns Online

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Monday, December 14, 2015

From Centre for Livable Cities
Jan Gehl on planning cities using our biological history as walking animals

Interview- Jan Gehl on planning for people-oriented cities
Jan Gehl of Gehl Architects talks about planning #cities using our biological history as walking animals.
Posted by Centre for Liveable Cities on Thursday, December 10, 2015

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Jaime Lerner in The New York Times
How to Build a Sustainable City

Global warming, drought, migration and population growth have put our cities under heavy strain. What does the future hold for them — and all of us — in this scenario?
Cities have a very significant impact on climate change: It’s estimated that urban areas are responsible for 75 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Before the climate conference in Paris in December, developed and developing nations alike pledged to curb greenhouse-gas emissions in an effort to reach worldwide consensus. But does this consensus absorb the world’s many different realities, cultures and levels of economic development? And is looking at the issue on a country scale the best one to take effective action? Read more: How to Build a Sustainable City - The New York Times

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Milan pop-up bar creates a meeting place —
a colourful glimpse into the neighbourhood

—@foundation030 on @Vimeo Taverna: an open air bar, from found waste material, during the Public Design Festival in...
Posted by The Sidewalk Ballet on Sunday, December 6, 2015

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Twitter list — Architecture, Design

From New York Magazine
One Block in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn

The story of one block in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn...
The stories of the block are interconnected and can be read in any order. Scroll over highlighted text to meet the neighbors and read more of the block's history; move your cursor over added features, including graphs and the timelines of home sales and prices, to reveal more information; or take a virtual walk down the block using the scroll bar at the top and bottom of each entry. Read more: One Block -- New York Magazine

Friday, November 27, 2015

Rebecca Solnit
Wanderlust, A History of Walking
“In a sense the car has become a prosthetic..."

Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking “In a sense the car has become a prosthetic, and though prosthetics are...

Posted by The Sidewalk Ballet on Friday, November 27, 2015

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

From Punch 1927 —
Making the world safe for motocracy

Sunday, November 22, 2015

From Ecofiscal
Getting Traffic Moving in
Canada's Biggest City

Ecofiscal Commission has launched its latest report We Can’t Get There from Here: Why Pricing Congestion is Critical to Beating It. The report explains how we can’t simply build our way out of congestion, we also need to consider incentives. The report’s central recommendation is that Canada’s four largest cities run congestion pricing pilot projects, supported by all levels of government, to generate the practical knowledge and data necessary to include pricing in our long-term urban mobility plans. But what does that mean for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area? Read more: Getting Traffic Moving in Canada's Biggest City

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Innovation! Convertible perambulator
1951 model converts to bike side-car

The moment you realise pram ingenuity hit it its peak in 1951.

Posted by Mamamia on Monday, November 9, 2015

From — Citizen Jane

OCTOBER 11, 1997 It’s easy enough to find her. Just stroll westward past the bookstores and cafés of Bloor St and head north on leafy Albany Ave. Step up to the narrow red-brick house with the big front porch, and knock on the door. There will be a shuffling, and finally you will be greeted by a little old lady with an apple-doll face and a warm smile. Be careful, though: She isn’t what she seems. Read more: Citizen Jane

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

From The Guardian
The Mexico City superhero
wrestling for pedestrians' rights

"Walking around Mexico City may well be for the adventurous types, statistically speaking, but Mexico City is full of...

Posted by Project for Public Spaces on Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Thursday, November 5, 2015

From UBC School of Architecture
and Landscape Architecture

Cornelia Hahn Oberlander wins
2015 Margolese Prize

Congratulations to Landscape Architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, this year’s winner of the prestigious Margolese Prize....

Posted by UBC School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture on Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Friday, October 30, 2015

Three generations of
Vancouver planning leaders

Thursday, October 29, 2015

From WIRED — 8 Cities that Show You
What the Future Will Look Like

CITIES USED TO grow by accident. Sure, the location usually made sense—someplace defensible, on a hill or an island, or somewhere near an extractable resource or the confluence of two transport routes. But what happened next was ad hoc. The people who worked in the fort or the mines or the port or the warehouses needed places to eat, to sleep, to worship. Infrastructure threaded through the hustle and bustle—water, sewage, roads, trolleys, gas, electricity—in vast networks of improvisation. You can find planned exceptions: Alexandria, Roman colonial towns, certain districts in major Chinese cities, Haussmann’s Paris. But for the most part it was happenstance, luck, and layering the new on top of the old. Read more: 8 Cities That Show You What the Future Will Look Like | WIRED

Thursday, October 22, 2015

From @MASNYC #SummitNYC —
The City We Want!

Tweets from #Walk21Vie 2015

Monday, October 19, 2015

From Bicycle Diaries / David Byrne —
"Our cities are alive, just like us..."

Our cities are alive, just like us; they have both a deep intelligence that guides them and a physical presence. They’re...

Posted by The Sidewalk Ballet on Monday, October 19, 2015

From @CityLab —
The Robert Moses Vs. Jane Jacobs
Opera Is Almost Here

The Robert Moses Vs. Jane Jacobs Opera Is Almost Here @CityLab

Posted by The Sidewalk Ballet on Monday, October 19, 2015

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Why bike? Here's 8 reasons

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Council for Canadian Urbanism
Art and Science of Creating Meaningful Places

Nov. 4th: #Victoria
Walk the Talk with @BrentToderian
@GVCC @VicPlacemaking

Friday, October 2, 2015

#StreetoftheDay —
Rue Alsace-Lorraine, Toulouse

Jenny Morris photo
Today my friend Jenny Morris, on her Toulouse morning walk turned a corner onto Rue Alsace-Lorraine and saw what she described as "a flotilla of umbrellas."

Jenny Morris photo

Monday, September 28, 2015

From The Globe and Mail
Rotterdam transformation
"a place of non-stop design and innovation"

Temples of gastronomy are not something you necessarily expect in Holland. In general, the country’s food rep leans to the stodgy and the tuberous. But the quirky idea of building a food market shaped like an inverted U that incorporates apartments in its arch – residents’ windows peeking out of a giant raspberry or avocado in the hallucinatory ceiling mural – is thoroughly Dutch, a typical mix of playfulness and practicality. Read more: Rotterdam: Holland's infamous port city may be the hippest place in the country - The Globe and Mail

Sunday, September 27, 2015

From @Sierra_Magazine — Why urban trees
solve so many of our problems

Why urban trees solve so many of our problems. @Sierra_Magazine Via @rdtvan

Posted by The Sidewalk Ballet on Sunday, September 27, 2015

Sunday, September 20, 2015

From Winnipeg Free Press
From parking lot to urban paradise

It is rare for a city to be given an opportunity to build a brand new neighbourhood in the heart of its downtown. When it happens, it is usually the result of an industry that was once the economic engine relocating out of the modern core.
In Toronto, the railway lands along Lake Ontario have seen a multibillion-dollar transformation into a forest of highrises, altering the city's postcard skyline image into something resembling lower Manhattan. False Creek was once the industrial heart of Vancouver, but today it is home to 60,000 people living in a signature West Coast condo tower neighbourhood.
When the rail yards at the intersection of the Red and Assiniboine rivers were closed 30 years ago, Winnipeg was given that same opportunity -- but went in a different direction... Read more: From parking lot to urban paradise - Winnipeg Free Press

Friday, September 11, 2015

From Project for Public Spaces
Havana: Learning from and Building
on a People-Centered City

With improving diplomatic relations between Cuba and the US, the country’s public space, and public life, is poised to evolve in new directions, for better and worse. In 2006, Ethan Kent of Project for Public Spaces had the opportunity to witness the unique urban environment of Havana firsthand - and collected some thoughts on what it has to teach the rest of the world, and what should be preserved, and built upon, in the face of change. More than anything though, the city offers an interesting contrast to many of the misdirected development patterns of American modernization. Photo essay at: HAVANA'S PUBLIC SPACES by Project for Public Spacespr

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

"...the managing of traffic should never have been given to engineers. They aren’t trained to understand it, in part because they aren’t trained to understand people or cities.” @BrentToderian

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

How wide should traffic lanes be?

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sunday, August 23, 2015

From Planetizen — The Power of
Jane Jacobs' "Web Way of Thinking"

On the 50th anniversary of the publication of Jane Jacobs' The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Michael Mehaffy refuted the contrarians and clarified Jacobs' lasting "Top 10" observations found in the incredibly influential book. 
MICHAEL MEHAFFY Planetizen Dec. 15, 2011 Just now we are nearing the end of the 50th anniversary of Jane Jacobs' hugely influential book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. The year has seen a remarkable series of re-assessments and, in some cases, revisionisms. Planner Thomas Campanella has criticized Jacobs' "evisceration" of planning,which created a vacuum into which privatizing interests rushed; economist Ed Glaeser has argued that Jacobs fed gentrification with her call for preservation of some old buildings instead of all new towers; and sociologist Sharon Zukin attacked Jacobs' alleged fantasy of the "social-less" urban block. Most recently, my friend Anthony Flint suggested that Jacobs was a libertarian with a mixed legacy of NIMBYism.
What I find remarkable about these accounts – speaking as an instructor who regularly uses her texts - is that in almost all cases these were things that Jacobs herself simply never said. Read more: The Power of Jane Jacobs' "Web Way of Thinking" | Planetizen: The Urban Planning, Design, and Development Network

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Jane Jacobs / Systems of Survival
A Dialogue on the Moral Foundations of
Commerce and Politics
chapters six, seven

Trading, taking, monstrous hybrids and anomalies. Street gangs and organized crime, Mafia, Columbia drug cartels, Neopolitan Camorra, Hong Kong crime associations are examined. How does organized crime fit — or not fit — into the scheme of two survival systems, the guardian and the commercial? Exhibiting essentially guardian habits and characteristics; loyalty, hierarchy, use of force; they have in common an involvement in trade, resulting in "monstrous hybrids." 
The centrally planned economy of the Soviet Union comes in for special attention—
If you put economic planning into guardian hands you get economic planning for guardian priorities. The planning apparatus that presided over these [Soviet] investments, in itself, a pork barrel providing millions and millions of desirable jobs, increasingly for their own sake, not because they were pulling their weight creating viable production and commerce.
Or as the joke went up and down Eastern Europe, "we pretend to work and they pretend to pay us." 
Law and agriculture are anomalies and are seen as subversive of the systems but interestingly art's provenance "seems to come from both taking and trading ... and its difficulties different from those of commerce and guardianship" To come: a discussion of "casts of mind."

Monday, August 17, 2015

From @WhatWasThere —
On August 17, 1907 Pike Place Market
opens in Seattle

On August 17, 1907 Pike Place Market opens in Seattle. It is one of the oldest continuously operated public farmers'...

Posted by WhatWasThere on Monday, August 17, 2015

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Economy of Cities

Jane Jacob's economics thought is often condensed as something called "import replacement." More accurately it can be said to be summed up as an economic self-replicating ecosystem. Better yet, as "new work added to old." Her hypothesis in The Economy of Cities is that there are three ways, and only three ways that she was able to uncover, by which a city's economy grows and prospers—
• By adding export work to other people's local work;
• By adding export work to different local work of their own;
• By exporting their own local work.

"The significant fact about these processes is that they all depend directly on local economies... these are the only ways I have been able to discover. Indeed it soon becomes exceedingly tiresome to read the business histories of exporting organizations because their narrative plots are so few. One might be reading the same three novels over and over again." Chapter 6, How Large Cities Generate Exports.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

From CityLab
3 Traits Shared by
New York's Most Walkable Streets

Some streets are bound to attract more foot traffic than others simply based on where they’re located. Maybe there’s a metro stop nearby. Maybe they lead to a cluster of offices or businesses. Maybe a lot of people call these streets home. These streets draw loads of foot traffic regardless of their general appearance. We all have to live, work, and shop somewhere. Read more: A New Study Finds 3 Traits Shared by New York's Most Walkable Streets - CityLab

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Bob Ransford re-imagines
downtown Vancouver

—@BobRansford re-imagines downtown Vancouver @rdtvan

Posted by The Sidewalk Ballet on Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Monday, August 3, 2015

Sunday, August 2, 2015

From Price Tags — Cities Safer by Design @WorldResources reference guide

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

From The National Film Board
City Limits with Jane Jacobs, 1971

City Limits by Laurence Hyde, National Film Board of Canada

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

From Gehl Architects
How do we design healthy cities for people?

In many cities, despite advancements in healthcare and legislative victories, inequities in health outcomes are getting worse. In this slow epidemic, what is the role of urban design?
Cities face many public health challenges, from obesity, asthma, mental health issues, heart disease, to wide disparities in life expectancy, streets that discourage walking and biking, intersections that cause traffic fatalities, and disempowered communities.
Read more: Home - Gehl Architects How do we design healthy cities for people?

Monday, July 27, 2015

From The Guardian/Cities — Santa Monica:
the city that wants to design itself happier

Those who envision themselves living in Santa Monica, the wealthy and politically progressive coastal enclave west of Los Angeles, no doubt envision themselves living happily there. It would seem to have everything: miles of coastline with beaches open to all, the striking Santa Monica mountains just to the north, plenty of equally striking southern-Californian architecture (its many celebrity residents include the illustrious architect Frank Gehry), top-rated schools, police and firefighters, and, of course, that world-famous pier. Read more: Santa Monica: the city that wants to design itself happier | Cities | The Guardian

Sunday, July 26, 2015

How big stadium deals are bad for cities, thoroughly covered by @iamjohnoliver

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

"Something special about cities with
compact urban places, they stimulate innovation, entrepreneurship,
create opportunities"

—@globeandmail @shanedingman “something special about cities w/ compact urban places stimulate innovation, entrepreneurship create opportunities"

Posted by The Sidewalk Ballet on Sunday, July 19, 2015

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

All fire departments should be tested on their comprehension of this paragraph. #SuburbanNation @JeffSpeckAICP

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Calgary‬ Mayor @Nenshi speaks about the Mayor's Urban Design Awards 2015

Thursday, July 9, 2015

New plaza in Vancouver’s gay village
to be named after Jim Deva

New plaza in Vancouver to be named after Jim Deva, the late and beloved co-owner of Little Sister's Bookstore....

Posted by Arsenal Pulp Press on Thursday, July 9, 2015

From Business in Vancouver
City streets are being returned to pedestrians

Peter Ladner ( co-founder of Business in Vancouver. 
He is a former Vancouver city councillor and former fellow at the SFU Centre for Dialogue, author of The Urban Food Revolution.

Something very odd happened when the City of Vancouver recently announced yet another bike lane reducing car capacity on the Burrard Bridge: nothing.
A small furor rose like an angry baby alligator from the swamp, then settled back into the mud. (“Absolutely ridiculous. The amount of bike traffic doesn’t warrant another bike lane,” snarled the most-liked comment under CBC’s story, even as daily bike trips across the bridge were topping 6,000.) The Vancouver Sun printed a widely circulated editorial effectively saying “no big deal.” The NPA stared menacingly and moved on. The Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association was in favour. Read more: More steps being taken to return city streets to pedestrians | Transportation | Business in Vancouver

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Jane Jacobs / Systems of Survival
A Dialogue on the Moral Foundations of
Commerce and Politics
chapters four, five

“…science needs the same values and precepts as commerce. Honesty is the bedrock of science. Moral rules for research are: don’t lie, don’t deceive or cheat under any circumstances; if you’re making reasoned guesses, say so and lay out your reasons.
“Voluntary agreement is the agreement that counts among scientists. Forced agreement to findings or conclusions is worse than useless. Science thrives on dissent for the sake of the task. Any theory is thus only provisionally true in science. It’s understood that theories can’t be proved; they can only be disproved. An accepted theory is merely one not yet proved false—and the possibility always exists that it may be."
The group is unable to disprove Kate's hypothesis of two moral syndromes, the commercial and the guardian, examining the kibbutz in Israel, the Scandinavian welfare states, communist Eastern Europe.  And they prepare in Chapter 5 to take a closer look next at the Guardian System.
Of particular interest to me is Chapter 5's examination of historical cultural expressions of an aversion to commerce. 
In the days of chivalry, a man was unfit for knighthood if he had a parent, grandparent or great-grandparent on either side who had been a merchant or a craftsman, 'in trade', as they said. Shameful, base. contaminating. But why? The doings of craftsmen and merchants are so innocent compared with making wars, pillaging, extorting, persecuting, executing, censoring, holding prisoners for ransom and monopolizing land at the expense of serfs, peons or slavesall honorable activities for people who would sooner have died than sink into trade
Consistent throughout the research that lead to the identification of the two Systems of Survival, as the syndromes are also called in Chapter Four, is the recurrence of the value in the guardian syndrome 'shun trading.' Contemporary examples include class attitudes that, for instance, ascribe a moral superiority to a non-profit enterprise, and class attitudes of distinguishing "inferior new money from superior old money cleansed of commercial taint by the passage of generations and time."

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Bing Thom re-imagines downtown Vancouver

Jane Jacobs / Systems of Survival
A Dialogue on the Moral Foundations of Commerce and Politics
chapter three

Armbruster's  group has been unable to identify behaviour systems other than the two presented by Kate. In Chapter Two they get a little help from Plato. In The Republic says Jacobs, or rather her speaker Armbruster, Plato "or rather, his speaker Socrates... takes pains to distinguish between two great, major groups of occupations and their purposes, precisely to disentangle their contradictory virtues from one another... He said both are necessary... the commercial occupations to supply everybody's physical needs and also support the guardians, presumably by taxation.
"The guardians are the Moral Syndrome B people... Police, soldiers, government policy makers and rulers... They're necessary to protect the state from corruption within and enemies outside... I propose you call Syndrome A 'commercial' and Syndrome B 'guardian'."
The chapter continues with the group  discussing in more detail the Commerce Syndrome and it's precepts, their purposes and origins and instances where this system contradicts, or seems to contradict the values listed in the Guardian Syndrome.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Jane Jacobs / Systems of Survival
A Dialogue on the Moral Foundations of Commerce and Politics
chapter two

In Chapter 1 Jacobs explores concerns which also surface in her later books Dark Age Ahead and The Nature of Economies. The erosion of the trust and honesty on which so much of our civic life is based, high on her list. In a conversation with a friend in the neighbourhood recently, he was telling me about his aid work in places like Haiti, Kenya, Nigeria and experience in his consulting work with Canadian First Nations. It all comes down to trust, it's all built on trust. It took a long time in Haiti for instance for his group to build trust. After they delivered a couple of hundred houses locals they were working with said, almost surprised, you did what you said you would. They'd seen lots of promises with no results from many others. Here in my small city on the east coast of Vancouver Island there has been an unbroken line of big promises and adrenaline (and testosterone) loaded plans that failed to launch. Trust badly damaged between citizens and their City Hall, by what is widely seen as exclusive secret backroom dealings.  Trust easily broken and extremely difficult to repair.
Characteristically, Jacobs examines deeply and objectively ideas which can be seen as "old fashioned" and have fallen from current favour (more on that later). Ideas like values, ethics, morality that more often than not have been appropriated and manipulated by forces of organized religion, government or by our own unexamined self-government. Without the slightest proselytizing or preaching, she asks with an anthropologist's discipline, how did they come about? What are their origins? How do they contribute to systems that support and moderate human life?
In Chapter 2 Kate delivers her findings. She circulates a mystifying sheet that contains two columns she has titled Moral Syndrome A and B. Under each heading a list of what she calls precepts. Here we get to the heart of it, we begin to see what Jacobs is up to. From the introduction: "This book explores the morals and values that underpin viable working life. Like the other animals, we find and pick up what we can use, and appropriate territories. But unlike the other animals, we also trade and produce for trade. Because we possess these two radically different ways of dealing with our needs, we also have two radically different systems of morals and values—both systems valid and necessary."
From the notes: The precepts are a compilation and refinement of "esteemed behaviour" notes I've made over a period of some fifteen years. Initially I conceived of the two precept groups as embodying "trader" and "raider" morality, and was laggard at recognizing that "raider" precepts are as morally valid as traders', and are grounded in legitimate territorial concerns.
Kate, for the previous four weeks, has been reading broadly and extensively, gathering "three kinds of evidence... behaviour extolled as admirable... behaviour expected or proper... behaviour deemed scandalous, disgraceful or criminal," assigning to each a precept such as "respect contracts" and "exert prowess." These behavioural observations began to be clearly associated one with the other and the two distinct syndromes emerged. Wikipedia notes here.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Jane Jacobs / Systems of Survival
A Dialogue on the Moral Foundations
of Commerce and Politics
chapter one

"My personal favourite is Systems of Survival: A Dialogue on the Moral Foundations of Commerce and Politics. Although written in the dialogue format, which some readers find irksome, this is a demanding, profound book that raises for me so many important questions about the values that underpin the different functions necessary to contemporary life." From: Mary Rowe on cities, nature, and chaotic systems Mary Rowe Dir, Urban Resilience and Livability, Municipal Art Society NYC 

... the old oracle said,
"All things have two handles:
beware of the wrong one."

I was sure Systems of Survival would be a difficult read. In fact it’s in the form of an engaging dialogue, the form she also used for her 2000 book The Nature of Economies.
Retired publisher Armbruster invites 5 friends and colleagues to discuss something troubling him: that “the web of trust [and honesty] upon which so much depends, is in a deplorable state.” He opens with an anecdote about taking a consulting fee he’d been paid in Hanover Germany to a local bank for transfer to his home bank in New York City. He realized later he’d turned over to a stranger a sum of money in return for a piece of paper written in a language he couldn’t understand and that he no concern that the funds wouldn’t be in his home account when he needed them. From this observation of unquestioned trust he also notes widespread and well known examples of “chicanery and avarice” and examples of every day folks “conspiring with dishonesty when it seems to benefit them.”
When he returned to NYC he researches examples of “embezzlement… fraud… collusion… kickbacks… cheating... bill padding… insider trading and stock manpulation… patent infringement… lies and coverups… With the exception of some of the embezzlers… these were all crimes committed by business owners or managers, bent on victimizing other enterprises, or else their own workers, their own customers, their own suppliers, or the public at large.”
Armbruster “dangles the bait” and they all agree with more and less enthusiasm to continue the discussion in four weeks time when academic, animal behaviour researcher Kate will present the first report to the group, a report to “identify our systems or systems of moral behaviour concerned with work. [For instance] What sort of rules safeguard the security of moving money around? We know honest accounting is one, but we also know it’s fragile…. Just some thinking about the commonplace norms we purport to depend on."

Thursday, June 18, 2015

From Better! Cities and Towns
Form-based codes: What's the deal?

Form-based codes: What's the deal? The community gets walkable neighborhoods with affordable housing—developers get a streamlined approval process.

Posted by Better! Cities & Towns on Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Bjarke Ingels on Charlie Rose

Thursday, June 11, 2015

"Go Home Traffic Engineer, You're Drunk" @lennartnout

HT @humantransit

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

In the mail this morning...

From CityLab — 77 Metro 'M' logos
in one @markbyrnes525 graphic

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

#Twitter essay: From highway to
#GrandBoulevard @haroldmadi
Director of Urban Design, City of Toronto

National Film Board has launched final chapter of documentary series Highrise

The National Film Board of Canada’s pioneering, multi-award-winning interactive documentary series HIGHRISE launched its final chapter, Universe Within: Digital Lives in the Global Highrise, on June 2―capping a seven-year odyssey for digital creator and documentary maker Katerina Cizek, producer Gerry Flahive and the NFB.
We are becoming a vertical—and digital—species. Billions of us live in highrises, and three billion of us are connected to the Internet. Universe Within takes us into the apartments, hearts, minds and computers of vertical citizens around the world to reveal the digital human condition in the 21st century. Trapped in our highrise units, can we find love, hate, peace, God, community—or a better world—online? And from CityLab: The Highrise Report - CityLab

Monday, June 8, 2015

Elena Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend — Discovering the sociability, the
congeniality of the city

In this excerpt from Elena Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend, the first book of the four Neapolitan novels, the 12 year old Elena spends the day with her father. She has qualified for high school and he wants to be sure she knows how to navigate the city to get to her new school. Her neighbourhood has been her entire world up to this point, a place described as violent—feuds and recriminations, domestic violence. This is her father's day to day world, he's a porter at city hall. She observes in him traits of habit and character that he never displayed at home or in the neighbourhood. And through observing her father she experiences a very different world, a world of civility, courtesy, congeniality. She witnesses and documents what Jane Jacobs said were the "sidewalk contacts [that] are the small change from which a city's wealth of public life may grow." To my reading Ferrante's account through the eyes of her 12 year old protagonist rivals Jane Jacobs' description of the "sidewalk ballet" of her New York Hudson Street neighbourhood.

The boundaries of the neighbourhood faded in the course of that summer. One morning my father took me with him. Since I was enrolling in high school, he wanted me to know what public transportation I would have to take and what route when I went in October to the new school.
It was a beautiful, very clear, windy day. I felt loved, coddled, to my affection for him was added a crescendo of admiration. He knew the enormous expanse of the city intimately, he knew where to get the metro or a tram or a bus. Outside he behaved with a sociability a relaxed courtesy, that at home he almost never had.
He was friendly toward everyone, on the metro and the buses, in the offices, and he always managed to let his interlocutor know that he worked for the city and that, if he liked, he could speed up practical matters, open doors.
We spent the whole day together, the only one in our lives. I don’t remember any others. He dedicated himself to me, as if he wanted to communicate to me in a few hours everything useful he had learned in the course of his existence. He showed me Piazza Garibaldi and the station that was being built: according to him it was so modern that the Japanese were coming from Japan to study it—in particular the columns—and build an identical one in their country. But he confessed that he liked the old station better, he was more attached to it. Ah well, Naples, he said had always been like that: it’s cut down, it’s broken up, and then it’s rebuilt, and the money flows and creates work.
He took me along Corso Garibaldi, to the building that would be my school. He dealt in the office with extreme good humour, he had the gift of congeniality, a gift that in the neighbourhood and at home he kept hidden. He boasted of my extraordinary report card to a janitor whose wedding witness, he discovered on the spot, he knew well. I heard him repeating often: everything in order? Or: everything that can be done is being done. He showed me Piazza Carlo III, the Albergo dei Poveri, the botanical garden, Via Foria, the museum. He took me on Via Constantinopoli, to Port’Alba, to Piazza Dante, to Via Toledo. I was overwhelmed by the names, the noise of the traffic, the voices, the colours, the festive atmosphere, the effort of keeping everything in mind so I could talk about it later with Lila, the ease with which he chatted with the pizza maker from whom he bought me a pizza melting with ricotta, the fruit seller from whom he bought me a yellow peach. Was it possible that only our neighbourhood was filled with conflicts and violence, while the rest of the city was radiant, benevolent?
He took me to see the place where he worked, in Plaza Municipio. There, too, he said, everything had changed, the trees had been cut down, everything was broken up: now see all the space, the only old thing left is the Maschio Angioino, but it’s beautiful, little one, there are two real males in Naples, your father and that fellow there. We went to the city hall, he greeted that person and that, everyone knew him. With some he was friendly, and introduced me, repeating yet again that in school I had gotten nine in Italian and nine in Latin; with others he was almost mute, only, indeed, yes, you command and I obey.