Viewing the Emergent City and Its People

Street Art

Here’s What Western Accounts of the Kowloon Walled City Don’t Tell You

Here's What Western Accounts of the Kowloon Walled City Don't Tell You, Image © Greg Girard and Ian Lambot, authors of the books "City of Darkness" and "<a href=''>City of Darkness Revisited</a>"
Image © Greg Girard and Ian Lambot, authors of the books “City of Darkness” and “City of Darkness Revisited

A longer version of this article, written by current ArchDaily intern Sharon Lam, was originally published in Salient, the magazine of the Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association, titled “In the Shadow of the Kowloon Walled City.”

It is the 1970s in Hong Kong, and you are eleven years old. Early one evening, you go out to a nearby neighborhood for dinner with your family. A five-minute walk from your primary school, it is also a place you frequent with your friends. The food here is good and especially renowned for its fishball noodle soup, which is what you always get. You’ve been here so often that navigating the subterranean corridors to the noodle stand is easy, and you know where to step to avoid the ceilings that drip the most. Your bowl of noodles arrives and you slurp them down, unaware of the fact that over the next couple of years this very neighborhood will peak in its population and its infamy, and remain even decades later as one of the most remarkable social anomalies in recent history.

At its peak, the Kowloon Walled City was home to 33,000 people in just two hectares of land—the size of about two rugby fields—making it the densest place on Earth at the time. It was a hastily put together conglomerate of tiny apartments, one on top of the other, caged balconies slapped onto the sides and connected through a labyrinth of damp, dark corridors. All the while, the rest of Hong Kongwent about as normal, seemingly unaffected by the crime and squalor within the Walled City.

Save this picture!

Courtesy of City of Darkness Revisited

Courtesy of City of Darkness Revisited

This unique society and its complete neglect by the rest of Hong Kong was born of the equally unique political conditions of the Kowloon site. Initially a Chinese outpost for the salt trade during the Song Dynasty (960AD–1279), it was later turned into a military outpost with an added coastal fort in the 1800s. When China lost to the British in the first Opium War, Hong Kong was ceded and officially handed over in 1842. However, the Kowloon site was an exception, with the British allowing the Chinese to stay at the site as long as they did not politically interfere. China went on to fully reclaim the ownership of the Kowloon site in 1947, but its separation from the mainland meant they did little to enforce laws, while Britain also went with a “hands-off” policy. Free from both sides of the law, squatters soon flooded in, and so began the legend of the Kowloon Walled City.

By 1950 the population had grown to 17,000. People moved to the Walled City out of bankruptcy, lack of choice, and to either flee or exploit the lack of law. Construction proliferated alongside population, a truly modern vernacular free from any building regulation or code. Within the darkness of the Walled City, crime, unregulated businesses (everything from opium dens and brothels to plastic bags and spring rolls) and family life went on day after day.

It wasn’t until 1984 that both governments decided the Walled City had become enough of a backwards embarrassment and eyesore that they had to tear it down. In 1992, residents were evicted and given monetary compensation, and the site was converted into a public commemorative park.

Save this picture!

Model of Kowloon Walled City now placed in Kowloon Walled City Park. Image © <a href=''>Wikimedia user archangelselect</a> licensed under <a href=''>CC BY-SA 3.0</a>

Model of Kowloon Walled City now placed in Kowloon Walled City Park. Image © Wikimedia user archangelselect licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Despite my many, often lengthy, trips to Hong Kong, I have never visited the park. It is not a well advertised or well heard of tourist attraction, nor is it a place of local pride. In fact it was from the mouth of a Swede that I first heard of the Kowloon Walled City and each time since then that the Walled City has come up, it has been from Caucasian commentary. In my urban design paper, the Kowloon Walled City was brought up as an example of a “slum” that showed the consequences of the lack of building regulations. There was no mention of the delicious bowls of noodles one could find there. Rather, the Kowloon Walled City is in conversation usually described as “post-apocalyptic,” “scary” and “crazy.”

Compare this to the way in which my dad talks about the city—a smirk broke across his face as soon as the name was mentioned, and I was surprised to learn that his primary school was just next door from this “crazy” mass of drugs, gangs and crime. In fact, most of our conversation focused on the food that you could find there. He describes the place as “very special,” both as the only place in Hong Kong that went unaffected by British rule and as a unique community in itself. He went on to describe the physical environment of the place, with an energy that I have only otherwise seen during one of his jam-making frenzies. Smiling, he recalled the constant dripping of water leaks everywhere and the surreal disappearance of the sky once you entered. He also went on about the many unregulated businesses there, with special mention to the many unlicensed dentists that could operate liability-free, and also the dog meat stalls, which found success while canine cuisine was illegal in the rest of Hong Kong.

He admits that he knew of people being mugged and that people generally avoided the place after dark, but otherwise my dad complimented the Triads on their organization of the Walled City. Acting as a de facto city council (albeit one funded by drugs and enforced through violence), the Triads organized a volunteer fire brigade and rubbish disposal, and resolved civil conflicts, particularly those between competing businesses.

Save this picture!

Kowloon Walled City in 1991. Image © <a href=''>Roger Price via Wikimedia</a> licensed under <a href=''>CC BY 2.0</a>

Kowloon Walled City in 1991. Image © Roger Price via Wikimedia licensed under CC BY 2.0

The way my dad speaks of the Walled City, with something approaching pride, gives a very different impression to its popular depiction—it is much easier to tell a story of depraved lifestyles in a dark maze of inhumane living conditions. This isn’t to say that this wasn’t the case, but rather that this wasn’t the only story that the Walled City had to tell.

A documentary on the Walled City chronicled this complexity firsthand. Filmed by an Austrian with English subtitles, the 1980s film gives an intimate look at life in the Walled City. We meet a breeder of illegal racing pigeons (an alternative to betting on horses), a kindergarten, and even a Triad-funded pensioner. All these stories, however, are set against a dark, dim architectural backdrop. It is a strange experience—harrowing English subtitles that compare the people to “the dead rats nobody takes umbrage at,” but their attempt at shock-horror is heckled by the background Cantonese, with children wittily mocking the camera crew. This, perhaps, best represents Hong Kong—scary from the outside, but energetic normality within.

While it would be false to say that the documentary makers were exaggerating the extent of the squalid conditions, poverty and cramped spaces, these qualities are only striking in their intensity—not at all in their absurdity. In fact, the most Louis Theroux-ish thing in the whole documentary is an English missionary who resides in the Walled City, curing heroin addicts through her “spiritual touch.” The rest of the picture is grossly inhumane, yes; but illogical, no. Given the conditions and consequences in which the city was conceived, and its complete neglect, it could have turned out a whole lot worse.

Save this picture!

Infographic showing the Kowloon Walled City, produced by the South China Morning Post in 2013. Image Courtesy of South China Morning Post

Infographic showing the Kowloon Walled City, produced by the South China Morning Post in 2013. Image Courtesy of South China Morning Post

The surprising liveliness and community of the Walled City shows that when free from law and liability, things aren’t going to be that great, but they do not have to be an entire failure. When the Kowloon Walled City was torn down by outside forces, many of its residents were dissatisfied with their eviction and not even financial compensation restored the community they left behind. Many, years on, even when fully resettled into the rest of Hong Kong, look back to their days in the Walled City as a “happier time.”

When still under British rule, it is important to remember that the Kowloon Walled City was not the only place of such density in Hong Kong. Contemporary to the Walled City were other urban squatter settlements, also ad hoc conglomerations but only of one storey, and roomier with just 4900 people per hectare—about 2 square meters per person. The settlements sprang up from the population boom of the 1950s, when Chinese refugees fled into the city following political turmoil in the mainland.

Save this picture!

Kowloon Walled City in 1991. Image © <a href=''>Roger Price via Wikimedia</a> licensed under <a href=''>CC BY 2.0</a>

Kowloon Walled City in 1991. Image © Roger Price via Wikimedia licensed under CC BY 2.0

After their family land was taken and relatives killed, both my dad’s mother and my mother’s mother were such refugees, and they both experienced some time in informal settlements upon arriving in Hong Kong. They were both lucky, however, and were soon able to settle into more comfortable and stable conditions, helped by the government’s public housing schemes. With this ancestry, and my own upbringing as a Hong Kong-born New Zealand citizen, it irks me to see the persistent fascination with the current density, of housing in particular, in Hong Kong. While physically long gone, the shadow of the Walled City and its colonial conception remains. The multiple photography series, gawk-tourism, and critique of the city’s never-ending apartment towers has not-so-distant roots to the outsider curiosity that drew British colonials to the Walled City as a tourist attraction in its early days.

The common, lazy judgement thrown upon unfamiliar cultures is everywhere. Online, in conversation, and even from university tutors, I have come across phrases like “how can people live like that” and “so crazy how cramped it must be” in regards to small living spaces in Hong Kong and other South East Asian metropolises. Often these phrases are followed by a smug thankfulness that they themselves not have to live in such “terrible conditions.”

Save this picture!

Kowloon walled city in 1989. Image © <a href=''>Wikimedia user Jidanni</a> licensed under <a href=''>CC BY-SA 3.0</a>

Kowloon walled city in 1989. Image © Wikimedia user Jidanni licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

My grandmother has, from her arrival into Hong Kong to the current day, lived in public housing. These towers are the most ubiquitous building form in Hong Kong, largely identical and replicated over and over across the city, often painted in pastel for both differentiation and a “happy” aesthetic. There are over 680,000 apartments across 160 public housing estates, with 15,000 more apartments built each year.

Just as with the Walled City, there is rarely any mention of the lives within the towering walls nor the delicious bowls of noodles. Photos of these seemingly endless modules disregard and crop out any sense of thought behind the buildings, ignoring what have in fact been decades of design evolution and an increasing quality of public housing. The average living space has changed greatly over the years, and current legislation makes site-specific considerations, sustainable implementations, thoughtful interior and master planning mandatory.

Save this picture!

Wong Tai Sin Public Housing Estate. Image © <a href=''>Wikimedia user WiNG</a> licensed under <a href=''>CC BY-SA 3.0</a>

Wong Tai Sin Public Housing Estate. Image © Wikimedia user WiNG licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

The Kowloon Walled City’s lack of prominence in Hong Kong itself is not due to political embarrassment, but because it is culturally unremarkable. Today, problems often associated with density, such as crime and sickness, are not notably prevalent in Hong Kong. In fact, crime rates are low on an international scale, and the city has the world’s fourth-lowest rate of infant mortality and also fourth-highest life expectancy. Intimidating and eerie from the outside, dedicated public housing allows even Hong Kong’s elderly to stay self-sufficient.

Save this picture!

Kin Ming Estate. Image © <a href=''>Wikimedia user Baycrest</a> licensed under <a href=''>CC BY-SA 2.5</a>

Kin Ming Estate. Image © Wikimedia user Baycrest licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5

Density will always be a fact of life in Hong Kong, manifested to its extreme in the Walled City and resolved in public housing today. The city’s cultural apathy toward density sees it excel in other forms—but in the shadow of the Walled City, those without access to public housing still face squalor. The quarters given to the populous domestic maids really are too small, and immigrant housing is an increasing concern, with people renting out taped-off sections of rooftops for residency.

If the energy of young designers in both Hong Kong and abroad were focused less on criticizing places that are actually doing fine, there are real urban and social problems in Hong Kong that are currently, like the Walled City once was, being neglected.

gurunsi earth houses of burkina faso

From designboom

kassena village, tiébélé, burkina faso
image © scott worthington



the small country of burkina faso near the border to ghana may not have many resources or economic wealth, but with the plentiful raw materials
available the kassena people make some of the most culturally rich and architecturally beautiful villages, such as this one in tiébélé, built using
traditional gurunsi vernacular. the dwellings occupy a community of just over one hectare in area, and are made of a sun-dried mix of clay, soil,
straw and cow droppings moistened to a perfect mortar, mixed by foot to create strong pottery-like structures. these techniques actually preceded
the well known mud-brick constructions of indigenous peoples in the area. layer upon layer are added when needed, maintaining the necessary wall
thickness to withstand rainstorms and extreme temperatures. short walls are used as urban landscaping elements, provide a buttressing support,
and offer supplementary places to sit or work.


the most amazing feature, however, is the intricate ornamentation that covers almost every square inch of the dwellings, painted with colored mud
and chalk that tell an expressive story of the ancient tribe’s culture. the motifs can illustrate just about anything from objects used in normal daily life,
to religion and beliefs, to decorative patterns that distinguish one house from the other. the artwork is then embossed with rocks and etchings that
highlight the designs and give a truly unique character. the material, along with small openings usually located closer to the ground assist in comfortable
interior temperatures. the construction is made with abundant resources found on site that can be re-applied endlessly.



kassena village, tiébélé, burkina faso
image © scott worthington



kassena village, tiébélé, burkina faso
image © rita willaert



kassena village, tiébélé, burkina faso
image © rita willaert



kassena village, tiébélé, burkina faso
image © rita willaert



kassena village, tiébélé, burkina faso
image © rita willaert



kassena village, tiébélé, burkina faso
image © rita willaert



kassena village, tiébélé, burkina faso
image © rita willaert



kassena village, tiébélé, burkina faso
image © rita willaert



kassena village, tiébélé, burkina faso
image © rita willaert



kassena village, tiébélé, burkina faso
image © rita willaert



kassena village, tiébélé, burkina faso
image © rita willaert



kassena village, tiébélé, burkina faso
image © scott worthington


Our Streets are the Largest Art Gallery in the World



Over the last 6 months, Urban Times have featured the work being done at Global Street Art; a platform dedicated to street art and graffiti. Seeing our city streets as the largest art gallery in the world, over the last 7 years the founders have collated 70,000 photographs of street art in over 20 countries and have classified every photograph in the archive by artist, technique, content (and more). Urban Times got the chance to speak to co-founder Dr. Lee Bofkin. He tells us about the coffee table book that Global Street Art is curating; featuring hundreds of photographs alongside interviews with legends and old-school graffiti writers within the street art realm. We also hear about the work being done as part of their Walls Project which finds new places for artists to paint in London.

Hunto and Milo Tchais side by side. Image courtesy of Global Street Art

As a breakdancer and with a Phd in Evolutionary Mathematics, what attracted you to the world of graffiti?

My breakdance background! Graffiti was often in or near the places where I was dancing/competing so I started taking photos casually. I used my knowledge of taxonomy/classification when I built the archive. The discipline helped me classify the photos.

Which street artist’s work most inspires you and why?

There isn’t one – there’s just far too many. I like Zezao a lot (Brazil) because of where he paints – sewers, out of reach places, etc. His work is stunning and he uses it to beautify some of the most unloved and ignored spaces in society.


Read & See More

asia’s tallest mural by hendrik beikirch

asia’s tallest mural by hendrik beikirch

german artist hendrik beikirch, known by his alias ECB has created asia’s tallest mural in busan, south korea, by painting a monochromatic
image of a local fisherman in his 60’s on a building stretching over 70 meters (230 ft.) in height. set to contrast architect daniel libeskind’s
haeundae i’park building in the background, the installation becomes a symbol for the rapid development of korea and the progression
of financial growth within a country that was poor not to long ago.

the mural of the working class man represents a significant portion of korea‘s population that has not been affected by the economic growth
and until now, lives under very different circumstances compared to their affluent neighbors. staring into an intangible space with his face
marked with wrinkles, still wearing long plastic gloves – a sign that there are still men and women like him at this age working for a living.

despite this, the painting conveys a positive message seen in the emotion shown by the fisherman, where statement in korean letters translate
the phrase ‘where there is no struggle, there is no strength’. unlike other artists, the entire installation is conceived without of a projector or a
sketch on the wall. the project was developed in collaboration with public delivery, an organization who has contributed to the promotion
of contemporary art throughout asia and europe.

in progress

view of the mural almost completed

face detail process

‘where there is no struggle, there is no strength’

From Designboom

Brussels’ Cartoon Trail

From [polis]

When we speak of urban heritage, the goal is often preservation — to keep what is already there. But an art initiative in Brussels has shown that inheritance also can be used to reinforce and highlight a new identity.

Brussels is brimming with comic book shops, and its Comic Museum attracts over 200,000 visitors per year. In 1991 city authorities, in collaboration with the Comic Strip Center, began hiring cartoonists to cheer up some of the city’s empty facades with cartoon murals.

The first mural, Broussaille, was managed by Art Mural, an organization founded by five artists in 1984 with the aim of increasing the number of murals in public space. The 35-square-meter comic wall, located at the intersection between Marché au Charbon and Teinturiers, is an homage to the Belgian cartoonist Frank Pé.

During the second half of the 20th century, Brussels became one of the world’s leading cities for comic art. Here Georges “Hergé” Prosper Remi created Tinitin, Pierre “Peyo” Culliford invented the Smurfs, and Maurice “Morris” De Bevere developed Lucky Luke. Major exhibitions have been organized since the late 1960s, and in 1989 the Belgian Centre for Comic Strip Art opened in an old warehouse designed by the Art Nouveau architect Victor Horta.

More murals followed, and today there are more than 50 throughout the inner city of Brussels, as well as the neighborhoods of Laeken and Auderghem. The “comic strip trail” has grown into a tourist attraction, with guided walking and cycling tours.

I’m not sure how the inhabitants of Brussels feel about the comic mural initiative, but as a visitor I appreciated how the murals add modern history to the urban fabric and remind the viewer of the comic book artists that once worked there. I hope the city pays tribute to today’s generation of cartoonists as well. 

Urban Augmented Reality Full

GPS drawing on bike by michael wallace

From Designboom

Really large scale art now to find ways to see it on the ground- maybe virtual traces visible on your Iphone?

‘hydra-bus!’, 2012
16.02 miles in 2 hours, 43 minutes, 49 seconds 

all images © michael wallace

baltimore, maryland, USA-based cyclist and artist michael wallace, has developed an portfolio comprised entirely of bike-traced city-scale sketches.
the artist says of his work, ‘GPX riding is my general term for using a GPS device to track and record my location while riding my bicycle. in short,
I use GPS technology to record where I go in a planned effort to create massive images.
‘ his ‘virtual geographic adventures’, in their completion,
range anywhere from near 17 miles to as little as 5 wallace moves about the city in a strategic path in order to develop resemblances of various symbols,
events, and characters.

‘pagoda!’, 2012
11.43 miles in 1 hour, 52 minutes, 53 seconds

‘super conductor’, 2012
12.32 miles in1 hour, 40 minutes, 51 seconds

‘hurricane irene’, 2012
10.36 miles in 1 hour, 39 minutes, 30 seconds

‘GPX mythwallogy’, 2012
9.72 miles in 1 hour, 56 minutes, 49 seconds

‘titanic’, 2012
7.58 miles in 1 hour, 37 minutes, 38 seconds

‘big rig!’, 2012
13.22 miles in 2 hours, 18 minutes, 13 seconds

‘los dias de los muertos’, 2012
8.99 miles in 1 hour, 42 minutes, 59 seconds

‘grapes’, 2012
7.10 miles in 1 hour, 21 minutes, 37 seconds

‘lunar lander’, 2012
13.58 miles in 2 hours, 22 minutes, 17 seconds

‘terminator’, 2012
6.16 miles in 54 minutes, 45 seconds

via the creators project

Something a Little Different: Street Art in Paris

From Bonjour Paris By Nicole Smith

I have to admit, when I heard of a walking tour featuring street art in Paris, I was a bit skeptical. This is a city where every building, whether residential or commercial, not only has a distinct charm, but history as well. The thought of seeing the defacing of that, combined with flashbacks of my former city of New York covered in graffiti during the 1980’s, definitely left me feeling uneasy. Living a short distance from the tour and embodied with a curious, if not masochistic, temperament, however, I decided to join one of Street Art Paris’ Saturday morning outings, which start in the Oberkampf district, wind through Menilmontant, and descend through Parc de Belleville before concluding in its respective district.



It was an overcast Saturday morning when I arrived outside the Parmentier metro station to meet the rest of the group and our guide. After a year and a half of success in London, the company decided to start conducting street art tours in Paris this year. Our guide previously ran the tours in London and was a street artist himself, so he was incredibly knowledgeable from the start. The company also markets the tour to hostels, so the majority of our group was made up of young, artistic-type tourists. After a brief round of introductions, our group of about a dozen made its way down rue Édouard Lockroy, where we were shown our first piece and my view of what street art actually is, quickly changed.

The group looked upwards to take in a large bandaid constructed out of plaster by artist,Jimmy Pansement, which he places over building cracks throughout the city. It was here that I became truly pleased to learn the difference between street art and graffiti. Street art is premeditated. Rather than just writing their names with a bottle of spray paint, these artists work in studios to produce materials that they then use to provoke a conversation about a particular aspect of society. Sound familiar to other forms of art?

As it turns out, the city of Paris is extremely liberal, and even welcoming, to street artists. The largest piece that we saw on our tour was done with the permission of the town hall. The artist Ludo is known for his style of combining painted grey mechanical elements with fluorescent green flowers to enact “nature’s revenge” on the city. The entire wall of a building in Oberkampf features this compassionate theme, as grey handcuffs hold down the stems while prison-like chutes constrict the flowers’ attempted movement. The acrylic painting has been up for close to a year and as portions of it begin to erode and take on new shapes from weather and time, the picture continues to produce new meanings on its own.

My personal favorite pieces came from the duo of Leo and Pipo, who use a form of wheat paste to depict real characters and events from the 1920’s and 1930’s on the exact area in which they occurred. The masked vintage photographs and campaign posters could easily be mistaken for current-day images by a passerby, if he/she didn’t stop to take a closer look. If anything, that is the goal of street art, to encourage individuals to slow down and look–in every direction.


A Parisian street art tour would be impossible to conduct without running into the mosaic-tiled works of the artist, Space Invader, who has more than 1,000 delicately-crafted pieces up throughout the city, inspired by the 1978 Japanese video game of the same name. Other world-renowned street artists such asShepard Fairy, who developed the infamous “hope” graphic of President Barack Obama during his 2008 campaign, also have a presence in Paris. Fairy’s “Obey” series features a “big brother” figure regarding pedestrians below with a menacing, authoritarian glare. British artist Nick Walker, who often rivals his co-patriot Banksy, is known for his “vandal” character. Painted in all black through the use of a stencil, the character, in a black bowler hat, is shown on a bicycle fleeing the scene after “painting the town red.” The character carries a bucket of red paint that is also dripped onto the sidewalk.

At 107 rue Oberkampf stands Le M.U.R., a wall that the city has turned into a competition for street artists. Every four weeks, the chosen artist is selected to create a billboard on the spot, which he or she then paints in public throughout the course of one day, providing onlookers with a terrific chance to see one of these artists at work. During our tour, we saw a work by Artiste Ouvrier displayed on the wall, which through the use of stenciled paint, depicted a landscape inspired by his visits and love for India.

Besides viewing and learning about the various popular works and street artists featured throughout Paris, the tour also takes visitors through offbeat streets that one would probably never transverse in their everyday life, let alone on vacation. The group walked through mud and piles of rubbish to enter into a community practice area in Menilmontant that was just covered from pavement to wall tops with graffiti. We were also led to several artist squats and communes that both enacted surprise that these spaces exist within the postcard mindset of Paris, and a bit of fear, as we were a group of English-speaking tourists with backpacks. This was especially clear at La Forge in Belleville, an abandoned key factory turned artist commune, which is now in danger of either high rents or demolition due to a change of ownership.

The tour stopped at the top of Parc de Belleville in the 20th arrondissement, where the group was able to take in an expansive view of the city as rain drops began to fall. We wound through the park to rue de Noyez, which is entirely covered on each side with both street art and graffiti. This is entirely legal here, which was surprising to me, as there were several everyday shops underneath the vibrant colors. The tour ends on this street outside of the gallery, All Over, which opens at 2 pm, right after our three-hour tour concludes. I decided to skip waiting for the gallery to open and take the short walk back home. I was hungry, but my brain was already beginning to digest.

For more information on street art in Paris and the tours being offered, please visit:

LUDO: green berry

Crazy Steet art – self publicity and socio-political commentary:

‘green berry’

in the last couple of years LUDO has become one of the most talked about names in street art.
the parisian artist’s work depicts technology and contemporary consumer goods fused with
insects and plants. most pieces are produced as wheat pasted prints enhanced with fluorescent
green spray paint.

contained within the visually arresting concoctions LUDO creates there’s usually a critical

comment on consumerism and globalization, with famous logos and iconic products
transformed to have a more sinister appearance. LUDO’s feelings perhaps were most
clearly displayed in his series ‘co-branding’ where the artist branded his own images with
existing logos and placed them in bus shelters ‘commercializing’ his work in the process.

See more

Why Street Art Matters via The Cool Hunter

Some city councils get it, others don’t. Tapping the creative talents of street artists, illustrators and graphic designers is an effective and cool way to make bland public spaces, old buildings, bridges and car parks new again, and to freshen up the concrete jungle. (more…)

Culinary Cartography via Edible Geography

A different way of surveying the cities layers brings to light stark contrasts and sinister implications from Edible Geography by Nicola Twilley

IMAGE: Edible Geography’s new logo, designed by Nikki Hiatt.

If I had to describe my aspirations for Edible Geography, I could do a lot worse than this, borrowed from a post at InfraNet Lab aboutFoodprint Toronto in which Lola Sheppard redefines the role of the architect:

A cultural, environmental and spatial detective, bringing to light the forces (economic, cultural and environmental) at work within a given geography, and the physical networks at the service of these forces.

The detective analogy is certainly appealing: I started Edible Geography in the hope of using food (in the broadest possible sense) to reveal something hidden, unexpected, or new about the world in which we live. Meanwhile, I appropriated from the discipline of geography the same idea that Lola is proposing for architecture: that both the physical landscape and the social and metaphorical world can be analysed through the (food-related) forces that shape and are shaped by them.

For the most part, that exploration is motivated by curiosity for its own sake — the same desire to see the world through fresh eyes that also inspires me (and others with the time and opportunity) to read books, visit exhibitions, travel, or make things. But I also believe that these novel perspectives can yield insights that help us to design better systems, cities, spaces, and lives. The following story is one of my favourites because it demonstrates both processes: it offers a new way of understanding the city and a speculative intervention based on those observations.

Naa Oyo A. Kwate is an Associate Professor in the Department of Human Ecology at Rutgers University. She spoke as part of the Culinary Cartography panel at Foodprint NYC, and I subsequently interviewed her for the Food issue of the New City Reader (most of the rest of this post is drawn from the resulting article).

IMAGE: Naa Oyo A. Kwate speaking as part of the Culinary Cartography panel at Foodprint NYC; photo courtesy Studio-X New York.


Jorge Rodriguez Gerada Interview via Fecal Face Dot Com

Is this OUTSIZE or what???? from FECAL FACE DOT COM

For those of you who claim size doesn’t matter, you obviously have never met or seen the art of our latest Fecal Face feature,Jorge Rodriguez Gerada. He steadily gained momentum over the years both in the scale of his work and clarity of his craft. Originally from Cuba he relocated to the United States as a toddler. After a no doubtingly interesting and fascinating childhood he began taking his art causes to the streets.

It was in the early 90’s with the art crew Artfux and Ron English, when he began crushing the streets, modifying street signs, developing “slap in the face” billboard campaigns, and using his art as a tool for the social consciousness and awareness. Since his pioneering days Jorge Rodriguez Gerada has expanded his artistic horizons, his geography and his ability to go big with incredibly photo realistic illustration on walls, streets and whatever medium he can get his hands on around the world.

In the words of a true poet Gerada says; “Charcoal fades away and becomes a memory, like the warmth after an embrace”. With that in mind, Fecal Face is proud to bring you the boundless art and ideals of Jorge Rodriguez Gerada. – Manuel Bello

“Rebel without a lung” Altered NYC billboard 1994


Art in the Street at MOCA.

Maybe we cant see this art in the street but we can view it digitally thanks to the WWW thanks to  Protein and the wonders of cloud computing

This April sees Los Angeles MOCA host Art in the Streets, an exhibition showcasing influential artists who have emerged from street culture in the context of contemporary art history. See the likes of Fab 5 FreddyLee Quiñones and Shepard Fairey as well as greats like Jean-Michel Basquiat and newcomer Blu. Covering the movement from 1970’s to present day and with dedicated sections to cholo graffiti and Dogtown skateboard culture, Art in the Streets highlights Los Angeles’ role in the evolution of street art. Alongside the exhibition see the Nike SB skate team hold demonstrations.

Art in the Streets runs from April 17 – August 8 2011 at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA.

blu: short tests painted in an abandoned factory
…trying some ideas for a new animatio

City Beautiful: Inside Out (via Encountering Urbanization)

More pics of JR’s work here from Amy on Encountering Urbanisation

City Beautiful: Inside Out Cities don't generally hide confrontation. The friction from millions of bodies, minds, and diverse beliefs in close quarters creates the energy for both innovation and conflict. While the city wears much on its sleeve,  so many stories remain untold. But a new art project promises to expose some of them – the city is a confrontational canvas exhibiting faces that might be overlooked much of the time, but have exceptional things to tell us. [capt … Read More

via Encountering Urbanization

Putting a Face to Impoverished Areas _ JR via Protein

Hows this for facing up to urban problems Protein

“Parisian guerilla street artist JR is this years TED conference winner. With his installations focusing mainly in run-down and low-income areas, JR pastes large-scale close-up images of members from that community attempting to put a human face to impoverished areas.”

“Taking this message he has collaborated with TED on Inside Out, a global art project aimed at transforming ideas of personal identity into artistic work. Anyone can upload a black and white portrait, then these images are made into posters and sent back to the individual so that others can create their own street art.”


City Beautiful: Art as map. Map as Art. (via Encountering Urbanization)

I am sure we have all been surprised by the effectiveness of Google Street View – I have used it to survey sites for projects saving time doing street front research at night when the “real” site was inaccessible and using it to locate where relatives live in London – the downside is that all the technology removes us from the sensory reality of the place – the place is more than just its “visceral image’ and without spending time and getting the feel of the place and its people we are falling into the trap of thinking we know a place from its image. Here is a different view of how we can see the impresions left by people o ntheir environment.

City Beautiful: Art as map. Map as Art. This week’s City Beautiful lets my current urban planner self wax nostalgic with my undergrad art history major self from so long ago – together we’re going to indulge in a little exploration of how cities, photography and geographic information collide into Google Street View. Street View objectively surveys a physical place for us, but the roving mechanical eye can't help but snap people and the marks they leave on their urban canvas. Let’s loo … Read More

via Encountering Urbanization

City Beautiful: Resisting Demolition (via Encountering Urbanization)

A different kind of street art – urban displacement and social unrest have always been manifested in street art

City Beautiful: Resisting Demolition This week's City Beautiful was inspired by photographs from's story of a village in Hong Kong that had protested relocation to make way for high-speed rail infrastructure. With new buildings and infrastructure for expanding  cities come human costs, which often go unheard (and sometimes uncompensated). Below are a few images from artists who perhaps didn't halt demolition, but did make some noise.    –Amy Hong Kong – After two yea … Read More

via Encountering Urbanization