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    Participatory planning and climate compatible development

    By Vanesa Castan- Broto, on 4 February 2016

    The book ‘Participatory Planning for Climate Compatible Development’ advances a key argument about the need to involve urban citizens in local action for climate adaptation. The book present the insights from a CDKN-funded project called Public-Private-People Partnerships for Climate Compatible Development (2011-2013), which brought together policy makers, academics and activists from Mozambique with a group of ‘pracademics’ (or practice-oriented academics) based in the UK.

    Photo 1 copy

    The project started by bringing together two fundamental concerns. First, we perceived that much of the response to climate change, both for mitigation and adaptation, related to the management of infrastructure at the local level. Here, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that in the absence of capacity and resources for coordinate action at the national or local level, a myriad of actors from small business to community organisations can play a role in delivering sustainability outcomes at the local level. Hence, we focused on the notion of partnerships as a means to build capacity through the collaboration between different types of institutions. We challenged the notion of public-private partnership as the only way in which effective partnerships happen, focusing instead on the variety of cross-sectoral partnerships that may improve service delivery at the local level.[1]

    Second, we believe that creating long-lasting partnerships required a process of institutional development whereby sectors of the city whose voice may not always be heard could be incorporated in thinking about the future of their neighbourhood and the city as a whole. Participatory planning was conceptualised here as a means to develop such institutions, to establish a process of dialogue from the bottom up. Our insights suggest that, in an urban context, participatory planning not only does not pose an obstacle for effective climate action, but also may be the most effective means to deliver it.

    photo 19 copy

    Deliberative planning methods are appropriate to develop a democratic culture of partnership-making, which recognises the human rights of urban populations and how they perceive their life could be improved. Participatory methods are also efficient and fast means to find out what is the best way to improve the adaptation of communities that suffer the impacts of climate change. In that sense, this book reports on our own experience including: the need to tie climate change knowledge to personal experiences of extreme events such as flooding; the practical difficulties that we encountered to deliver participatory planning as a sequence of events; and the aspiration that participatory planning could lead to broader changes though a process of partnership building.

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    Our objective was to deliver an optimistic and forward-looking account of how to engage with communities for climate compatible development in a matter that makes a difference to their lives. The book also exposes, however, the limitations of a one-off engagement project to create lasting, transformative change. In this sense, we see this book as the beginning of a long engagement with the communities of Maputo, their aspirations, and the multiple possibilities to create a better city in the context of climate change.

    [1]For a critical discussion see: Castán Broto V, Macucule DA, Boyd E, et al. (2015) Building Collaborative Partnerships for Climate Change Action in Maputo, Mozambique. Environment and Planning A 47: 571-587.

    #feesmustfall: The South African’s student revolt

    By Olusegun Ogunleye, on 27 January 2016

    #feesmustfall: South Africa’s student revolt

    “Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.” Article 26 (1) of the Universal Declaration of Human right

    The debate whether tertiary education should be free or not versus it being affordable, and what exactly is affordability, has been on for a long time. This was the crux of the fees must fall movement in South Africa in 2015. The movement which was started by the Student Representative Council (SRC) of University of Witwatersrand (Wits) gained traction, turning into a national student movement with support from various actors across sectors both nationally and globally.[i]

     

     

    Student and outsourced workers of the University of Wits on the Piazza Credit Sara Maani

    Student and outsourced workers of the University of Wits on the Piazza Credit Sara Maani

    Although much has been written about the protest, my focus here is on the student protest as a movement. Little or no analysis has been done to understand how the protest gained traction; how these collectives of SRCs and other student bodies were able to arrive at a phase of periodic consensus, develop collective intent, mobilise material and social capitals, create synergy, and increase their room for manoeuvre. Also of importance is the criteria for assessing whether the student Collective Strategic Action (CSA) was a success, materially and institutionally. These are a lot to touch on in a single blog post, but the narrative of the event as it unfolds below will gloss over a couple of the issues.

    The narrative is divided into three parts with the Wits SRC being the focal core but linked to broader events. The protest period is divided into two phases, while the third part analyses the success of the protest based on criteria proposed by Caren Levy. [i]

     

     

    PHASE ONE

    Long term goals require long term and sustainable strategies in order for us to be successful. Shutting down the University was a short term strategy used to secure the 0% fee increment, as well as, the other internal demands that were made to Council” Wits Student Representatives 2014/2015 & 2015/2016

    The protest which officially started on 14th October, 2015 due to a 10.5% and 6% hike in school and registration fess respectively [iii] lasted till 28th October, 2015. As it progressed the demands were broadened to include an end to outsourcing of university workers, free education, decolonisation of education and educational institutions.

    Protests and rallies were held within and outside the school, with key points being to Luthuli House (African National Congress (ANC) Headquarters)[iv] and Union Building in Pretoria. Student support groups, such as food kitchens and tutorial groups, were formed, which played a role in sustaining the spirit of camaraderie.

    Student rally in front of great hall in Wits with SRC members spurring the crowd with speeches and songs

    Student rally in front of great hall in Wits with SRC members spurring the crowd with speeches and songs

    This sustained pressure culminated with a meeting between The President of the Republic of South Africa, President Jacob Zuma, and student leaders from across the various institutions on the 23rd October 2015 (a meeting which the Wits SRC chose to abstain from) at the Union Building in Pretoria, where the 0% fee increment for 2016 was agreed upon amongst other demands. While the 1st phases of the protest can be said to have ended, specifically at Wits on 28th November, with the decision of the Wits SRC to end all protest related activities in order to allow students take their exams after reaching some agreement with the school authority, division and cracks began showing within the coalition. [v]

     

    Student Rally at the Union Building in Pretoria Credit Sara Maani

    Student Rally at the Union Building in Pretoria Credit Sara Maani

     

    PHASE 2

    “One needs time to regroup and strategize appropriately with effective tactics. We have won our short term goals through short term strategies. We have won the battle, a great battle, but the war for free education continues with a renewed strategy” Wits Student Representatives 2014/2015 & 2015/2016

    The second phase can be said to have begun on 11 January 2016, [vi] although Wits SRC activities were observable right from the first day of resumption. It got to a climax on 12th January 2016 when SRC members were forcibly moved out of Solomon Mahlangu House [vii]. This phase, as shown in the pictures below, witnessed increased presence of security operatives on and around campus, creating the feeling of a police state.

    According to a member of the Wits SRC, [viii] a meeting was held the previous night so they decided to sleep over as it was late to go to their respective houses. However, in the earlier hours they were awoken by a combination of policemen and private security operatives. The lady said she was pulled by the hair and that 3 of her compatriot were hospitalised. After, being hurled out of the building their freedom of movement was also curtailed.

    When the Wits SRC member was asked the reason for the second round of protest, the response was that it was a continuation of the first phase as their objective of free education had not been achieved. Quoting the SRC member “They have been in power for 21 years yet they have not provided any plan or strategy to make education more accessible to the poor. Now we the student say education must be free and since they said it cannot happen at once, we have decided it must start with non-payment of registration fees”.

    However, an agreement was reached by the SRC and school authority 21st January, 2016.

    Security operatives watching students and outsourced university workers singing protest songs

    Security operatives watching students and outsourced university workers singing protest songs

     

    BEING STRATEGIC

    If the three criteria proposed by Caren Levy; synergy, multiplier effect, and expanding the room for manoeuvre, are used to measure the success of student’s CSA, the two phases of the protest provide conflicting outcomes. While the first phase can be said to have been successful, at least on the short run, same cannot be said of the second phase.

    A key question, in my view, is why the coalition could not succeed on its longer term goal? I will attempt to provide an answer by focusing on three key reasons. First of all, I believe the movement was not able to metamorphose to the next level and develop a collective intent sufficient to continuously propel the coalition. Secondly, I think the second phase was ill timed as most of the old students, who formed the large bulk of people who took part in the rally, were yet to return to campus. Also the SRC, this time around, did not have a broad base, which was an outcome of the tracks which began to show at the end of the first phase.

    These paradoxical outcomes point to the notion of “being strategic” as Caren levy argued. However, more pertinent is how movements, such as these, can assess the moment before deciding whether to break and regroup, especially when they have the momentum and are in a position of comparative advantage in respect of power dynamics and relation; or whether to go all out to actualise their goal with the risk of losing all if it cannot be sustained or they loss critical support base; or most importantly explore creative means of combining the two positions, while retreating to re-strategize keeping some kind of visibility. In my view, the last option is the key to being strategic.

     

     

    [i] http://citizen.co.za/831588/fees-must-fall-from-london/

    [ii] Levy, C. (2007). Defining Collective Strategic Action Led by Civil Society Organisations The Case of CLIFF, India. 8th N-AERUS Conference (pp. 1-29). London: N-AERUS

    [iii] http://mg.co.za/article/2015-10-15-wits-fees-protest-intensifies

    [iv] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KrSgJkVRzqM , https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2yObA_vuBOI

    [v] http://www.bdlive.co.za/national/education/2015/10/26/wits-students-opt-to-extend-protest-action , https://www.enca.com/south-africa/divisions-appear-among-wits-src-leaders

    [vi] http://ewn.co.za/2016/01/11/wits-registration-disrupted-by-feesmustfall-protest

    [vii] http://www.thenewage.co.za/wits-students-forcefully-removed-from-solomon-house/

    Although it is officially the Senate House the students renamed it Solomon Mahlangu House.

    [viii] Interview excerpt of the SRC member are credited to Sara Maani


     

    Olusegun Ogunleye is a development practitioner with several years working experience in the field of town planning in Nigeria. He has also taken part in urban-based research in Nigeria, London and, Dar es Salaam. His passion lies in the area of urban governance as he sees it as a veritable tool to ensure and enhance the wellbeing of citizens. He also believes in the potential inherent in community-led development as a means of ensuring sustainable development. Olusegun graduated from the MSc Urban Development Planning in 2014.

    New COP, New Targets, Newer opportunities for India to lower carbon emission

    By Daljeet Kaur, on 15 January 2016

    The last quarter of 2015 marked the adoption of three big international agreements, The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) and the Paris Agreement. Thus, the New Year – 2016 begins with great fervour and hope. The resolutions for the international community this year are more or less custom made – how to plan effectively to meet global commitments and achieve local targets. The world together has taken a leap into a promising 2016 to accomplish the ambitious goals set out to make development more sustainable. We have one extra day this year, to take that extra mile, to fulfil our commitments in lowering down global temperatures.

    The recently concluded agreement at the 21st Conference of Parties, or COP21, reinforced the need to collectively act towards meeting global emission targets. The global climate agreement signed in Paris, commits to hold the global average temperature to “well below 2°C” above pre-industrial levels and to “pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C”. According to climate change experts the world needs to move off fossil fuels by 2050 to achieve the 2 degrees celsius limit.

    India, the third largest emitter of carbon dioxide after China and America, is an important player in meeting the target of zero net carbon emissions between 2030 and 2050. India’s stand on common but differential responsibility in the climate politics was also seen in the Paris Conference. Despite this, we acknowledge that it has become imperative for India to take corrective measures and respond to the global call for local action to prevent a climate crisis.

    Figure 1: Citizens of Delhi pledging to make their city pollution Free with the sign – Volunteers for the government

    Figure 1: Citizens of Delhi pledging to make their city pollution Free with the sign – Volunteers for the government

    Odd and Even Scheme in Delhi

    In addition to the Prime Minister’s announcement of cutting carbon emissions by 2030 overall, the Delhi Government’s drive to reduce pollution by introducing new measures in cutting down vehicular emissions comes at an opportune time. While several oppose to the proposed measure of allowing vehicles with odd and even number plates to ply only on alternate days, many intellectuals feel that introduction of such strict laws will help abate pollution which has increased beyond permissible limits in Delhi.

    Figure 2: Winter Smog in Delhi. Less than 500 meter visibility even at 10:00 am in the morning

    Figure 2: Winter Smog in Delhi. Less than 500 meter visibility even at 10:00 am in the morning

    Delhi is the most polluted city in the world. Late last year the levels of Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5[1], the particle known to be most harmful to human health, were found to be 50 percent higher on Delhi roads at rush hour than during ambient air quality readings. Black carbon, a major pollutant, was found to be three times higher in Delhi. The experimental fifteen days of the odd/even formula, which started from 1st of Jan 2016, have shown obvious reduction in the vehicular traffic from many roads of Delhi. In addition, Delhi Government claims that levels of PM 2.5 have come down by 25-30% from the December 2015 monitored count. Despite these claims, there are many critiques of the scheme. The peak hour air quality readings presented, before and after the implementation of the scheme, are challenged on the basis of this year’s weather pattern, wind speed, temperatures, school holidays, etc.

    [1] PM 2.5 refers to particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, which is believed to pose the greatest health risk because it penetrates deeply into lungs.

    Figure 3: Peak hour traffic on Delhi Roads during usual days

    Figure 3: Peak hour traffic on Delhi Roads during usual days

    At such an early stage, it is hard to side with one opinion as there is merit in the argument presented by both sides, for and against. For such initiatives to be successful we not only need a comfortable and reliable public transportation systems but also stronger regulatory mechanisms. Government’s effort should be more on making an imperative shift from private to public transport rather than a forced transformation causing inconvenience to the public. The change needs to be brought over time, thus there is a need to focus on editing people’s choices toward a certain lifestyle. In other words, shifting consumer values from ownership to access.

    Drivers of Change

    At the same time, Government can adopt simpler drivers of change like introducing higher congestion taxes during peak hours, providing incentives to companies adopting flexible hours for their employees, encouraging car pooling by disallowing single passenger/driver car during office hours, well-connected & comfortable public transport system etc. In most European countries, this drive for choice editing has been termed as “pay-as-you-live” lifestyle, which adopts renting, sharing, gifting as a means to reduce per capita consumption.

    Global civilisation has completed a full circle; with reduced resources, decision makers have to now reverse the growth curve. The continual demand for economic growth has always prompted countries to draft lenient environmental policies, much like how the critiques of Paris conference and the environmental activists’ world over, are describing the COP21 agreement. When our solutions to abate climate change or protect the Earth’s finite resources end with either development or growth, the failure is confirmed. We live on a finite planet with finite resources and one cannot envisage development without exploiting resources. Green Growth or Sustainable Development are incompatible as the world runs on a capitalist’s economy promoting higher consumption every year.

    The problem we face today may not have a simple solution but a combination of many solutions. Decision makers as well as citizens, globally, have a vital role to play in reducing climate stress & environmental hazards simply by being informed and responsible. A way forward would be to adopt simple, innovative measures which necessarily only promotes lifestyle changes, especially from the rich in both the developing and the developed world.


    Daljeet Kaur has a double Master’s degree in Environment and Sustainable Development from the DPU and Environmental Planning from School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi. She has worked as a qualified planner and an architect for more than eight years at IPE Global Limited. Her interest lies in urban planning; urban reforms, environmental management; climate change and its mitigation & adaptation; knowledge management. Daljeet currently works as Associate Director, IPE Global an international development consulting group.

    A bottom-up approach to heritage conservation: the case of Barrio Yungay in Santiago, Chile

    By Maria P Sagredo Aylwin, on 12 January 2016

    Heritage has become a key element of the development of cities and an asset for urban renewal strategies. Historic neighbourhoods and cities have become valuable spaces because of their sense of place, the concentration of cultural activities that reflect local identities, and the increasing economic relevance of global cultural tourism (Bandarin and Van Oers, 2012). However, the production of heritage is not a neutral process. It implies a process of reinterpretation of the past in order to engage with the present. In consequence, it is also about challenging existing power relations and transforming how communities are perceived and classified (Smith, 2006).

    In this context, critical literature recognises two main approaches to the production and conservation of heritage, each of them related to different scales. The first one refers to the production of global heritage supported by international organisations such as UNESCO and/or national governments. This process is mainly carried out by authorised experts, creating an official heritage discourse (Harrison, 2010). This approach has been criticised for leaving out local communities from the production of heritage, and even from heritage sites themselves (Bianchi and Boniface, 2002); nevertheless it has also implied the access to conservation funds and plans that would hardly have been accessed by other means. It has also been criticised for focusing mainly on the tangible heritage, i.e. buildings and facades, leaving aside the intangible aspects of heritage, represented by the use and practices carried out in the physical spaces (Bandarin and Van Oers, 2012).

    A second approach refers to the production of unofficial discourses of heritage, mainly at a local level. This approach emerges from the actual relationship of people with objects, places and practices, and therefore it constitutes a bottom-up approach to the production of heritage (Harrison, 2010).

    Plaza Yungay

    Plaza Yungay

    A good example of production of heritage at a local level has occurred in the Barrio Yungay, located in the city centre of Santiago, Chile. The neighbourhood was built during the 19th century and it was one of the first planned neighbourhoods of the city. It was originally inhabited by upper and middle class families, but during the late 19th century it became a workers’ neighbourhood, characterised by the presence of cités, a continuous construction of one flat houses with a central common space and one or more accesses to the street.

    During the last decade, residents of Barrio Yungay formed Vecinos por la defensa el Barrio Yungay (Neighbours in defense of Yungay), an organisation that intended to protect the neighbourhood from real estate pressures. After presenting a request with more than 2000 signatures, the neighbourhood was declared typical zone by the Council of National Monuments in 2009. This status prohibited the construction of multi-storey buildings and other potential alterations of its traditional buildings, among them, the cités.

    2. Cité in Yungay Neighbourhood

    Cité in Yungay Neighbourhood

    Since then, there have emerged many movements that have focused not only on the protection of houses and buildings, but also on the intangible heritage of the neighbourhood. An interesting initiative is the Fermín Vivaceta Arts and Crafts School founded in 2010. This was a community project that arose from the need to train people to conserve and restore the architectural heritage of the neighbourhood after it was declared a typical zone in 2009. Additionally, the earthquake that occurred in 2010 affected many buildings in the area, intensifying this need. The proposal was supported by Neighbours in Defense of Yungay. It has been focused mainly in teaching traditional crafts to young residents of Yungay with the aim of conserving the heritage of their own neighbourhood.

    The most recent community project related to the protection of heritage is a Community Museum inaugurated in 2015. The museum is located in an old house that was donated by residents of the neighbourhood to the Yungay Neighbourhood Association. This is the first museum of its kind in Chile. It exhibits the history of the neighbourhood, some 19th century objects that belonged to the original house owners, and other objects and paintings donated by current residents. Thus, it intends to reflect the identity of the neighbours of Yungay.

    Community museum mural

    Community museum mural

    Finally, one of the highlights when visiting Yungay is the French Barbershop that has existed for over a 100 years. Not only has the building been preserved, but it still functions as a barbershop. During the 1990s the building was restored adding a bar and a restaurant that now attracts mainly tourists.

    Residents of Yungay have managed to protect its tangible and intangible heritage, gaining the support of local and national authorities that have contributed to its preservation. The neighbourhood is now a place that is highly valued by its cultural activities that reflect its local identity. It has become a neighbourhood that attracts the attention of visitors from other parts of the city and foreign tourists. Thus, the new challenge for residents and authorities is to transform this increasing interest in an opportunity to improve the well-being of residents, avoiding the threats of gentrification and touristification that may end up pushing away those who have always lived there.

     

    References:

    Bandarin, F. and Van Oers, R (2012). The Historic Urban Landscape: Managing Heritage in and Urban Century. UK: Blackwell Publishing.

    Bianchi, R. and Boniface, P. (2002). Editorial: The Politics of World Heritage. International Journal of Heritage Studies, 8 (2), pp.79–80.

    Donnachie, I. (2010). World Heritage. In: Harrison, R. Understanding the Politics of Heritage. UK: Manchester University Press. pp. 115-153.

    Harrison, R. (2010). What is heritage? In: Harrison, R. Understanding the Politics of Heritage. UK: Manchester University Press. pp. 5-42.

    Smith, L. (2006). Uses of Heritage. USA: Routledge.


    María Paz Sagredo just completed her MSc Social Development Practice at the DPU. She has experience working in consultancy and NGOs in Chile. She recently started working in community development projects in a Municipality of Santiago. She is also occasionally contributing in cultural heritage conservation initiatives. 

    Evolving Cuba. The Need for a Planned Transition.

    By Ana De La Parra Rovelo, on 31 December 2015

    It was the end of November. Only four days had passed since I went back to Mexico after finishing my studies at the DPU. I found myself in Havana, enjoying the outdoors without having to wear a coat. I was excited because I had been invited to present the main topic of my MSc dissertation in a local Congress organised by the Ministry of Construction (MICONS) targeted to 160 public servants, representing the country’s main “territories”.

    Martí pointing at the US Embassy in Havana

    Martí pointing at the US Embassy in Havana

    I was proud to be portrayed as one of the four key speakers at the Congress among three members of the Havana University Faculty. My research topic was about the need to regulate infrastructure services to find a balance between a free-market economy and a communist system. The objective was to explore the need for direct regulation in order to redefine social justice “beyond a distributive understanding”, and expand “people’s capabilities”. All this is contextualised in the recent changes in Cuba, which will encourage greater governmental transparency and economic openness to global investors. The main topic of my lecture was to explain the importance of having available data and information to be able to address people’s main concerns and include their perspective in government policies. I used the same case study as I did in my dissertation: a mobility strategy for Havana. Little did I know that my conference was going to be the only lecture related to infrastructure. I was taken by surprise when I realised that the rest of the conferences were devoted to the Internet.

    Fidel talking about the importance of the internet

    Fidel talking about the importance of the internet

    Inside the rooms of the Palacio de las Convenciones, most of the speakers explained the main uses of the Internet and the convenience of integrating new software and mobile devices to be more productive at work. At first, their explanations were as basic as describing the main uses of Twitter and Facebook to the audience. My first impression was that it was all part of an agenda to insert a specific vision into the public servants; and in a way, it was. However, I started to pay attention to what the professors were really saying and the reactions from the audience and that is when I realised there was so much more. At one point, one female professor explained, “Humans created the Internet to expand their reality, the same way as Plato’s Theory of Ideas”. The audience then made affirmation noises as if everything was now crystal clear and needed no further explanation. I was thankful for my philosophy modules at University. Another professor made it clear that if they “did not tell their story to the world, the only version the people could learn was the one written by the other side”. Hence highlighting the urge to become active users of the web.

    I slowly became aware of what was happening in this conference, the country was preparing selected public servants for a transition. A big one! To do so, they are executing a very clever strategy: they are not only taking into consideration the big changes they need to improve their urban mobility or to re-open Mariel, their biggest trading port. They are also taking a step back and considering all the other basic tools they need to succeed when these changes happen. This means introducing themselves to new technologies, software and the biggest modern tool of all, the Internet. It is an integral and multidimensional strategy for Cuba to take over the world instead of fearing the world will take over the island, and I think it is an interesting way to do it.

    The venue.

    The venue.

    After the Congress finished, I went to the Havana University campus in Marianao, just outside Havana to meet an Architecture professor. Having in mind the described events, I felt confident about what was going to come out of this final meeting. I was not disappointed in that aspect. However, the cruelty of the country’s reality hit me when I got there. The Architecture faculty building was decayed, grey, and partially destroyed. As we climbed the stairs to the eighth floor, we had to dodge debris, rods and the risk of falling into the void as the cardboard that served as a wall on one side of the stairs explicitly announced. The professor explained to us that there were over 500 students in that building and that many students were not able to attend due to lack of means of transportation to what he refered to as “the remote” campus, situated 15 km from the City Centre.

    The University

    The University

    After four days I went back to Mexico feeling exhausted, confused and at the same time extremely grateful to have played a part in this transition. I see a country excited with the prospect of change and new hope, built on national proudness of what they have been achieved and the plans they have sketched for the future. Changes are everywhere in this island, so hopefully with the right urban planning policies, cubans will be on the road to success in no time. I cannot wait to see what happens next.


    Ana Maria de la Parra Rovelo has an MSc in Social Development Practice from The Bartlett Development Planning Unit. She has specialised inn social impact and infrastructure, especially on projects related to roads. Last June she launched the International Road Federation Young Professionals Programme where members from all over the world collaborate in joint academic research on topics related to mobility and roads. Ana Maria is now based in Mexico City where she is helping with the launch of The Bartlett Built Environment Club – Mexico City, while she works on projects in Cuba and Mexico.

    The need for child-orientated play spaces in Addis Ababa

    By Sally Duncan, on 21 December 2015

    Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, is rapidly expanding and urbanising. Roads, new buildings, car parks and concrete take president and priority over child’s play and recreational space. Evidence, time and time again, has shown that common to all children is a propensity – a natural, innate drive and desire – to play. Children naturally spend most of the day playing if they can – improving their social, physical and cognitive development and wellbeing in the process. But the reality is that play is becoming a luxury for many urban children, while infants are not getting access to adequate and affordable day care which helps ensure they go to school ready and equipped to learn.

    Facilitated by a new organisation called Out of The Box, over the next two months a simple yet effective pilot project involving local children, parents, artists and newly graduated Addis-based architects is underway to create a child-centred, community-managed space in the heart of city of Addis Ababa.

    The head of the Balderas Resident Association and Sally Duncan, founder of OTB, conducting an initial needs assessments and wish list of play equipment with the children living in Balderas

    The head of the Balderas Resident Association and Sally Duncan, founder of OTB, conducting an initial needs assessments and wish list of play equipment with the children living in Balderas

    Urbanisation and the place of the child

     Ethiopia is undergoing unprecedented levels of social, economic and urban change. With a population of over 4 million, the rapid urbanisation of its capital city, Addis Ababa, brings increased danger for the child from traffic, pollution, and construction, combined with a decline of public space. Not only does the planning process tend to ignore the needs of the child, but the dramatic shift in housing from low-level forms to high-rise apartments, referred to as condominiums, adds further restrictions to the spaces in which the child is able to interact with his/her surroundings [1]. As across the global south, resource-poor local government is forced to make hard choices – investments in play and play space being seen as a luxury rather than a right, with the economic and social returns from investing in play rarely understood.

    Importance of play, interactive learning, and the investment in young people’s spaces

    Children are born with a natural hunger for experience, exploration, understanding and desire for passionate engagement with the physical and social world around them. Play is the process by which children achieve this intrinsic quest for learning, enjoyment and adventure[2], while the way in which children play, and what they play with, is determined by the physical and social environment they are brought up in[3]. Play, like childhood, is culturally relative: socio-economic status, ethnicity, gender, physical ability and race impact on the forms of play a child participates in[4].

    Children playing football at the site where the playground and multipurpose youth centre will be built in Balderas Condominium

    Children playing football at the site where the playground and multipurpose youth centre will be built in Balderas Condominium

    Play is essential for the development of both individual identity and the creation of active and responsible membership of society. Play, according to the UN Convention of the Child is a human right, and research on play interventions, particularly during a child’s early years, show that the active participation in play-based activities results in significantly raising IQs, greater levels of education attainment, higher rates of employment, and increased wages in later life[5], whilst investing in playgrounds, sport and recreational spaces and youth centres plays a crucial role in the creation of strong and cohesive communities, directly enabling the child to feel respected and valued within their immediate community.

    Bob Hughes, a pioneering adventure play worker in 1970s Britain, states: “Children will always be children and will always find a way to play”. This begs three important questions: 1. Is where children play safe? 2. What play facilities do governments, policy makers, city planners and communities provide for their children? 3. Does the child have any say in this provision?

    Out of The Box Project

    In 2012 I spent 3 month living in a housing condominium called Balderas. Constructed in 2008, it’s home to 1050 households and 6000 residents, one third of whom are under 16 years old. During this time I saw first hand how there was a distinct lack of designated early years day-care, play and youth space both in Balderas and across Ethiopia. Inspired by the children I met and the openness of the Resident Association to listen to my slightly “out of the box” ideas, we set about developing Out of The Box (OTB) with the aim of building an adventure playground, a children’s permaculture garden, and multipurpose youth and early years day-care centre at Balderas as a pilot for seeding similar developments in condominiums across Addis Ababa.

    Grand plan of the playground, sports and youth centre site at Balderas condominium

    Grand plan of the playground, sports and youth centre site at Balderas condominium

    Based on interactive children’s workshops and consultations with the Balderas Resident Association, newly graduated architects from the Ethiopian Institute of Architecture (EiABC) are currently designing an original, culturally relevant, dynamic space for children to play, socialise and learn. Incorporating 5 key elements of early years learning and play (Physical, Cognitive, Sensory, Social, Imaginative), the playground aims to be inclusive of different ages, genders and abilities, and use local materials such as bamboo and recycled tyres, jerry cans and satellite dishes. In addition, the site will feature a 30 metre art wall featuring collaborative work from local Addis artists, art students and the children themselves. A children’s permaculture garden will ensure the space is green, vibrant and a celebration of the natural environment in this urban setting.

    A second phase to the project will build a children’s centre for early years day-care, youth activities, plus library and café – all managed by Balderas Youth Board and community members.

    The first phase of the pilot project will start at Balderas in early 2015. This will act as an example which OTB hopes to replicate in other condominiums in Addis and further afield, continuing to work in creative partnership with a diverse range of individuals and organisations based in both Addis and the UK – promoting the importance of play and the opportunity for every child to play within their immediate community, through both active community participation, cultural dialogue, and exchange.

    For more information or ways to be become engaged visit www.outoftheboxpartnerships.com or contact Sally directly at sally@outoftheboxpartnerships.com

     

    Children sharing their ideas during an Out of The Box playground design day in Balderas Condomium.

    Children sharing their ideas during an Out of The Box playground design day in Balderas Condomium.

     

    [1] Tiumelissan, A and Pankurst A (2013) Moving to Condominium Housing? Views about the Prospect among Caregivers and Children in Addis Ababa and Hawassa, Ethiopia, Young Lives Working Paper 106 [Online] Available from: http://www.younglives.org.uk/publications/WP/moving-to-condominium-housing/wp106-pankurst-moving-to-condominiums [Assessed 1st August 2015]

     

    [2] Bartlett S, Hart R, Satterthwaite D, De La Barra X, Missair A (1999) Cities for Children – Children rights, Poverty and Urban Management, Earthscan Publication Ltd, London.

     

    [3] Valsiner, J (1989) Human Development and Culture; The Social Nature of Personality and its Study, Lexington, Massachusetts: Lexington Books.

     

    [4] Holloway S and Valentine G (2000) Children’s Geographies: Playing, Living, Learning, Routledge: London and New York

     

    [5] Kellock P (2015) The Case for Play, Playground Ideas Report [Online] Available from: http://www.playgroundideas.org/wp-content/uploads/The-case-for-play-V5.pdf [Assessed 09th December 2015]


    Sally Duncan has just completed an MSc in Social Development Practice from DPU. She is the CEO and Founder of Out of The Box and also works as a consultant for Oshun Partnerships. Formerly she worked for DFID, as well as for local NGOs in Ethiopia, India, South Africa and Madagascar. Sally is now living in Addis Ababa carrying out her dream to oversee the construction of the adventure playground and youth center in Balderas condominium where she used to live – she hopes this will be the first of many!

    The Ties That (un)Bind: Affect and Organisation in the Bosnia-Herzegovina Protests, 2014

    By Giulia Carabelli, on 11 December 2015

    In this post, I discuss the preliminary results of my ongoing research on the 2014 mass protests in Bosnia Herzegovina (BiH). Overall, I am interested in the production and articulation of these spaces of rebellion by considering their ‘affective atmospheres’, which means that I am curious about the effects that affect have in the production of socio-spatial relations. In particular, I look at rage, anger, but especially hope as a way to understand how spaces of “togetherness” came to be created during the protests in a country where both “being together” and “occupying public spaces” represent major political and social issues in their own right.

    1: Protests in Sarajevo, February 2014 by abzur licensed under CC BY 2.0

    1: Protests in Sarajevo, February 2014 by abzur licensed under CC BY 2.0

    When the protests started in Tuzla, in February 2014 international media and journalists wrote extensively about hope and anger as unifying forces leading toward a potential future of peaceful coexistence among divided communities, and thus hinting at the power of these affects to create new spaces of political engagement. According to such accounts, people temporarily overcame established patterns of hatred for the “ethnic other” due to an affective displacement created by the much stronger hatred they shared for the corrupt political class. Although this is a simplistic and problematic view, particularly the erroneous – though widespread – assumption that territorial segregation and social divisions are the result of citizens’ ‘eternal hatred’ of ‘the other’ (rather than the result of specific political and economic conflicts among a range of national and international actors) it is nevertheless true that the atmosphere of political, economic and social instability that permeates the country facilitates a sense of disengagement and fear that are not conducive to revolt but rather invite conditions of stasis as a means of preservation or survival (see my article on the struggles of youth activists in Mostar here). And yet, the protests brought about a new sense of hope and euphoria that made it possible to take the risk of being together against the government’s inability to take care of its citizens’ needs and aspirations. Crucially, this movement toward togetherness materialised in public spaces – squares, streets, and parks – that saw the reclaiming of these spaces as a place of community, rather than politically imposed division.

    2: Protests in Sarajevo, February 2014 by abzur licensed under CC BY 2.0

    2: Protests in Sarajevo, February 2014 by abzur licensed under CC BY 2.0

    I have spent the first two months of my fellowship travelling across BiH to interview activists and actors of civil society who were involved in the 2014 protests. I listened to them re-enacting the confrontations in the street, discussing the challenges of coordinating large numbers of people in the plenums, and their personal and collective struggles to imagine how the future of BiH could be radically different from its problematic present. For this post, I will focus on the importance of reflecting on how “becoming hopeful” moved bodies and created spaces for political encounters.

    According my respondents, it was hope that brought people in the streets because hope allowed them to believe that change was possible. The protesting bodies, becoming hopeful, became also a visible presence in the city: impossible to ignore and hard to silence. And it was this very process of becoming hopeful and invading the streets to protest that is in itself an extraordinary event. As one interviewee in Sarajevo explained to me:

    “here we have been deprived of the luxury of being political… I mean it’s a luxury because you need to work, to take care of your kids, you struggle all the time and you have no energy for struggle more for politics…”

    Yet becoming hopeful is also a reason for disappointment, discontent and for the creation of fractures within the movement. As another respondent reported, it was the fact that people put too much hope in what this grassroots movement could do that, when it ended without a revolution, new disappointment and anger arise.

    3: Protests in Sarajevo, February 2014 by Kumjana Novakova licensed under CC BY 2.0

    3: Protests in Sarajevo, February 2014 by Kumjana Novakova licensed under CC BY 2.0

    I believe that there is great potential of looking at hope to account for and explore grassroots protests, how they come into being, how they become movements for creating new spaces of togetherness, but also divisions and fractures; to create and sustain, but also destroy infrastructures of togetherness. Hope begins from encounters and it brings about the question of how new possibilities can be born from these encounters, which involve multiple processes of mediation, negotiation, explanation. And yet, these sites of hope, such as the protests in Bosnia, are the potential signposts that an alternative exists. As Helena Flam argues, we should pay attention to the ways in which protest movements attempt to re-socialise people through (subversive) emotions in order to show that to be angry and to voice concerns is fair and legitimate.


    Giulia Carabelli joined the Centre for Advanced Studies – South East Europe (CAS SEE) at the University of Rijeka in October 2015. This is an international research centre that seeks to support, guide, and encourage early career scholars to produce critical and innovative works on topics related to the region of South-Eastern Europe. Prior to joining CAS SEE, Giulia worked in the Development Planning Unit as the MSc Building and Urban Design in Development Graduate Teaching Assistant.

     

    Favela Upgrading and Integration into the City – 20 years on

    By Mariana Dias Simpson, on 4 December 2015

    In 1996, when Rio de Janeiro was a candidate to host the Olympics for the first time, the Brazilian Institute for Social and Economic Analyses (Ibase, in Portuguese) proposed that such a mega event should be accompanied by a “social agenda” with five goals (one goal for each Olympic ring), defined then by Betinho, Ibase’s founder and prominent civil society representative. Rio didn’t win the bid, but the social agenda gathered great support from civil society, governments and the private sector, and had repercussions for years to come.

    Twenty years on, as Rio is about to host the next Olympics Games, Ibase is revisiting the debate on the Olympic social legacy – or lack thereof – for the city. The NGO proposes that special attention is given to one of the goals proposed in the 1996 social agenda: “Favela Upgrading and Integration into the City” .

    Ibase, DPU, and youth volunteers.

    In a first initiative carried out by Ibase in partnership with the DPU[1] in November, teams from both institutions and a group of young volunteers from the favelas of Borel and Providência[2] debated the topic, interviewed key informants (slum and city dwellers, social movements and governmental representatives) and realised a workshop. The initial idea was to have housing, mobility and public security as a starting point.

    The young volunteers draw out their storyboard. Photograph by Alex Macfarlane

    The young volunteers draw out their storyboard. Photograph by Alex Macfarlane

    Choosing to leave the discussion open, the topics debated by the young volunteers with the DPU’s mediation naturally converged into issues related to a) the pressing threat of eviction and gentrification felt in favelas. This is reinforced by the Games and by public policies that favour land speculation, currently pushing local residents to the city peripheries; b) difficulties in freely accessing the city, as racism and ‘social apartheid’ make them feel unwelcome in the wealthier parts of Rio. This feeling is intensified by the city government’s recent decision to end direct public transport links between the (poorer) north and the (richer) south zones of the city; c) the fact that favelas’ culture and identity are being curtailed by public security policies such as the ‘Pacifying Police Units’ (UPPs) that ‘militarise’ these territories and locals’ everyday lives. Public tenders open to local cultural groups were also mentioned. On a positive note, these tenders allow them to have access to public funds, but as a side effect, their perception is that the groups are being ‘used as small parts of a larger engine’ in which they are allowed to take part without ever having a leading role.

    The final ‘world cafe’ workshop. Photograph by Alex Macfarlane

    Based on that, it was decided that Ibase should approach the target “favela upgrading and integration into the City” from the perspective of three strategic values: a) inclusion with locals’ prominence; b) encounter of differences; and c) citizen participation. The understanding is that, to be successful in building a socially just city, public policies must encapsulate these three strategic objectives.

    The interviews with key-informants were filmed to support a workshop[3] that brought together an important group of collaborators. For the workshop, it was proposed that all participants worked as groups to identify obstacles faced in the past 20 years to achieve the overall goal and strategic values mentioned above; opportunities and possibilities for advancement; and, finally, actions that may be taken in order to achieve the goal of upgrading and integrating favelas into the city.

    The final 'world cafe' workshop. Photograph by Alex Macfarlane

    The final ‘world cafe’ workshop. Photograph by Alex Macfarlane

    The debates were extremely rich and this intense week of work shared between Ibase and the DPU is being seen as a seed for future projects. Ibase’s plan is to use this solid base to develop actions aiming to strengthen existing favelas’ organisations and networks through political and capacity building for the co-creation of campaigns that should occupy educational, public and virtual spaces in order to promote encounters to disseminate debate and influence public policies for the city we want – an inclusive, diverse and participatory city.

    [1]    Represented in Rio de Janeiro by Alex Frediani and Alex Macfarlane.

    [2]    The youth group was formed by Cosme Vinícius Felippsen (Providência/ Rio de Janeiro’s Youth Forum), João Batista (Providência/ UFF), Luiz Henrique Souza Pereira (Borel) and Renan Oliveira dos Santos (Borel-Formiga/ UFRJ).

    [3] The workshop was held in Rio de Janeiro in November 13th, 2015 and used the methodology known as “world cafe”.


    Mariana Dias Simpson is a DPU MSc Urban Development Planning alumni. She works as a researcher at the Brazilian Institute for Social and Economic Analyses (Ibase) in Rio de Janeiro and has worked with urban issues related to favelas, housing, public policies, poverty and inequality for several years.

     

    Mapping Everyday and Episodic Risks

    By Rita Lambert, on 1 December 2015

    The cLIMA sin Riesgo research project in Lima, Peru, adopts participatory mapping as a means to gather quantitative and qualitative information to capture varying degrees of natural and man-made conditions of vulnerability that affect women and men living in the center and in the periphery of the city. The process is designed to open up dialogue between various stakeholders, with the aim of informing the design of interventions that prevent and reduce risks.

    To better understand the everyday risks that inhabitants of the two case study sites are exposed to, we spatialise our inquiry capturing how these risks are distributed and where they accumulate in space (Figure 1). This is a necessary step in identifying how, and where, risk traps need to be disrupted. Preliminary findings suggest that actions taken in one place to mitigate risk may, in effect, externalise the risk to other locations. Hence mapping to make visible the interdependencies that constitute and shape a given territory becomes a vital step in our enquiry, particularly as we seek to devise solutions for an integrated, and co-produced planning.

    Figure 1. Drone image of Barrios Altos used to identify residential plots, cultural heritage buildings and other uses such as storage, which is defacing the historic centre. Photo: Rita Lambert

    Figure 1. Drone image of Barrios Altos used to identify residential plots, cultural heritage buildings and other uses such as storage, which is defacing the historic centre. Photo: Rita Lambert

    This notion of interdependencies materialise at different scales in both Barrios Altos (BA) and José Carlos Mariátegui (JCM). Therefore the analysis is undertaken at various scales. In BA, some of the quintas (multi familiar residential plots) that have private ownership, also present a weakened social organisation.  The quinta, which used to function as an identifiable unit, with common areas and the shared goal amongst residents to improve these areas collectively, now works as a group of individual structures.  The impact of such changes is noted as some households undertake improvement works and in doing so, move away from the traditional one storey structure made of adobe, replacing it with multi-storey brick and concrete buildings. As the structural integrity of the buildings are weakened due to the disparate materials used, the residents are differentially exposed to risk. Besides the increased physical risks that such practices bring, the weakened collective action and organisation also increases the vulnerability of residents to land trafficking activities.

    Figure 2. Surveying team in action in BA. Photo Rita Lambert

    Figure 2. Surveying team in action in BA. Photo Rita Lambert

    Moving out of the quinta and analysing the scale of the manzana (block), it is possible to capture the increasing threats which are claiming the Historic Centre. Land speculation is leading to the slow eviction of  many vulnerable tenants. Moreover, the cancerous growth of storage facilities, also increases the likelihood of fires with the storage of highly flammable materials. If a quinta is adjacent to any of these conditions, it is also more vulnerable, as different land use types interact to increase risk.

    In JCM, the interdependencies materialise on the slope. Risk is unevenly distributed with those higher up the slope having to pay more to mitigate risk and make the area habitable. However the occupation in the higher parts, as well as the opening up of roads by large scale land traffickers to capitalise in this area, also increases risk for the lower parts e.g rock falls etc. The latter also have to invest to cope with this risk. Hence mapping at the scale of settlements can make visible where risk mitigation strategies are taken and where risk is externalised to.

    Figure 3. Undercutting of slope to create a habitable plot led, in this case, to the partial collapse of the foundation of an existing structure. Photo: Rita Lambert

    Figure 3. Undercutting of slope to create a habitable plot led, in this case, to the partial collapse of the foundation of an existing structure. Photo: Rita Lambert

    Having analysed how risk is mapped by various institutions in Lima, the project acknowledges the need to work at a finer scale. Many of the official maps homogenise risk painting large areas in red, whilst a more grainier and differentiated understanding of everyday risk is sought in this project. For this purpose, the base maps used also need to be at a level which show subdivisions in built structures. As the Cadastral Institute of Lima only provides the information at manzana or plot level, the SEDAPAL maps are hereby used as a base because  they show water connection in every household and thus capture subdivisions. Furthermore, in the process of data collection, high resolution drone images for each area are used in a process of manual mapping (Figure 1) undertaken in parallel to digital mapping using EpiCollect+, a free application on smartphones which enables the digitalisation of surveys as these are collected.

    Figure 4. Inhabitants of JCM indentifying their plots and the limits of their settlements. Photo: Rita Lambert

    Figure 4. Inhabitants of JCM indentifying their plots and the limits of their settlements. Photo: Rita Lambert

    Departing from the need to map everyday risks at various scales, the project will undertake geo-referenced surveys in both areas at: 1) the household level, to assess the individual investments made to mitigate risk; and 2) at the quinta level in BA and the settlement level in JCM, to assess the collective investments.  The data collection takes a significant representative number: in BA, 30% of quintas in a manzana (40 manzanas in total are chosen, representing half of BA area) and in JCM, 30% of occupied plots for each of the 11 settlements under study. The participatory nature of the process involves capacity building in mapping, the integration of residents in data collection, and the co-design of the survey to include information that inhabitants deem important to them. This means that the method is also used to strengthen existing processes of change, particularly supporting social mobilisation and integrated planning. In BA, community leaders, accompany the fieldwork, sharing information and communicating with others in their neighborhood. This is a necessary step to promote collective action and resist unwanted changes. In JCM, on the other hand, identifying the various investments made over time in each settlement, and making visible the increased investments that need to be made to continue this form of urbanisation raises consciousness of the ripple effect created by atomised actions upon the territory.  This paves the way for an integrated planning between settlements but also more coordinated actions between inhabitants and state agencies.

    For more information of the research project cLIMA sin Riesgo please visit the site: http://www.climasinriesgo.net/

    You can also access some of the outputs released so far in the following links:

    Newsletter No 1, June 2015 “Reframing Urban Risks”

    Policy Brief: No 1, June 2015 “Urban Risk: In search of new perspectives”

    Video Interview with Principal Investigator of cLima sin Riesgo, Adriana Allen, about the importance of amplifying knowledge of everyday and episodic risks and the objectives of the project

     


    Rita Lambert is a teaching fellow at the Development Planning Unit, UCL, where she is primarily engaged in the planning and delivery of the practice module of the MSc in Environment and Sustainable Development.

    Originally from Ethiopia, she undertook her university studies in Edinburgh and London. She graduated from the Architectural Association in London, where she later taught for 4 years in the final years of the Diploma in Architecture.  In 2009, she studied in the MSc in Environment and Sustainable Development, at the Development Planning Unit , UCL.

    Her particular interest lies in mapping, as a tool which can be adopted by ordinary citizens to navigate institutional barriers and expand the room for manoeuvre towards environmentally just urbanisation.

    Street Messages and Creative Placemaking

    By Claire Tunnacliffe, on 17 November 2015

    “Unfold a street map of London, place a glass, rim down, anywhere on the map, and draw round its edge. Pick up the map, go out into the city, and walk the circle, keeping close as you can to the curve. Record the experience as you go, in whatever medium you favour: film, photograph, manuscript, tape. Catch the textual run-off of the streets; the graffiti, the branded litter, the snatches of conversation. Cut for sign. Log the data-stream. Be alert to the happenstance of metaphors, watch for visual rhymes, coincidences, analogies, family resemblances, the changing moods of the street. Complete the circle, and the record ends. Walking makes for content; footage for footage”

    Robert MacFarlane, a Road of One’s Own

    Picture taken by Claire M. Tunnacliffe in Brixton, London

    Picture taken by Claire M. Tunnacliffe in Brixton, London

     

    In July 2015, I received a grant from the Academy of Urbanism to explore street messages and creative placemaking within rapidly changing urban spaces. Broadly, my research has explored the encounter with artistic interventions within the urban environment and how they interact with our everyday lives. Within this project more specifically I wanted to go to the encounter of urban street art in four neighbourhoods of London which were all going through processes of change: Brixton, Peckham, Brockley & Shoreditch. This sought to do three things:

     

    1. Collect images to refer back to and see if themes would become apparent,
    2. Create a working definition of creative place making in terms of street art, and,
    3. Understand where street art fits into narratives of rapidly changing spaces.

     

    What is urban street art and/or street messages?

    I was about half way through the project that I stopped referring to the art I was encountering in the street as urban street art, but as street messages. I was rather confusingly for others, and myself, either interchangeably using the words or just saying street messages.

    Street art is, basically, art in the street.

    But, the reason why I decide to move away from calling it street art is because it did not encompass everything I began to encounter in the street. I wanted it to include, yes, what we understand as street art, but also graffiti (from the italian graffiare, to scratch), tagging (writing one’s name or symbol), feel good stuff, retorts, hactivism (to distort the original meaning of something, like road signs, to create new meaning), calligraffiti, portrait pieces, community murals, inspirational quotes, etc.

    I’m personally, drawn to seeking out what seems to be the more impulsive act of grabbing a pen or a spray can and writing on the walls or surfaces. It comes from an individualistic desire but connects to others because it comes from a personal place, connecting empathically.

    I guess the difference I am trying to make here is that there were some encounters with street art or street messages that can be immediately understood. You do not have to go away and do some research to understand what that particular piece is trying to do, and you do not need to be in the street art or graffiti world to understand it. I understand it because the message is clear, and I connect to it as a person.

    Providing context to the images changes how we engage with it, and therefore how we respond to it. This came up during various points of the project. Because the project was taking place in the street and at the point of encounter with urban street art, I could not assume that people who pass by it go or would go home to research. I wanted to understand their view of the art as they saw and understood it in the very real here and now.

     

    What about the process?

    Walking & Filming

    Over the months of July & August I set out on a series of walks with different people. I don’t know how you experience the city, but I’ve walked a lot across it. Walking is something that I think in a place like London that is so busy and stressful and where we all lead these very full lives, slowing down is not something that comes quite as naturally anymore. So part of what I wanted to do to understand different areas was to go out there and get a bit – well – lost. And it was in that process of unknowing, the destination, the people we would meet, the conversations that we would have, without having an agenda, which proved to be very exciting. By slowing down, we were able to tap into the pulse of the place, and at the same time open ourselves up to encounter.

    During the course of the project I was lucky to meet Jayni Gudka, a filmmaker who wanted to do a short film around the experience of the project. Creating a film was never something I thought of doing, but is a really lovely way to showcase what and how the project was undertaken.

     

    Neighbourhoods & Talking to People.

    London is a constantly changing city, but Brixton, Peckham, Brockley & Shoreditch were interesting in the way street art was framed in each context – part of it’s identity, sometimes to raise awareness, part of regeneration projects, and sometimes to argue the appropriation and use of space. When I was doing my background research on the areas, all had the word gentrification as part of their descriptions, and I wanted to explore how street art and messages fit within those processes.

    It was during these walks that I had young urbanists, urban planners, academics, artists, photographers, a filmmaker, strangers, coerced friends, an accountant, an art psychotherapist, a wide range of people that responded to the call out for walkers. I was never lonely on my walks. This response I think is indicative of how many people connected to the project aims.

    Photography & Mapping.

    I wanted to incorporate an element of mapping into the process. While walking in an area, I would take pictures and locate these images onto a map. By creating a virtual map that could be referred to, I wanted to see what themes would immediately jump out.

    There were several problematics with this though. Firstly, I realised that I was taking pictures very much from my lived experience, what was making ME stop and making ME think and making ME want to take a picture – it could have been a different interpretation by someone else. Lesson learnt, I need to involve more people at this stage. Secondly, these pictures are not exhaustive and I have simply taken into account a tiny percentage of what’s out there.

    Workshop

    As the walks came to a close and I now wanted to understand the outcomes of it, I organised a workshop to answer some of the aims I had initially set out with. It was also really important involve others in this process, as I wanted to dilute my interpretation of things from my own experience – and a wide range of people were invited to take part. As a group we set about figuring out themes. This involved using the same map you can see over there, and placing images that were taken on the walks around it. By first separating them into neighbourhoods, and then into categories, themes began to emerge.

     

    What happened?

    Over the course of the walks, and during a workshop that took place back in September, themes started to become apparent. Such as:

    1.     Against the system/Critiques of Technology.
    2.     Instructions & Street Philosophy.
    3.     Aesthetic – images that possibly needed more of a context and background to them to undertand.
    4.     Animals/Nature.
    5.     Gentrification.
    6.     Love.

    But what do these themes mean in the context of these neighbourhoods?

     

    BRIXTON

    Picture taken by Claire M. Tunnacliffe in Brixton, London

    Picture taken by Claire M. Tunnacliffe in Brixton, London

     

    Brixton is a bustling area, a transportation and market hub. It’s very diverse. It’s also rapidly changing. Earlier this year, network rail began evicting some 30 local independent businesses from within the arches running along Atlantic Road and Station Road, some of which have been in the area for around 40 years. Together with the market, they constitute what is largely considered the heart of Brixton.

    The Save the Arches petition began as a response to that, and part of it was also a movement started by local street artist PINS. Initially contacted by a local business to paint their shutters in response to the eviction, PINS then contacted some of his artist friends, spoke to other businesses, and organised more shutters to be painted, helping to raise awareness of the situation. This image is now iconic of the struggle happening in Brixton.

    Walking around Brixton was a lot of fun and we met and spoke to many people. The importance of community – through the Save Brixton Arches Campaign shutters, but also to the responses around them – the writings I miss my Brixton, F*%& your new flats, and others – were indicative of feelings around the changes taking place in the area.

    We met Phil, Amara & Aleksi from Small World Urbanism, an organisation that uses gardening and art with a community focus. On the day we were walking they were painting bees and planting on beehive place – this small oasis of plants and animals in an urban environment felt like a haven, particularly against the new Brixton Pop structure. Lining the walls were also portraits by James Pearson, an Australian artist who had done the portraits of characters of this particular stretch. We met a few of them, particularly John who spent a long time telling us about growing up in Brixton, the businesses lining the road. There was a great energy about the place, people stopping and chatting and adding their own thoughts to the changes in Brixton.

    PECKHAM

    Picture taken by Claire M. Tunnacliffe in Peckham, London

    Picture taken by Claire M. Tunnacliffe in Peckham, London

    I don’t really know Peckham. Before the walks, I’d been there once or twice over the last couple of years. Coming out of the station, you’re fed out of small tunnels and into a bustling high street of stalls piled high with yam and cassava, fishmongers and butchers, and music blasting in the street. Peckham is one of the most diverse communities in London, which also plays home to many of its best art schools. It is an area that’s undergone changes in the last few years, with the influx of cafes, wine bars, niche shops and artists studios. One of my favourite pieces that we came across during those walks was a David de Brito (São Paolo) painting that originally read “I love Peckham” and where someone had come by and written over it – I hate the new Peckham.

    Just off Rye Lane, walking past vegetable stalls, you come into a parking area with lots of cars, a restaurant, and a lot of graffiti, tags and street art. We also spoke to a man in his fifty’s sitting on a chair. I asked him about the street art and graffiti. He says he started it all. One day a girl came and did it, took a couple of pictures, but the next day he got there and someone had written all over it. He rang her up and she said that was just the way of the street – open to response, to be defaced, to be altered to be hated or loved. I think this touches on how street art, graffiti occupies such a different space in our visual culture. With advertising we aren’t allowed to respond, if we do it is vandalism, but with street art and messages you can. It becomes a really fluid space for dialogue, even if it’s just to swear.

     

    BROCKLEY

    Picture taken by Claire M. Tunnacliffe in Brockley, London

    Picture taken by Claire M. Tunnacliffe in Brockley, London

     

    Brockley was an interesting walk as it was so different from Brixton & Peckham. It didn’t have the same activity, hustle and bustle, there were less people milling around, it had a much more suburban feel to it. As an area it deserved more walks at various times during the week. It didn’t quite work as a space to just go and see what happens.

    Here, the walks actually followed the Brockley Street Art Festival that took place earlier in the summer. These paintings are legal, having sought the OK of the local council to paint on walls and hoardings. The catalyst for the festival was actually because just outside Brockley Station a Bob Marley Mural was removed to build new flats. The community was upset as it had been around for forty years. So, it set out to recreate it and then some.

    The festival itself aimed to improve the appearance of the Brockley Corridor and its surrounding neighbourhood through a showcase of murals by local, national, and international artists. I was personally really interested in some writing on hoardings, actually on the outside of this new building going up which has three white women shopping for cacti (who knew it was a thing?) and someone has taken a pen and responded with “the mortgages are like so affordable” but also “Brockley is on the down turn, like the rest of UK”.

    I did speak to a few people, and everyone found them quite beautiful. But it remained at that. So, Brockley primarily seemed more aesthetic in its use of street art, but also had some retort in the form of these scribblings on hoardings. I left feeling like Brockley was at the beginning of certain change.

    SHOREDITCH

    Picture taken by Claire M. Tunnacliffe in Shoreditch, London

    Picture taken by Claire M. Tunnacliffe in Shoreditch, London

    Shoreditch needs no introduction. Because it’s such a vibrant space for street art, I initially didn’t want to go there as I thought that whatever ‘messages’ I was hoping for wouldn’t be there – too consumeristic, I thought. Intrinsically, this is the space that revealed the most pieces against the system. During the final walk in Shoreditch, the term “post-gentrification” was used, and it came up again in the workshop. Though there are several problematics with using phrases like this, I believe it helped to understand that a change has occurred so fundamentally that it now did not look like anything it once was.

    As the last area to go walking in, it was easier to look back on the four neighbourhoods as different moments in a process of change. The themes revealed a narrative around changing spaces, and in Brockley-Brixton-Peckham & Shoreditch street art becomes embroiled in processes of change.

    The other neighbourhoods seemed to fit into different stages of change with Brixton, Peckham, Brockley and Shoreditch all sitting on some spectrum of change, and with urban street art framing some of the narratives of that change. I think something to tease out of this project is to focus more on what those phases would be.

    What is Creative Placemaking?

    I became aware that I hadn’t really given a definition of what this means. That’s predominantly because throughout the project, I’ve been trying to define it. I obviously had some notions of what it did mean to me, but again in the same way with just going for a walk, I wanted to see what would happen if I didn’t try to shove my preconceived idea of what it had to mean without interacting with it in the first place.

    It was during the workshop that we began deconstruct and then reconstruct each word. What this meant was that when we recombined them they revealed new understandings. So for example, creative place making also became: innovative environment building, or; chance transcient curating, or; ephemeral attachment consciousness.

    In a nutshell, this is what Creative Placemaking has come to mean to me: the act of creating something that connects you to a physical space for a moment. In that moment, that space is yours and forms your identity.

    Is there a single definition? Absolutely not. I believe that Creative Placemaking can be very different things depending on intent of the maker – Indeed, I would argue that creative place making can only be experienced by the maker. Is it a working definition? Yes. Creative place making, is also not a process with an end point, but the constant transforming, defining and re-defining, and curating of public spaces. Street art and street messages exist in an interesting space. By straddling legal and illegal divides, by being driven by different needs – community, individualistic, ego, aesthetic – it is a very active process.

    Finally, I believe that street art creates narratives, allowing us to understand changing spaces. In order to understand a community, we should look at its walls.

     


     

    Claire is a DPU MSc Environment & Sustainable Development Alumni. Since graduating in 2012, she continues to research the role of urban street art in re-naturing urban imaginations and experiences. She is a PhD student at the Bartlett School of Architecture exploring street messages in West African urbanism. However, her interests are interdisciplinary; community engagement, urban street art, public interest design, sustainable development, town planning, creative cities, art psychotherapy, mental health, the psychodynamics of public spaces, and their impact on place making in the city. Her project Street Messages & Creative Place Making was funded by the Academy of Urbanism Young Urbanist Small Grants Scheme.