Monthly Archives: March 2013

Interview with “Worrying About Money” Architects: The rise of Post-Modern Brutalism.

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To coincide with the public launch of one of their recent designs, a Principal from the celebrated Christchurch architecture firm Worrying About Money (WAM) Architects was generous enough to be interviewed by Freerange Press.

The new inner city building will be one of the first post-quake office buildings to be constructed downtown, and as such it is both a logistical challenge and loaded with symbolism.    WAM is responsible for around 98.7% of all the rebuild projects in Christchurch. They are building 101,304 houses, 12,053 office buildings, 68 car parking buildings, and has won 189 out of 87 competitions and tenders they applied for so far, so we asked ‘Does this building signal a particular direction for the ‘new Christchurch’ ?

WAM:  Christchurch has a number of important periods of architectural history, the early colonial, the gothic revival, the post-war modernism,  and its evolution into a robust brutalist modernism, as exemplified by Sir Miles Warren and Maurice Mahoney in buildings such as the Christchurch Town Hall.  We feel that the next evolution of styles started to develop in the 80s, with some excellent glass and steel buildings, but that great style was distracted by the concerns about the environment and bi-culturalism.

FR:  Do you see the post-quake urban development as a way to return to this lost opportunity?

WAM: Definitely.  What we are trying to develop with buildings such as this is a form of post-modern brutalism, the people of Christchurch are understandably feeling vulnerable about the built environment, and we think they need some strong, aggressive forms to make them feel safe again in the city.  There is nothing further from a dangerous brick facade than the cutting edge use of glass and steel, that we are developing with buildings like this.  People have shown their true beauty down here over the past few years, and we really believe that they should be able to see themselves reflected in the buildings that come out of this time.

FR: How do you think this type of building will respond to criticism?

WAM:  Certainly, you can look at a books like Gerald Melling’s Mid-City Crisis, which we reference in the building facade of the new building launched today, and say it’s a scathing attack on the shallowness of the profession and the willing corporate take-over of architecture in the 1980s, but we believe what Gerald was really articulating in his slightly obtuse style was a real love for the contemporary materials such as glass and steel, their sculptural characteristics, and their warmth and charm.  I mean, doesn’t everyone enjoy those mirror elevators where you can almost look into infinity? That’s some buzzy shit.

FR: Well, we at Freerange are certainly excited to see the construction of another 800 glass facade buildings that look like they are straight from the late 1980s. You must be very busy with all the projects, so thank you for your time. All the best.

 

 

 

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Expressions of interest open for FR7: Something about ‘the commons’

Submissions are open for Freerange Vol.7.
Submissions Due 1 April 2013

Working Title: ‘The Commons’

Freerange Vol.7 is being edited by Jessie Moss, Joe Cederwall and Tim Gregory.

This edition will aim to explore the issue of “The Commons” from many different angles, perspectives, disciplines and media. The concept of ‘the commons’ has particular relevance in light of the multiple crises we face for the environmental, financial and social future of our planet. We want this edition to be an exploration of how the commons are actually being utilised and engaged by communities in reality in today’s transforming society. We want to get down to the nitty gritty of the concept and look at workable commons models both past and future. It will be a celebration and exploration of this transformative vision as applied in practice all around us.

A succinct definition of ‘the commons’ is elusive, but the following is as good an attempt as any by commons academic David Bollier:

‘The commons is….

  • A social system for the long-term stewardship of resources that preserves shared values and community identity.
  • A self-organized system by which communities manage resources (both depletable and and replenishable) with minimal or no reliance on the Market or State.
  • The wealth that we inherit or create together and must pass on, undiminished or enhanced, to our children.  Our collective wealth includes the gifts of nature, civic infrastructure, cultural works and traditions, and knowledge.
  • A sector of the economy (and life!) that generates value in ways that are often taken for granted – and often jeopardized by the Market-State.’

Full article

The concept is very broad and has relevance to topics as diverse as Architecture and design / Art and culture / Intellectual property / The open internet / Community control / Sustainability and environment / Resilience / Politics / Gender / History / Town planning / History / Architecture / Anthropology / Sociology & Psychology / Intellectual property / Indigenous culture / The local food movement / Academia / Science.

We are happy to work with contributors to find or refine a topic to suit the overall blend.
Please email Expression of Interest in submissions by Monday 1st of April

Expressions of Interest should be max. one A4 page with an explanation of what you’d like to write about, and any relevant experience writing or working in the topic before.

Please email: commons@projectfreerange.com

Further suggested reading for inspiration:

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Some thoughts of a white girl involved in the West African feminist movement

Walking down the street the other day, I heard a call of ‘hey madam white, how are you?’ I turned around, surprised. I was used to the familiar call of ‘obruni’ (foreigner) or ‘white lady’, but ‘madam white’ was a new one. Working as the only white girl in a pan-African feminist organisation in Ghana, my presence as an ‘obruni’ is always visible although obviously not called out as it is on the streets of Accra. My ‘whiteness’ can therefore often feel irrelevant to the feminist task at hand of challenging the marginalization of women and girls in the region.  However the criticisms that recently emerged over how Western feminists responded to a particularly brutal gang rape in India have led me to reflect on my own role within a feminist movement in the Global South.

In December, Aruna Shanbaug a 23-year-old Indian woman was gang raped by a group of men and boys with such severity that she died of internal injuries. The rape drew widespread criticism from women and men within Indian. Shocked by the severity of the attack, and tired of the regularity at which similar incidents occur, the attack became a rallying point for change to the systems that allow women to be treated with such brutality. In this instance, the calls for change that have long been called for by feminists within these countries, have been amplified by the number of other people now standing behind them.

The attack was far from both my lives in Ghana and New Zealand, and the lives of many Western feminists. However despite the unified goal of feminists to end violence committed against women, Dr. Swati Parachar noticed a certain silence about the attack on the part of Western feminists who seemed “silent or less outraged today because the rapists are not ‘white’ men or soldiers oppressing the poor female of colour”.

As the feminist movement gained traction in the 1960s, there was a tendency for Western feminists to speak for women in the Global South – to simplistically frame the violence and oppression they faced as a product of backward cultures. In speaking out, many Western feminists ignored the privileged positions from which they spoke and showed a lack of understanding about the complex social, economic, political and cultural factors that created and maintained the oppression of women. In the process of trying to ‘liberate’ these women, they marginalised their voices and reinforced crude cultural stereotypes about the Global South which allowed the continued imposition of simplistic ‘Western’ solutions.

According to some, the nuance of the original argument has been lost, and Western feminists have become reluctant to speak out against oppression occurring in the Global South for fear of misunderstanding the issues, and appearing to speak for, and silence women. What started as a caution for Western feminists to “listen, think and critically reflect before making arrogant judgments on the situation of ‘othered’ women”[1] has turned into silence and a new fear that attempts to foster solidarity may have diminished. In comments on Swati’s piece, a number of Western feminists explained their positions, stating that their concern with speaking out about a situation they have little understanding of prompted their silence, and without knowing the best way to support women on the ground leading these efforts, a certain kind of paralysis occurs. This silence of Western feminists has once again brought up the question of what role they should play in challenging violence against women in the Global South.

Since starting work in Ghana, these debates about cross-cultural feminist solidarity have become central to my life and work. Everyday I see, hear or read about issues that women face within West Africa. There are the young girls in Liberia who must suffer through sexual abuse from those they trust in order to receive schooling; there are the women in Sierra Leone who try to run for office but receive physical threats should they stay in the race; and there is the everyday discrimination of women in workplaces throughout Ghana where many men seem to think it’s their role to ‘pamper’ women by telling them they’re beautiful rather than treating them with the same professional respect their male colleagues receive.

Through my work I could be perceived as acting in solidarity with these women. I spent the first few months trying to figure out what exactly genuine solidarity was and trying to enact it. There’s this character in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, who is one of the few white people in an ‘African’ novel who isn’t in some way arrogant, domineering or patronizing. He’s humble and quite lost, a writer who wants to understand Nigeria but realises that he’s not the one to write about it. It seemed like a reasonable model to adopt, so like him, I tried to be one of the ‘good’ white people, thinking that so long as I avoided being appearing arrogant in office meetings it would somehow right centuries of colonial wrongs.

However in this region where each county’s history of colonialism and exploitation has been unique, and where each society is divided by a distinctive combination of gender, ethnic, class and generational divides, knowing the best way to navigate the terrain can be challenging. This is the fear of course, that not being fully aware of the context and of the cultural cleavages, you can bowl on in and irritate old hurts and create new divides. While it is true that people make mistakes in any occupation and situation, in this circumstance the fear of contributing – in whatever small way – to historical mistakes so grand in scale can be intimidating.

Working within these new environments can create the type of personal tensions described by Salman Rushdie where “the act of migration puts into crisis everything about the migrating individual or group, everything about identity and selfhood and culture and belief”. You find yourself in stressful situations where old insecurities can come into play and you worry that you are inadvertently becoming the bad stereotype of the Western ‘development’ worker: unreflective, unaware and arrogant. In these situations where your sense of self has been disrupted, being confronted with the prospect of conforming to a stereotype you don’t like can be unnerving.

A lot of it comes down to a fear of the unknown. I realised recently that despite thinking about these issues frequently, I had never actually asked any of the women I work with what they thought about my being here. In speaking to a colleague about it, her experiences reinforce the necessity of these debates as she had seen feminist organisations that were accused of speaking for women from the Global South while working in the U.S.

But she also pointed out the uniqueness of my situation by highlighting that I am working for an African-led feminist organisation and there are, I think, some lessons to be learnt about solidarity from this. Before I applied for the job I hesitated, knowing that the organization’s mandate is to increase the number of West Africa women in peace and security work. There seemed to be little likelihood that I would receive the job, and if I did should I even be taking it or was I taking a job from someone in West Africa who deserved it more? I did get the job and I took it while also realizing that there had been a certain arrogance in my hesitation. I was hired by women who have been at the forefront of the women’s and peace-building movements in the region. They clearly know what is best for their organization, and who is suited to achieving its aims. The only reason I am able to do the kind of work I am now doing is because I have been vetted by these women and was invited to practice a form of solidarity on their terms.

This kind of solidarity is difficult to create when the inequalities are built into the system. Often these inequalities can be difficult to pinpoint but one way they can be measured is monetarily. Most international NGOs and multinational organizations have salary structures where international staff are paid at a higher rate than local staff so that if I was working for one of these organizations doing similar work to what I’m doing now, I would likely be paid more than local staff. There are reasons for the need for different international salaries, some very valid, and some less so. But it still begs the question of how you can have genuine solidarity when from the outset those from outside the country are being valued more monetarily than those who likely have a deeper appreciation of what is happening in the country.

Speaking to a friend about these issues a while ago he commented that whenever barriers are in place that stop people being able to communicate with others, change is unlikely to happen. These barriers can be those systemic inequalities that cause some people’s voices to be valued more highly than others. They can also be those barriers that have emerged which render smart, reflective, compassionate feminists silent for fear of reproducing inequalities. In some ways, a space has been created within my organisation in which people can talk across boundaries. Most of us have crossed various borders to get to where we are: Ghanaians who have moved from smaller towns to the city, Sierra Leoneans and Ghanaians who have spent long periods abroad and have recently moved back home and me coming from the other side of the world. When we can talk honestly about these boundaries we can learn about, and from, each other and figure out ways to move forward. Because of this, I have had the luxury of encountering powerful African women and girls on a daily basis, and, as time goes on, the idea that anyone could even attempt to speak for women who are so outspoken becomes increasingly bizarre. However, due to the inequalities in the system this continues to happen.

Strangely, one of my most intense experiences in West Africa came in a taxi somewhere between Togo and Benin, as I read Teju Cole’s story of a Nigerian man in New York. Confronted with a version of himself he was not able to reconcile with, he said this:

“Each person must, on some level, take himself as the calibration point for normalcy, must assume that the room of his own mind is not, cannot be, entirely opaque to him. Perhaps this is what we mean by sanity: that, whatever our self-admitted eccentricities might be, we are not the villains in our own stories. In fact, it is quite the contrary: we play, and only play, the hero, and in the swirl of other people’s stories, insofar as those stories concern us at all, we are never less than heroic … And so, what does it mean when, in someone else’s version, I am the villain?”

Isolated culturally and linguistically, and unable to be the type of ‘development’ worker I had originally envisioned myself to be, I curled up in the corner of the car and closed the book.

We strive for these perfect ways of being and are constantly put up against the limits of our understandings, the limits of our empathy. And maybe that is why some feminists have become silent about these issues, because the constant implication of yourself within this injustice can become exhausting. You write yourself into a caricature that begins to define you and slowly you start to lose yourself and what you believe you stand for. Maybe in these moments the most you can do is be gentle to yourself; to acknowledge that you will make mistakes and try to learn and change. I’m not sure what this means as solidarity is stretched across countries and continents and feminists throughout the world must decide how to respond meaningfully to rape in India. But when I think about the future, I think about the feminist friendships cemented in my office in Accra, and how they will stretch across countries and continents whenever any of us decide to leave.

After all, the feminist movement is an exciting place to be. Despite being confronted with a host of injustices committed daily against women, you get to see the strength and resilience of women fighting against it; women who may have grown up being told they will never amount to anything more than a set of ovaries and a pretty face but who refuse to take this and push forward. So for the moment I will stay here trying to push forward too, guided by my own sense of self and beliefs, in whatever form of solidarity I am invited to do.

 



[1] As one commenter on Swati’s piece put it.

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Rikipedia # 47 – New Zealand music

Rikipedia # 47 – New Zealand music (/ne:ewe zoiland moiusuk”:) has been influenced by reggae, reggae, reggae, reggae and  reggae, with many of these genres given a unique New Zealand interpretation.[1][2]

Early European settlers brought over their ethnic music, with brass bands and choral music being popular, and musicians began touring New Zealand spreading herpes, gonorrhea and syphilis to the native ‘Maori’ (maa:ooo/weee )in the 1860s.[8][9]- P-Pipe bands became widespread during the early 20th century.[10] The New Zealand recording industry began to develop breasts from 1940 onwards and 1 New Zealand musician has obtained success in Alaska.[1] Some artists release M?ori language songs and the M?ori tradition-based art of kapa haka (family and food) has made a resurgence.[11] The New Zealand Music Awards are held anally by the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (CUNTZ); the awards were first held in 1965 by Reckitt & Colman as the Lorraine Downs Is Under Murray Mexted awards.[12] The CUNTZ also publish the cuntry’s official weekly record charts which are then tampered with to pay for the cocaine that Gary owed me from last weeks get together in Aitutaki for the yearly radio programmers ‘Wank-Off Together We Are One” conference. It was well attended according to Jenny from Warners.Do you know her? She goes out with the drummer from Elemnope. He is such a nice guy. Talented.[2]

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Ecnarusni: first TWO years in a munted canterbury settlement

(with apologies to samuel butler and many others besides)

To whomsoever the soil at any time belongs, to him belong the fruits of it. White parasols, and elephants mad with pride are the flowers of a grant of land. Sir Wm. Jonestranslation of an Indian grant of land, found at Tanna.

The streets of Christchurch have not been the same since September 4th 2010; even less so from February 22nd onward. Different flows have appeared; flows of detoured traffic conditions, flows of conversation veering always to the last shake, flows of the a/effluent, flows of money, flows of  light from new holes in the fabric.

Green uniforms of army guarding a closed ‘cbd’ were the first signs of an unusual time; suspicion is pre-supposed with the green men. Bored teen soldiers racing a LAV up Oxford Terrace an early event for me to note that energy transfers; released energy is absorbed again, and a lot of energy can be absorbed into teenage soldiers with nothing much to do; throttling it in a LAV the subsequent release. Cycling through the streets became an adrenaline sport, requiring constant vigilance, like liberty….they were sitting on a deck chair at a card table for 8 hours a day, protecting an empty city. The green men, first strangeness of the strange days that have found us.  Earthquakes have a physiology, why wouldn’t they? Dissipation of energy on a graduating scale. Human affairs, on the other hand, tend toward runaway. It is said that there is no such thing as a natural catastrophy, only the human response. The resilience, preparedness, and adaptability of those affected determines the true extent of damage. Nature did what it always does, what does it know of catastrophy? ; that concept takes time.

Having lived through these intense years since (and strangely monotonous ones, as most social interaction reverts to stories of aftershocks), what harrows most, after the initial adrenaline subsidence, is the stagnation occurring now with property issues; namely, insurance. There, I’ve said it- ‘ that which must not be named’, or as the Goons put it, ‘insurance, the white man’s burden’. Well, guess what, it’s everyone’s problem now.

James Lunday, an urban theorist speaking at the one of the tedx conferences, was suitably bemused in questioning the use of language after the first two events. The timidity of the term ‘munted’ seemed to insult his Glaswegian sensibilities, as he reminded us that the city was no longer munted after February 22, it was fucked. Now, a further two years along, and with ruptures of discontent hissing forth more frequently, can we now have a stronger word than fucked please James. Munted, fucked, ? Mcfucked? ; and so to the theme of this story, what does an uninsurable city look like? …perhaps a bit like this one.

Insurance is the elephant in the room, or would be if any room could be located among the layers of re- re- re -. No more ra ra ra, it is all re re re ; the layers of the underwriting maze. The draft of the City Plan elaborated so closely the views, opinions and desires of the community and key stakeholders (although, by this elusive terminology, the community are considered separate to stakeholders, and stakeholders separate to key stakeholders – and so on ad infinitumis someone being flattered?), that the elephant had temporarily been forgotten amongst the deserved glow of a responsive, exciting ….planning document!

Catalyst projects, river green belts, bicycle recognition, light rail links to the university, and even a suggestion to what became the largest speech bubble graphic of all – MORE GREEN SPACE. (Although this phrase may represent, in its lack of any Quality whatsoever, a real turning point toward actual engagement, through the sheer necessity for an expedition toward language that indicates Quality. Read again; MORE GREEN SPACE, it doesn’t actually say anything. More Hagley Park? More thirsty lawns? – fear and panic seem to drive people toward these dogmatic statements – the other species being the NO brigade [NO concrete, NO Cars] – words without qualitative aspects)

Worthy results, though, of a thorough consultation process that has pushed popular sentiment as generator to such a level that the results almost resemble placation. Such a prominence that one is left with an ever sharpening focus of what such offerings may be concealing. This is where the insurance elephant enters again, not so much mad with pride, as impassive, perhaps even sympathetic – “all admirable plans, but…” That’s a big but. Initial exuberance flees with the reportage and indicators which suggest that risk assessors many miles away will decide the fate of Christchurch. Not 106,000 ideas gathered from active citizens, and not meticulously compiled and presented vision plans.

On a good day the City Plan says all the right things, almost regurgitating public sentiment. On a bad day…..the city is uninsurable.

The Mayor is an ex game show host afterall and seems to have recalled those latent skills, only this time offering both the money AND the box; does the City Plan remain only a draft, a rehearsal so to speak. When the lights go up, does every AND become an OR again? with the ‘community’ consultation being the sparkly offerings dangled under noses to fill time between the ad breaks?

Meanwhile, the elephant has been dressed in orange fluoro and taken on tour.

Some wider ranging insights on insurance and its more far reaching ambitions;

(both taken from ‘The Perception of the Middle’ – Nathan Moore)

….”but the more useful insight is that developed by Donzlot and Ewald in terms of insurance. It is not simply a question of trying to protect against the future by assessing risks in the present, but of making the process of that assessment profitable in every conceivable way. It is this profitability of the future that motivates control, extended to every image of the universe in the hope of replacing it with an ever modulating universe of data. Decisions become impossible because the construction of consequences, in the form of further decisions, is displaced by discrete, and isomorphic, choices, in which the aim is not to extend the consequence, but rather to limit it through new understandings of liability.”

Perhaps the most appalling aspect of control is that it has reduced the City to nothing more than a representation of conflicts, and in this has sought to institute a new l aw of the jungleto favour the survival of the fittest but as Nietzsche pointed out, it is always the weakest who survive! … the artisan continues to extract combinations that are not determined by the needs of conflict. This reminds us that decisions can still be made, and that the City remains. Rather than a world of choice, we should re-discover cities of decision.

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