The latest edition of Ecological Urbanism is terrible doorstop. The first edition is 655 pages, smells good, weighs 2kg and keeps most of my other books in their place. Despite its strengths, it can’t do video… something the latest version on the book can do. The original hardback book by Mohsen Mostafavi and Gareth Doherty features hundreds of photos that I took while walking across Mexico City, Mumbai and London for Urban Earth, a project in urban exploration that I started in 2008. Out today, the new version splits the book into digestible chapters and includes over 15,000 photographs within the 3 Urban Earth films that I made by taking pictures every 8 steps while crossing these massive cities. You’ll find the films in volume 2, Anticipate, and are accompanied by a short piece of text that Kye Askins and I wrote. I’m delighted to see the films come to life in the book. I hope you enjoy it.
The Ecological Urbanism project has a Facebook page that you can follow here.
I’m very pleased to be working with InterContinental Hotels & Resorts to explore how globalisation is changing local places. It’s an innovative project to understand how the unique and complex interdependencies between people, countries and global brands are changing destination, including those that we call home.
This video introduces the project and is an invitation to join the TED conversation or share your opinion on Twitter through the hashtag #FutureOfLocal. I’m excited to be part of this investigation into the relationship between travel, sense of place, local needs and global brands. Please do contribute your thoughts, ideas and opinions as well as spread the word about this valuable and open conversation.
Next month I’m going to be making my way to Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne in Switzerland to give a talk at TEDxEHL 2013. Among others, I’m going to have the pleasure of sharing the stage with Caroline Duetsch Kubik, Mela Kocher and Doug Manuel. I’m excited to be taking part and can’t wait to work out what I’m going to say…
A couple of days ago I asked a few people on Urban Earth and Twitter if they would be interested in taking part in #Urban100, a project that I’m calling an open expedition because it’s going to last a year and anyone can join in. The idea is simple, to collaboratively explore urban places by taking 100 photographs over a 500 metre walk. Using the same stop-motion approach that I used in the Urban Earth films we’ll be able to create films that zoom through the urban landscapes, creating a unique representation of our urban habitats.
We’ve asked that all photos submitted #Urban100 are under a creative commons license so that anyone can edit their own versons of the films.
So far collaborators have said that they’ll be doing #Urban100 explorations in Bristol, Bangkok, London, Glasgow, Falmouth, Toulouse, Porto and Edinburgh with more being added and suggested all the time.
Being an explorer is inherently risky. Asking questions and venturing into the unknown is fraught with dangers, but by overcoming our fears we create seemingly endless opportunities to learn about ourselves and the world around us. Danger is a relative term though. Our perception, knowledge and understanding of “hazards”, our ability to asses and mitigate their risks as well as our motivations for (not) overcoming them vary massively between each and everyone of us. What feels like a comfortable walk in the (world’s largest national) park to one person can feel highly adventurous for another.
This sense of relativity is what convinces me that we are all explorers who go to extremes and accomplish death defying acts (from the likes of this and this). Your extremes may not be to venture to the Earth’s freezing poles, but in our everyday lives we perform experimental and extreme acts that put at risk our jobs, relationships, time and money. My latest gamble was on Sex and the City 2. Despite my best risk assessment I ended up losing part of my life to that film, something I’ll be mourning for days to come.
We are all explorers and as we venture through our life-journeys the best things we can do to increase our chances of survival are to trust aggregated review sites and to learn some basic first aid. I think this video from St Johns Ambulance is extremely powerful.
Getting on a First Aid course is a great idea. If you’ve got a smart phone then I highly recommend this app by the British Red Cross. It’s one of the best ways to become a death-defying explorer, like me.
I recently watched Step Up Revolution and was struck by what an awesome case study this film would make in geography classrooms. Some people may be fooled into thinking this is just a film about dance, but Step Up Revolution is a classic geographical (if fictional) study of people, place, power, planning and protest in cities. When a strip in Miami is threatened with topocide and gentrification “The Mob” fight back to protect their home. Guerrilla Geography is rife in this blockbuster, as the dancers move from ‘performance art’ to ‘ protest art’, intentionally occupying spaces to make their point and exert their power. It’s full of beautifully geography-based quotes too, as the characters debate identify, culture and more.
The love interest plot in the film revolves around Sean and Emily, two dancers who have fallen for each other but who are separated by their differences in wealth. To top that it’s Emily’s dad who is trying to redevelop the area and Sean is one of the leaders of the “Mob” that is uprising. Near the end of the film they dance together to the song “To Build a Home” by The Cinematic Orchestra, a beautiful song that with its use in this film draw parallels between finding a sense of home in both place and people… in this case, with each other through dance.
The film ends with Emily’s dad (the property developer) saying “Maybe there is a way to build-up this neighbourhood without tearing it down”. What a classic problem for any classroom of students try and tackle.
I love this short film by the Light Surgeons.
After months of work it’s only a couple of weeks until Mission:Explore Food is officially published. Here are some spreads from the book that we’ve issued with our press release. I’m currently working on a Mission:Explore Food Expedition to promote the book that we’re mounting over 2012/13 to do missions and discover extreme foods around the UK. Details of this slow-food journey will be appearing on The Geography Collective blog over coming weeks.
There was an accident on the M4 today so we were forced to leave the motorway at Slough and take the A4 back to Ealing. When we got to Heathrow we saw a sign for Colnbrook and Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centres, my wife’s research focuses on women, migration, detention, health and home… so we thought we’d turn off and have an explore. It was not just the barb wired buildings that look like they could be logistical distribution centres for a supermarket that struck me, but their positioning to and relationship with their neighbour…
The building on the left looks like it could be a detention and removal centre with it’s concrete walls, small windows and… if you look closely.. two-way surveillance including CCTV cameras and loud speakers. This is actually the Sheraton Hotel at Heathrow Airport. The building behind it is Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre. Separated by just 50 metres, the ‘visitors’ of each of these dormitories are so close and yet ‘worlds apart’. It looks like they may even be able to look out of their (in)secure bedrooms to one another.
Looking north, in this picture you can see Colnbrook on the left (and west) and the Sheraton to the right (and east). Check out this map.
In their own words, here’s a quick comparison of these two different establishments:
“This centre, near London’s Heathrow airport, holds up to 383 detainees on behalf of the UK Immigration Service plus a further 20 people on behalf of HM Revenue and Customs. Sheraton Heathrow Hotel’s 426 guest rooms are warm, inviting, and designed for your comfort and convenience. Whether you choose a Classic room, Club room, or suite, you will experience the celebrated “ahhhhh” of The Sheraton Sweet Sleeper™ Bed. Since it opened in 2004 – ahead of schedule and under budget – more than 40,000 detainees have passed through the centre, making it one of the busiest removal centres in the UK. Most detainees are awaiting removal abroad, with more than 30 nationalities on average being held at the centre for an average of seven days. Our third floor includes dedicated Starwood Preferred Guest Rooms, as well as Club Rooms. Club Rooms feature King-sized beds, bathrobes, slippers and LCD screen televisions as well as upgraded amenities, free bottled water, complimentary wireless High Speed Internet Access and fitness center access. The short-term holding facility within the centre is used to hold people immediately after their detention by UK Immigration Service. They are usually only held in this facility for 72 hours. Colnbrook also provides a separate custody service to HM Revenue and Customs. Club guests have special access to the Club Lounge. A relaxing, upscale space, the Club Lounge offers complimentary breakfast, afternoon hors d’oeuvres and a variety of beverage options. Take advantage of the private Club Lounge where you can connect with friends, meet with your team, or simply relax by catching your favorite TV show. The majority of those detained are suspected of smuggling drugs inside their bodies into the UK.The centre was designed and built by Serco and operates on an eight-year contract (with the possibility of a two-year extension) with the UK Immigration Service. Need to get some work done? A copier/fax/printer and complimentary office supplies, internet access and computer stations are ready to go. We pride ourselves on providing the best possible environment for our detainees.”*
A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to visit NGTE Pyestock. Near where I spent a chunk of my childhood in Fleet (Hampshire, UK), Pyestock was a major site for testing jet engines. Concord, Royal Navy and many other engines were tested across various ‘cells’ on site. For the last 10 years Pyestock has slowly faded after it was closed. When we visited the site Tesco had been planning to turn the site into a major distribution centre (and may still be). This got me thinking about liminal ideas and (re)presentations as Pyestock continued to be threatened by a form of impending form of topocide… The signs were upcycled from a Tesco supermarket and then carefully placed in and around Pyestock’s rooms, cells and equipment.