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Overscaled Urbanization (Tim Franco Captures the Overscaled Urbanization of Chongqing)

© Tim Franco These days, many of China‘s largest urban areas are easily recognizable to people from all over the world, with the skylines of coastal mega-cities such as Shanghai andBeijing taking their place in the global consciousness. Far less known though is the inland city of Chongqing – another of China’s five top-tier “National Central Cities” – where in 2010 the Chinese government embarked on a plan to urbanize a further 10 million of the region’s rural population, with around 1,300 people now moving into the city every day.

Since his first visit to the city in 2009 photographer Tim Franco has been on a mission to document the rapid change in what he believes is “maybe the most widely unknown megacity in the world.” The result is Metamorpolis, a forthcoming photographic book by Franco with text by British journalist Richard Macauley, which documents the colossal scale of development juxtaposed against the people of Chongqing – many of whom still live an incongruous rural lifestyle among the concrete sprawl. Read on after the break for more images from the book and an interview with Franco about the experience of documenting one of the world’s fastest-growing cities.

You are European, and based in Shanghai. What made you choose Chongqing for this project, instead of other Chinese cities?

Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong and many of Chinese coastal cities are very famous world wide; everybody has seen them and knows about them. They are the ones which were developed first when the economy boomed in China. I really wanted to witness the fast urban development of the country but I felt that in Shanghai, I was a bit too late – all the famous images of the city have circulated worldwide.

That is why in 2009 I embarked on a small road trip to central China to visit some other secondary developing cities such as Wuhan, Chengdu and Chongqing. After a few days in Chongqing, I quickly understood it was the city I wanted to document. The most obvious reason is that this growing megalopolis is located right in between mountains and giant rivers, which give it a very unique scale. Most of the big cities in China are flat and extended but because of its unique geographical location, Chongqing is urbanizing through beautiful elements which gave the photos a very particular aesthetic. The second reason is that, being the latest province city to be created in China, and because of the different policies following the construction of the three gorges dam project, Chongqing was facing one of the fastest urbanization rates in the world. With almost two-thirds of Chongqing’s population still rural, the local government is trying to invert that trend and relocate a massive population of farmers into the city. I really felt that Chongqing was a representation of what was going on in the whole country, except in a rapid and city-scale simulation.

© Tim Franco

What was your impression as a European when you first experienced Chongqing?

My first week in Chongqing was thrilling! I felt like I was in Blade Runner, walking through dark alleys and getting lost in maze-like streets. Discovering different levels, taking elevators and cable cars to travel from one part of the city to the others. It looked to me like a chaotic and dark mix of Manhattan and Hong Kong. At that time, the local government was still chasing the giant mafia ring that controlled most of the city’s business for so many years: it felt like I was part of a movie! I couldn’t wait to go back there as soon as I left. It is kind of strange because the darkness and the mess of a city can be quite depressing and violent, but this also gives it a unique style and energy that made me want to photograph it even more.

You’ve already been documenting Chongqing’s urban expansion for five years. Have you noticed any changes in how the city is expanding?

The changes I have witnessed in Chonqqing are tremendous! I have seen entire districts disappearing in the center of the city. Some of the houses destroyed were witnesses to the Kuomintang era when Chongqing was the capital of China. I have seen farmlands on the North side of the city being taken over by concrete roads and housing complexes, with farmers continuing to plant vegetables between highways or on the side of construction sites.

I basically witnessed the entire center of the city growing into highrise glass towers, and luxury shops appearing like mushrooms on the main pedestrian street. In 2009, I was struggling to find good coffee in the morning – now I can have one on the 58th floor of the Westin Hotel overlooking the city, shop at H&M and get my new iPhone in the fancy Apple store that just opened. It’s almost unbelievable.

But it is also sad to see how the city is struggling with its originality, trying to copy other famous cities in the world, with a replica of Hong Kong IFC, a fake Zaha Hadid, or the new star project being build at the tip of the peninsula influenced by the Marina Bay Sands building in Singapore.

Do you think the people of Chongqing are adapting well to the city’s dramatic changes?

This is a tough question and according to who you ask in the city, you may get many different answers. As a Westerner walking in the city you are very quickly shocked by the amount of traditional architecture and old buildings being destroyed, almost like erasing signs of the past. But when talking to the people who lived in very poor conditions in some of those buildings with little access to electricity or basic heating, you understand why they are welcoming the transition to high rise building.

As ugly as they may look, they offer them a new level of comfort and a feeling of modernity. A feeling of becoming part of Chinese growth and not being left behind. But part of the population, especially people coming from the rural areas, are often struggling with the pace of urbanization. Often, the older generations don’t even know how to read or write. They find themselves moved to the city only knowing how to grow vegetables, so they start to find whatever land is available downtown to do the only thing they know how to do.

To be very honest I am very impressed by how the people in China learn to adapt. It seems whatever happens and whatever the difficulty, they always find a way to adapt, create small business and communities. Even though the city is growing at an incredible speed, every part of the city seems active.

© Tim Franco

One of the most striking things about your photographs is how you are able to simultaneously capture human-scale elements in the foreground with the huge buildings looming behind. Is there a particular camera setup you use for this or is it all about finding the right place to take a photo?

I am glad you brought this up, because it was exactly what I tried to do in this project! I used to shoot a lot of urban landscapes prior to this project and I only found my photos interesting when I added a human element to them, to give them scale and to see how the space was actually being used. This process was important for me in documenting Chongqing. I really wanted to show how the city was growing out of proportion and to give a very visual idea of how enormous these constructions and buildings are.

I don’t think there is a particular set up. I am using an old medium-format film camera, and I always try to spot the places with the city and the construction in the background and people in the foreground. This also allows me to be to invisible to the people I photographed so their action and behavior could be more natural in the photo. In general, I don’t like to force myself upon the people I photograph, so I either take a step back and photograph them in their environment or if I come closer, I engage them first in a conversation and explain to them what I am doing before taking a portrait.

© Tim Franco

Do you have a favorite place in Chongqing to search for photo opportunities?

I am not sure if I have a favorite place. The cable car running through the city (the one you can see on some of the photos and in particular on the video) is quite incredible because it takes you through the different layers of the city – actually, it used to do that, now half of those layers have been destroyed! In general, I am very attracted to every kind of place that gives you a sense of the scale of the city, with the rivers, the building, the mountains and the people.

How do you search out new places in the city that could be interesting?

These days, I rely on a network of people who are living in the city, both locals and foreign people that tell me about new places they discover. Often I also just find a place on the map I have never been to and take a taxi or a motorbike ride there. There is a good chance that on the way, I might find a new incredible place like a giant hole in the ground, some farmland in the middle of a construction site, or another architectural curiosity. For a while, I had a cheap motorbike which I purchased for about $200 USD and drove around the city and beyond. I sold it later for a little less.

© Tim Franco

What do you think the future holds for Chongqing?

It is going to be interesting to look at the future of Chongqing. It is certainly becoming one of the biggest cities in China, and it’s facing a very big challenge in urbanizing a very large rural population. A lot of of other cities are looking at Chongqing to see how those urbanizing policies will work for the economic and social future of the city. For me personally, even if part of the process ends with the book being finalized, I will still continue to document the city as it grows.

Original Source

The Governance Of Energy Megaprojects

Description
‘Benjamin Sovacool and Christopher Jon Cooper have produced an astonishing and well-written book, based on extensive original research in twelve countries. They explore the technical, social, political and economic dimensions of four energy megaprojects. The large scale of megaprojects always appears to complicate the decision-making process and often causes failures. Megaprojects may even reinforce corruption and erode democracy. It highlights that today’s experiences can be explained by statements by Aristotle and Einstein who argue, both in their own way, that is always wise to take the limits of size into account and to reduce the size of projects, wherever this is possible. For everybody involved in megaprojects, this book must be read!’
– Hugo Priemus, Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands

Contents

Based on extensive original research, this book explores the technical, social, political, and economic dimensions of four Asian energy megaprojects: a regional natural gas pipeline network in Southeast Asia, a series of hydroelectric dams on the island of Borneo, an oil pipeline linking Europe with the Caspian Sea, and a very large solar energy array in the Gobi desert.

This book investigates why energy megaprojects fail to deliver their promised benefits. It offers the first comprehensive assessment of the complicated dynamics driving – and constraining – megaprojects initiated in the rapid scramble for energy resources and efforts to improve energy security. The authors approach the assessment of megaprojects from a socio-technical angle, emphasizing broad issues of political leadership, regulation, financing, interest group opposition and environmental impact, as well as conventional technological factors such as engineering design and project management.

The Governance of Energy Megaprojects will prove insightful for academics concerned about energy policy, energy security, environmental impact and technology assessment. But the book should prove equally compelling to those engaged in the practical management and implementation of large-scale energy projects anywhere in the world.

[Video lecture] Post industrial Dynamics and Urban Housing by Hugo Priemus

Astrophysicists Find That Cities Grow Just Like Galaxies

 

Astrophysicists Find That Cities Grow Just Like Galaxies 

We’ve all looked out at the night sky and wondered at how much the stars look like strings of cities. But there’s more than a passing resemblance—according to a team of astrophysicists who compared the two, there’s a much deeper connection at work. We aren’t just made of stars, we act like them too.

A new study from two scientists at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics posits that way we group and grow across the Earth is remarkably similar to the way that galaxies grew in space during the early days of our universe. According to them, we can learn a lot about the mysteries playing out on the Earth’s surface by looking at what we know about the deep reaches of space.

Zipf’s Law: A Recap

First, a little background. If you’ve spent any time hanging around with urban planners, you’re probably familiar Zipf’s law, a mathematical formula that accurately predicts the size of large cities. If you’re not familiar with it, you should check out this excellent explainer on io9 by Annalee Newitz. The law was named for a linguist who noticed that in any given language, a small number of words are used more frequently than a large number of rarely used words. More specifically, the most-used word is always used twice as much as the second-most-used word, and three times as much as the third. And so on.

Oddly enough, Zipf’s law can also predict how a country’s large cities will grow. Basically, the city with the highest population in a country will be twice as large as the next most populous city, and three times as large as the third most populous city, and so on. Despite some caveats (that Newitz brings up), it’s a remarkably consistent and accurate law. But the most interesting thing about Zipf is that no one really knows why it works so well. It just does.

Astrophysicists Find That Cities Grow Just Like Galaxies 

Little Rock, Arkansas. Image: NASA

An Answer From the Universe

So no one truly understands what makes Zipf so accurate. And who would have guessed that two astrophysicists would be the ones to cast more light on the mystery?

On January 5th, Abraham (aka Avi) Loeb—Chair of the Department of Astronomy at Harvard—and Henry Lin published a paper called A Unifying Theory for Scaling Laws of Human Populations. In it, the duo recount how they borrowed a mathematical formula from cosmology that explains how galaxies form in the universe and applied it to how human cities form on Earth, and found that the two are remarkably similar.

Astrophysicists Find That Cities Grow Just Like Galaxies 

Image: Triff

Normally, the pair explain, scientists studying urban growth think of city size as the “fundamental entity,” while the population is the thing that forms based on the city’s size. But Loeb and Lin reversed that logic, thinking of population as the fundamental that drives the formation of cities. That opened up a lot of similarities to a topic they’re well-versed in—namely, how galaxies emerged out of matter. Here’s how MIT Technology Review explains the idea:

That is exactly how cosmologists think about the way galaxies evolved. They first consider the matter density of the early universe. Next, they look at the mathematical structure of any variations in this density. And finally they use this mathematics to examine how this density can change over time as more matter is added or taken away from specific regions.

But instead of galaxies and matter density, the team applied this model to cities and population density. And after checking their work against actual census data, they found it was remarkably consistent:

The situation is therefore conceptually and mathematically analogous to the formation of galaxies in the universe, where non-linear gravitational collapse occurs when the matter density exceed some critical value. Our conceptual advance here is also a practical one, since we can apply the mathematical tools developed in cosmology to the problem at hand.

Eventually the same model could be used to predict all sorts of non-linear structures, beyond space and cities, like epidemics: “Just as the development of models for non-linear structure formation in the universe led to a wealth of theoretical and observational work in cosmology,” they explain, “future work here could include the calculation of new observables such as the bias factor for the spread of epidemics.”

Looking at Earth to Explore Space?

If the names Loeb and Lin sound familiar, it’s because this isn’t the first time we’ve written about the team over the past year. The pair, along with a colleague named Gonzalo Gonzalez Abad, also published a paper suggesting that NASA’s future James Webb Space Telescope could be used to search for chlorofluorocarbons in the atmosphere of an inhabited exoplanet. In short, the team argued that looking for a planet’s pollution might be more efficient than looking for the planet itself.

Astrophysicists Find That Cities Grow Just Like Galaxies 

AP Photo/Alexandre Meneghini.

So this isn’t the first time that this team of astrophysicists have linked ideas about space and cities, and it probably won’t be the last. It seems the phenomena of Earth—the clouds of pollution, the waxing and waning of mega-cities—could provide remarkable insight into studying the universe beyond it, and vice versa.

What else about universe could help us understand natural phenomena here on Earth? It’s an awesome, unexpected thought—that the patterns strewn across deep space look so much like the ones we’re unwittingly acting out here at home.

Top image: The Koreas by Night, via NASA.

Author:

Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan

Original source: Gizmodo

http://gizmodo.com/astrophysicists-find-that-cities-grow-just-like-galaxie-1680462544

The dark side of Silicon Valley

California’s booming tech industry has created the most extreme wealth disparity in America. Josie Ensor investigates the tale of two cities

6:00AM GMT 26 Nov 2014

He settles himself in for what is going to be a long night – taking off his scuffed leather shoes and resting his head against a window opaque with condensation.

Jimmy, 47, has had the same routine for the last three years since losing his job as a chef at Microsoft.

He gets on the bus at midnight and rides the same 35-mile journey between San Jose and Palo Alto, California, until sunrise. He can spend up to $8 (£5) a night just trying to keep warm and off the streets – money he can ill afford.

The 22 bus is the only route that runs 24 hours in Silicon Valley and it has become something of an unofficial shelter for the homeless.

They call it Hotel 22.

A homeless man sleeps onboard bus route 22, known as Hotel 22

This small pocket of the Golden State has become the most extreme example in the US of the growing schism between the haves and have nots.

Santa Clara – the county which encompasses Silicon Valley – has the highest percentage of homeless in America, according to the latest Department of Housing report.

Yet it also has the nation’s highest average household income and some of the most expensive homes in the country – all down to the high-tech economy on its doorstep.

Silicon Valley is enjoying the most sustained period of wealth creation in history, but the area is crippled by income disparity. Where once a robust middle-class thrived, there exists only the super-rich and the extreme poor.

The 22 bus drives past Jimmy’s old employer Microsoft, as well as the headquarters of Google, Facebook and Apple.

On our journey, we pass a “Google bus” going in the opposite direction towards San Francisco. Employees are ferried to and from work in their own private blacked-out coaches dubbed “Gbuses”, which have themselves come to be a symbol of the inequality.

“It’s a tale of two cities,” Jimmy says. “At least that’s the poetic way people describe what’s going on here.

“What these techies don’t realise though is that we’re no different to them – they’re just one misstep, one paycheck away from being us.”

Jimmy, who moved from Chicago to California in the early 1990s for work, is wearing a slightly mottled suit and tie, as he does most days, in the hope it will help him find a job. He sends off a dozen applications a day from the local library, but he rarely even hears back.

He keeps a length of rope wrapped round his ankle, hidden under his trouser leg, “just in case one day I decide I’ve had enough.”

According to the most recent census data, as many as 20,000 people will experience homelessness in the county this year.

Protesters block a bus taking Apple employees to work in Silicon Valley in December 2013

Those who are not sleeping on the streets here are sleeping in what is known as The Jungle – the largest homeless encampment in the US. Hundreds of makeshift tents and treehouses go on for miles in a lawless sprawl.

Ray Bramson, the City of San Jose’s homelessness response manager, says: “There’s 5,000 sleeping rough on any given night – we just can’t deal with that.”

Over the last few years rent in the area has skyrocketed, in some cases up to 300 per cent of the national average.

“When you think homeless, you think of someone on the streets with no money, no job,” he says. “That’s changed. Being employed no longer guarantees you can afford to rent here. People simply lack the sustainable wages they need to survive.”

The state’s minimum wage was recently increased from $8 to $10 an hour. “It’s a step in the right direction,” Mr Bramson says, “but unfortunately the self-sufficiency standard is around $15.”

Our bus jolts to a stop as the driver spots someone waiting in the dark at the side of the road. It is now 2am. He lays down the ramp for the woman, who has a large cart full of her worldly belongings.

She is not the only woman, Sandra Pena spends one night a week on Hotel 22.

A well-spoken, well-educated and strikingly beautiful woman of 52, she is not the average night passenger.

Silicon Valley (ALAMY)

She spent nine years working as a technician for Arantech – which was at one time one of the bigger tech firms in Silicon Valley, until she was made redundant in 1989.

Shortly after, she decided to start up her own construction business, which enjoyed some success.

But at the height of the recession in 2009 she lost it all and had her home repossessed.

She started living out of her truck, doing odd job for neighbours, until she could no longer afford that either.

“I was hit by everything at once, and sometimes you just can’t pick yourself up from that,“ says Sandra, who is wearing pristine blue jeans and a button-down blouse. “Never, ever, would I have imagined myself in this situation.”

When there are no free beds at the local shelter, Sandra sleeps on the bus.

“I get the day pass for $6 – which if you buy at the right time can last you all through the night to the next morning,” she says. “I like it for the quiet …. and the alone time.

“The only downside is that you get woken up at the end of the line and are made to wait 15 minutes to get on the next one,” she says.

As a native of Santa Clara she has seen the area change beyond recognition.

Apple’s new headquarters in Cupertino

It was once known for its orchids, earning it the nickname the Valley of Heart’s Delight. Until the 1960s, it was the largest fruit production region in the world and Del Monte was the biggest employer in town.

Then the tech companies started moving in, growing outward from Stanford University, which had begun nurturing start-ups with grants and academic support.

“Growing up here it was all ranches and orchids, I was a cowgirl. You had everything you could want, and great weather all year round. I don’t blame them all for coming here, but they offer the people who live here nothing,” says Sandra, who is currently completing a building course at an employment centre, which she hopes will lead to a job.

Chris Richardson, director of programme operations at the homeless organisation Downtown Streets, which has been helping Sandra, said: “Hotel 22 is an open secret in the homeless trade – for a couple of bucks people can get a relatively undisturbed night’s sleep.”

He says the problem has become so out of control there are twice as many homeless as there are available beds.

“You see camps of people sleeping rough just two miles from Sergey Brin’s (Google co-founder) house,” he says. “And the irony is, not even his engineers get paid enough to live here.

“We are trying to get tech billionaires involved in what we’re doing. They donate millions to good causes, but almost nothing to the local community they are helping destroy.

“It’s not necessarily their fault, but they are stakeholders in the homelessness problem and have the power and brains to change it.”

Eileen Richardson, Downtown Street’s founder, is a venture capitalist and former tech CEO herself, previously heading up the online music site Napster. She volunteered with the homeless on a sabbatical leave 10 years ago and was so shocked by what she saw she started up her own organisation to help.

At their weekly meeting, the team leader makes an announcement to the some-100 guests gathered – Google is hiring. The company is holding a jobs fair in a few weeks’ time and they are looking for chefs, cooks and cleaners.

Some groan, but most are keenly listening and a group stay behind after to sign up. In desperate times you cannot be too proud to “make a deal with the devil”, one guest says.

Original source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/11249291/The-dark-side-of-Silicon-Valley.html

Do mega sports events have a legacy? What about entrepreneurships related ones?

I find this article on mega sport events very interesting . Liz Such, the author, writes on the legacy of London Olympic games and whether it has had an impact on physical activity of young people. I like most her final reflection:

It seems the ‘inspire’ slogan was successful as a social marketing message in the sense that it was received and understood by the young people in this study. Its longevity, however, can only be judged by sustained change in physical activity patterns of young people and this is located in the negotiations of everyday life in which young people and family members engage. The effects of sport mega events do not, as other research has shown, ‘trickle down’ to the general population and get us out of our armchairs but ‘diffuse’ or ‘trickle though and around’ our relational everyday lives. It is my suggestion that it is through family and peer networks that sport legacy policy could lever longer-term outcomes from what is huge economic investment.

Concretely, it was the bold sentence what caught my attention and led me to write this post. The idea that the important changes in our life take place after everyday life negotiations with our family member. I’d also include friends and acquaintances. I do believe that this idea is also applicable to other situations, like entrepreneurship related events. I’ve noticed, both in Poland and Spain, a growing interest in such events as competitions for the best entrepreneurial idea, the best entrepreneur awards, entrepreneurs conferences, etc. (Well, actually I think that they are being, at a great extent, the core of the current economic public policy in many cases). Needless to say that they are often wrapped in sophisticated and expensive marketing campaigns and funded by public institutions. The aim of all these events are always the same, that is, highlight the success in life and business of a young and apparently regular person (I mean in terms of income) and how he or she managed to start up from zero. But, what’s the real legacy of this. Do these events really encourage new entrepreneurships?

Another response from some of the Liz Such’s interviewees may shed light on this issue:

“I was like, ‘wow, I can’t do that’ basically what I thought about the whole thing it’s like ‘oh God, I’m rubbish at everything’”

Here is my (research) question:  do (public funded) mega entrepreneurship related events encourage or discourage new entrepreneurs? What’s more, what are the psicological effects on those young people unable to start up new projects for economic or whatever reasons.

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