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Community / Public space

Hostile architecture, liminal London and the role of trains as public spaces

This week’s round-up of city stories we enjoyed from elsewhere.

  • A researcher spent a whole month last year travelling on long-distance US trains. Her aim was to study the trains as a kind of public space, where diverse people mix, and, out of boredom or friendliness, talk to one another.

In a piece at NextCity, she explains her findings:

That long-distance trains aren’t designed with one specific aesthetic, demographic or psychographic in mind means that the ride is more about what’s unfolding within the space rather than the materiality of the car. It also frames the passing landscape in a way that makes it easy to use as a conversation starter.

You can read the rest of the piece here

  • CityLab ran a long piece this week on photographer Joe Capra and his 10,328 by 7,760 pixel timelapse of Rio de Janeiro. To put that into context, high definition TVs tend to be 1,080 pixels tall; so the footage constitutes, in Capra’s own words, “extreme resolution”. Let’s just say you can pick out individual pieces of clothing flapping on washing lines.

Here’s the timelapse:

10328×7760 – A 10K Timelapse Demo from SCIENTIFANTASTIC on Vimeo.

You can read the CityLab piece here

  • From the beautiful to the hostile: this moving piece on “defensive architecture” in the Guardian tells the story behind anti-homelessness spikes and swivelling bus shelter seats. The author, who was once homeless himself, notes: 

Defensive architecture is revealing on a number of levels, because it is not the product of accident or thoughtlessness, but a thought process. It is a sort of unkindness that is considered, designed, approved, funded and made real with the explicit motive to exclude and harass.

It reveals how corporate hygiene has overridden human considerations, especially in retail districts. It is a symptom of the clash of private and public, of necessity and property.

  • And finally, The Economist has a level-headed take on why chunks of London have taken so long to be developed: because they’re on borough boundaries.

Now, the city is beginning to pack these once-forgotten areas with housing – a good example is the Olympic Village, built across the boundaries of four east London boroughs. And building houses is always a good idea. 


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