Alongside luxury developments and public displays of wealth, over half of Cairo’s urban population, a megacity of over 17 million, live in unplanned and self-built communities. Massive population shifts and a lack of governmental oversight fostered a culture of collaborative urbanism, incremental architecture and entrepreneurialism. Due to the explosive growth created in the power vacuum after the 2011 revolution, the government has formally recognized this informality and services have started being provided. How will these highly nuanced building practices be brought under the remit of planning policy and urban governance? Will they change in the process to produce new forms of urbanism, or will they be accepted and become the new official standard?
There is a theory that the more organized (read: developed) a society is, the less self-sufficient it becomes. All sorts of services and amenities, from housing to energy, from culture to justice, are centrally organized and distributed. But is that necessarily so? Or are we heading for a new order in which decentralized and self-reliant become the norm?
Recently, I learned about a new research program at Utrecht University focused on cycling. It is not part of their health department, as one might expect, but of a department specialized in modeling data. The researchers want to investigate cycling in the city as a complex system and produce a model to describe its dynamics. My first response was: people take their bike and move from A to B. How complex can that be? But with a little more information I started to understand that the bicycle has a dynamic relation with its surroundings. We take it for granted that an airport is a logistically complex system and has become a city on its own. We know that the car and the highway produce new functions and organize the distribution of them. We see that gas stations turn into super markets, that football stadiums are built next to or even across motorways, and so on. But the bicycle seems to escape such interactive relations. It is a faster way of walking, not a producer of space and program. But it is. With the ongoing growth of inner-city bicycle use to the detriment of the car, a kindergarten or daycare can be located in a street without parking facilities and yet be commercially viable. A small supermarket or baker will locate itself next door, taking advantage of the flow of potential customers bringing their children. If we see the bike as the producer of such arrangements, and not just as the means to reach them, we start to understand that to promote bicycle use and eventually even to exchange cars for bicycles in the city has far-reaching implications. There is more to it than constructing bike lanes and bike sheds. It’s changing the city’s systems.
Volume’s upcoming issue addresses how people’s initiative creates the city, focusing on housing. Temporariness is one of the conditions that favors small-scale and bottom-up initiative. Martynas Mankus discusses some realities.
War and conflict are of all ages. To confront this reality, peace missions, rebuilding operations and international law have been developed as tools to help create stability and peace after conflict. This is very impressive indeed, but the road to sustainable peace is arduous and troublesome. Furthermore, rebuilding and urban planning strategies can rekindle old conflicts. The exhibition The Good Cause not only gives insight into the complexities of dealing with post-conflict situations. Through inspiring case studies from Afghanistan, Kosovo, South Africa, Rwanda, Israel and Palestine, it also shows what reconstruction could look like if it were designed with an eye for local structures.
Come along on Monday 16 March at Pakhuis de Zwijger in Amsterdam for the second edition of Archis Speaks Volumes.
Bureau Europa presents the third iteration of an exhibition of the work of architect Cedric Price and the first public appearance of some of his selected projects in the Netherlands. As a satellite component tot he exhibition, a special Cedric Price insert magazine is created in collaboration with Volume. Volume readers will find the insert in the back of Volume #42.
For the next issue of Volume we are looking into self-built environments and how citizens create their own. In that context we bumped into this image:
Any idea who was the original architect?
If you know the answer, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org before Friday 13 February. The winner, who will be selected randomly, will receive one of our famous Volume shopping bags!