urbanus vulgaris

urban life & culture / ideas & insights / innovation & development

Month: August, 2012

Detroit: Requiem for the City on the Move

by vytasvulgaris

Michigan Theatre (now parking garage), Detroit. Photography by Sean Doerr

Here is a great story of Detroit revealing itself through two wonderful films. The first one is “Requiem for Detroit?”, a 2010 BBC Two documentary by Julien Temple. The second one is  “Detroit: City on the Move”, a  1965 promo film narrated by then-mayor Jerome P. Cavanaugh.  The promo film could be a perfect intro into this tragically fascinating story, however, to make it even more grotesque my suggestion is to watch it in non-chronological order, so first Requiem for Detroit, then Detroit: City on the Move. Enjoy!

video link a: “Requiem for Detroit?” (2010)

“Julien Temple’s new film is a vivid evocation of an apocalyptic vision: a slow-motion Katrina that has had many more victims. Detroit was once America’s fourth largest city. Built by the car for the car, with its groundbreaking suburbs, freeways and shopping centres, it was the embodiment of the American dream. But its intense race riots brought the army into the city. With violent union struggles against the fierce resistance of Henry Ford and the Big Three, it was also the scene of American nightmares. Now it is truly a dystopic post-industrial city, in which 40 per cent of the land in the centre is returning to prairie. Greenery grows up through abandoned office blocks, houses and collapsing car plants, and swallows up street lights. Police stations and post offices have been left with papers on the desks like the Marie Celeste. There is no more rush hour on what were the first freeways in America. Crime, vandalism, arson and dog fighting are the main activities in once the largest building in North America. But it’s also a source of hope. Streets are being turned to art. Farming is coming back to the centre of the city. Young people are flocking to help. The burgeoning urban agricultural movement is the fastest growing movement in the US. Detroit leads the way again but in a very different direction.” http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00rkm3y



100 artists in one

by gailiute


How do you stage an international art show with work from 100 different artists? If you’re Shea Hembrey, you invent all of the artists and artwork yourself — from large-scale outdoor installations to tiny paintings drawn with a single-haired brush. Watch this funny, mind-bending talk to see the explosion of creativity and diversity of skills a single artist is capable of.

Shea Hembrey explores patterns from nature and myth. A childhood love of nature, and especially birdlife, informs his vision. Full bio »


What I find the most intriguing  from this talk is 5 definitions of the art that are presented by Shea. You may say its the matter of taste whether  an object can be called art or not, however Shea´s definitions brings really a lot of clarity in defining contemporary art. Well, at least for me :)

A novel idea for cleaning up oil spills

by gailiute

When TED Senior Fellow Cesar Harada heard about the devastating effects of the BP Oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, he quit his dream job and moved to New Orleans to develop a more efficient way to soak up the oil. He designed a highly maneuverable, flexible boat capable of cleaning large tracts quickly. But rather than turn a profit, he has opted to open-source the design.



A speech by the mayor of Rio de Janeiro

by gailiute

A speech given on Ted talk by the  mayor of Rio de Janeiro city. He shares four big ideas about leading Rio — and all cities — into the future, including bold (and do-able) infrastructure upgrades and how to make a city “smarter”.  The talk is quite an inspiring one, however recent comments suggests that the images shown during the speech are far from reality and that the mayor is a bit of a fraud or even a criminal.

Then I wonder: if it helps the city to boost, perhaps a “criminal” mayor is better than the legally “correct” one?


How the Dutch got their cycle paths

by vytasvulgaris


Brief and sharp documentary which brings  through the Dutch cycling history of the last century within 6 min. With numbers, facts and simple  analysis that gives summarized and clear answer.


Foreign Policy: Special Issue

by fangruben

Just would like to make a suggestion for everybody to have a look at the special issue of Foreign Policy called “Postcards from the Future”. It’s dedicated to the cities of the future, mainly focussing on China and worth a read:

“In an exclusive index for FP, the McKinsey Global Institute has run the numbers to produce what we’re calling The 75 Most Dynamic Cities of 2025 — an extraordinary 29 of which are in China. Some are already global powers, from top-ranked Shanghai to manufacturing dynamo Shenzhen; others, from Fuzhou to Xiamen, were little more than provincial backwaters in the 20th century but look to be household names in the 21st, powering the global economy not just through their sheer size but also through their urban innovation and pulsing drive. Europe, meanwhile, will manage only three cities on the list by 2025; the United States finishes second to China — a very distant second — with 13. Still think that debate about Western decline is overblown?”


Reading Urban China

by fangruben

          If you are interested in Literature and Chinese Urban Culture, here’s one for you: Shi Cheng: Short Stories From Urban China. (edited by Liu Ding, Carol Yinhghua and Ra Page, published by CommaPress). This collection of short stories by a few of China’s hottest and most talented contemporary writers offers non-Chinese readers with an insight in what’s going on in Urban China and a peek into what Literary China has to offer nowadays. All stories take place in cities throughout China: Harbin, Shenyang, Beijing, Xi’an, Chengdu, Wuhan, Nanjing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong. The authors use the environment of the city as a theatre in which the stories are to be unfolded.

All of them do this in an amusing yet not pulpy way: stories by the hand of contemporary writers like Han Dong, Jie Chen, Xu Zechen (link to personal website for Chinese-readers here) and, my personal favorite, Cao Kou, are written in witty, obscure, realistic and cunning styles. There’s something in this collection for all tastes. My favorite story must be “Kangkang’s Gonna Kill That Fucker Zhao Yilu” by Cao Kou, a story which sets in Chengdu. As for the question whether Kangkang is actually going to kill That Fucker Zhao Yilu, I urge those who want to know more about Chinese Urban Culture or Chinese Literature to please DO find out, it’s worth it!

The Pedal Project: Three Cycling Cities – From Dublin to London to Amsterdam

by vytasvulgaris


“When you picture a council junket you never see the fold up bike, the ferry and the cycle cafe. DCTV goes on a whirlwind (read cheap and quick – the way we all travel now) trip to look at models for European cycling along with the Dublin City Council cycling officer Ciaran Fallon. Along the way they meet bloggers and fashion designers and activists who all, incidentally, cycle bikes. We see how normal cycling is all across Europe.

The establishment of a cycling office in Dublin City Council is part of a visible commitment to cycling as a transport solution in our city. This programme gets inside not only what the cycling officer is dong but what he’s thinking, what he thinks Dublin can look like and what he’s basing some of this on.” http://vimeo.com/10095272

More Information Project:


The City (1939)

by vytasvulgaris

Amazing documentary proposed to us by Rasa. Even too sincere for a propaganda film celebrating new suburban (garden) cities.

“Have we vision, have we courage? Shall we build, and rebuild, our cities, clean again, close to the earth and open to the sky? … Order has come. Order and life together. We’ve got the skill – we’ve found the way. We built the cities. All that we know about machines and soils and raw materials and human ways of living is waiting. We can reproduce the pattern and better it a thousand times. It’s here! The new city. Ready to serve a better age. You and your children, the choice is yours.”

“The City (1939) is a pioneering short documentary film which attempts to contrast the evils of the industrialized city with the idyllic conditions one finds in small-town America. The film was the idea of Catherine Bauer.  It was produced for the 1939 New York World’s Fair as part of the “City of Tomorrow” exhibit. Bauer’s original idea was to commission a full-scale mini neighborhood on a 4.0 ha site to showcase innovative housing design and community planning, but when the plan was dropped for lack of time and resources, Bauer came up with the idea of the film ” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_City_(1939_film). “Urban planning legend Lewis Mumford, together with Aaron Copland (composer of a personal ‘imaginary cities’ favourite, Quiet City) and photographer Ralph Steinerjoined forces in 1939 to construct an idealistic film about the potential for ‘new cities’ to arise from the mire that America’s cities were then perceived to be descending into” (http://www.cityofsound.com/blog/2005/01/the_city_1939.html). ”

” The film concentrates primarily on family life, and more specifically on the raising of children. It opens with a look back at pre-industrial America, moving quickly into the modern city. The chaotic industrial and commercial cities shown in the film subsequently give way to the idyillic “new city” of Greenbelt, Maryland. Constructed as a New Deal project, Greenbelt highlights the importance of recreation in the proper upbringing of children, as well as in the making of a stable family life” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_City_(1939_film).

China’s Ghost Cities (documentary by SBS Dateline)

by vytasvulgaris


“Vast new cities of apartments and shops are being built across China at a rate of ten a year, but they remain almost completely uninhabited ghost towns.  It’s all part of the government’s  efforts to keep the economy booming, and there are many people who would love to move in, but it’s simply too expensive for most. Video journalist Adrian Brown wanders through malls of vacant shops, and roads lined with empty apartment buildings… 64 million apartments are said to be empty across the country and one of the few shop owners says he once didn’t sell anything for four or five days ” (http://www.sbs.com.au/dateline/story/about/id/601007/n/China-s-Ghost-Cities,   20 04 2011).

Zhengzhou New District, Henan

South China Mall, Dongguan

Ordos, Inner Mongolia

Erenhot, Xilin Gol, Inner Mongolia

Dantu, Zhenjiang, Jiangsu

Yunan University Campus, Yunnan, Changgong


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