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Community / Public space

Slum tourism, Johnny Marr on modernism, and the never-ending bridge paintjob

Our weekly round-up of urban tales and titbits we found elsewhere. 

Painting ad infinitum 

San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge is quite the maintenance job: in fact, it’s so big that a few dozen painters spend their time patching and repainting its surface.

CityLab spoke a member of this “elite squad”, Chad Allan, about his never-ending attempts to save the bridge from rust and corrosion: 

He suspects the designers of the circa-1930s span never really considered the comfort of its painters. It can be tricky reaching all its nooks and crevices in the spindly underbelly and 746-foot towers, so the crew has to be innovative. “A bridge in all respects is not built to be maintained,” he says, “especially from a painting aspect.”

Slum tourism 

Over at PBS’s sience and technology blog, Nova Next, this piece looks into who really benefits from slum tourism. A single tour company, for example, takes around 18,000 people a year through Mumbai’s Dharavi slum, and puts 80 per cent of proceeds back into community proceeds. But does slum tourism really benefit residents across the board?

In South Africa, researchers found that slum tourism is not an exploitative moneymaker imposed by outsiders but one adopted by communities themselves as a way of taking the regeneration of their traditionally neglected neighborhood into their own hands…

In central Bangkok, Thai researchers found that residents of a 100-year-old slum used tourism as a means of staving off governmental plans for their eviction. And contrary to the common accusation that slum tours are insensitive and voyeuristic, researchers found that socially responsive and responsible operators seem to be flourishing.

Marr on Modernism 

Architects’ Journal had an unlikely interview subject this week: former Smiths’ guitarist Johnny Marr, who has lately developed an interest in Modernist architecture, even penning a love song to Manchester’s CIS building, which is, er, not exactly a looker:

Image: Keith Williamson via geograph.co.uk.

Marr told the publication:

 I wanted to write a love song without falling into the usual sentiments, so I did it about a building: ‘You’re a living thing, some kind of fantasy. Secrets appear and touch minds, you are invited’. You have to write about something I guess. 

On new builds, he was less gushing: “Most new buildings look shit.” 

What we think about when we think about homeless people

This piece from Good magazine discusses how advertising campaigns are trying to change our perceptions of the homeless. It looks into a campaign by DePaul, which pairs up young homeless people with a volunteer host. Their posters cleverly show the different ways of approaching volunteering:

Click for a larger image. Image: DePaul. 
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