Living A Better Life: Review of the Exhibit Uneven Growth

As Pedro Gadanho said in his review of the exhibition workshop, with resources becoming more limited, rising inequality in urban areas will be one of the greatest trials faced by societies across the planet. [1] City authorities, economists, sociologists, and urban planners are increasingly concerned about this problem. Yet, given the immerse tasks ahead, it remains unusual that critical and visionary response to the challenges of an ever-expanding imbalanced urbanization are shared with a wider audience.

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Photo Resource: MoMA.org

The exhibition seems arranged in a tone with open discussion. Among the specific projects with six distinct metropolis cities, it is more like to provide sustainable development plans than stress the present crisis we are facing. Compared to several radical exhibitions focus on urban issues, which is aim to show a concern for the human future, the Uneven Growth is practical and operable with an enormous amount of concrete examples.

“…So what will occur is that people will convert those spaces, which may in fact involve them in some kind of illegal activities, into housing that they can afford to live in. They go into that vacant house because they don’t have any other possibility to create a house. They use their physical abilities what we refer to as sweat equity, as oppose to the financial equity that they lack, in order to create spaces for themselves.”  

– Frank Morales

Cohabitation Strategies

Through a twenty-four-minutes-long documentary titled Uneven Growth NYC, which is produced by Cohabitation Strategies, we get to realized the Cohabitation Strategies is adressing the ongoing uneven development across New York City’s boroughs by exposing— through local narratives— the economic, social and spatial inequalities mirrored in the unprecedented housing crisis. “The narratives describe the experiences of local advocates for housing justice —citizens, activists, artists, writers, community organizers, academics and urban experts. ” [2]Professor David Harvey, the author of Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution, was also in that film as project advisor. They reveal the other New York City by exposing some of the agents and outcomes of illegal conversions, homelessness, foreclosures, land values, vacancies and re-zoned inner city areas.

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Photo Resource: MoMA.org

There is a map full of data, Axonometric view of Queens, New York with Housing Cooperative Trusts and Community Growth Corporations, on the right wall of Uneven Growth NYC film. On the film’s left side are a great number of photographs shows how the cooperative housing trust worked in real life. We see two young couples and their children shared a two-bedroom apartment with a single individual in Jackson Heights, Queens and a view toward the kitchen area in a three-quarter house – a one –and two family house that rents beds to single adults in East New York, Brooklyn. From the data wall we know that there are as many as 200,000 illegaly-converted apartments in New York City. Interiors of existing units, as well as cellars, attics and industrial spaces are subdivided into smaller spaces.

“…Urban administrations have often forced to supply public goods (Such as affordable public housing) to an urbanized working class. While these public spaces and public goods contribute mightly to the qualities of the commons, it takes political action on the part of citizens and the people to appropriate them or to make them so.”

– David Harvey

Instant Palm Tree and CoBoGo!

Personally say, the most interesting part of the exhibition is the Varanda Products in a map of Rio de Janeiro’s street. The Rio de Janeiro Unit is represented by Street Architects, Peter Évora and Pedro Rivera, who worked in partnership with the advanced master’s degree in architecture at ETH Zurich. Inspired by the self- processes of Rio’s favelas, the team developed a series of products dedicated to stimulate new forms of appropriation of spaces in the city, whether public or domestic. The ideas are presented through a city panorama with 12 meters long, fully drawn on cad. [3]Designs are available to run by the people themselves, who can download their designs or submit new ideas through the site Balcony Products or Support swissnex Brazil.

“Proposed Varanda Products are replicated across neighborhoods: covered walkways and escalators connect outdoor spaces; water collectors and reservoirs provide sustainable local water supplies. Implementation of these urban goods ranges from the domestic to the urban scale, bridging spatial divides and promoting coexistence. “ [4] Varanda Products promote the carioca way of life, bringing nature and the city, the individual and the community closer together. In a world dominated by the logic of the market, users decide how the city evolves; it is up to them to choose a better, more balanced future.

There are 22 Varanda Products are introduced detailed in the exhibition. Each of the pieces has a text description in a short animation. There is also a look book that describes the principle of the products. Two of my favorite art piece is called Instant Palm Tree and CoBoGo. Through the look book we can see how smart to use CoBoGo as building structure in Rio. According to Marcio Kogan’s definition, the design of CoBoGo let the light of the abundant tropical sun falls on the white volume of the top floor of the house, penetrating the holes of the hollowed elements and covering the floor of the interior space. Thus, the design of spatialized lace is formed from the shadows and solar rays. The effect is multiplied throughout the ambient, making a construction from the light itself. “Throughout the days, throughout the months, the hollowed-out elements take on different forms with the incidence of the sun; at night, this effect once again is transformed; in a continuous process of metamorphosis, its form changes from the light. ”[5]

Both of the products are designed to make fast shade for people to cool down such an area in a tropical city. The idea of the products is close to the Rebar’s notion of the Niche Spaces and Urban Tactical in Blaine Merker’s article Taking Place. [6]The motivation of the product is also very similar to the Rebar’s Par(ing) project. Park(ing) identified the metered parking space as just such a niche within the urban landscape, and redefined it as a fertile terrain for creative social, political, and artistic experimentation. It was only through the replication of this tactic and its adoption by others that a new kind of urban space was measurably produced. Similarly, the existence of instant palm trees is also because the product creates the value of niche space that people in outside need to cool down.

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Photo Credit: Yuan Ge

The significance of the exhibition is far more than it is capable to provide the cities crisis with immediate and effective help. It supplies reason for hope about the future – no matter how the situation is bad; there is always something we can do to make people living a better life.

Resource:

[1] Pedro Gadanho, “Urban Case Studies: Uneven Growth Workshops” 20 Feb 2014. PostAtMoMA. <http://post.at.moma.org/content_items/399-urban-case-studies-uneven-growth- workshops>

[2] COHSTRA, “Uneven Growth NYC” < http://www.cohstra.org/?portfolio=uneven-growth >

[3] “Rio De Janeiro: RUA Arquitetos + MAS Urban Design”, ETH Zurich <http://uneven-growth.moma.org/tagged/latin-america>

[4] “Rio De Janeiro: RUA Arquitetos + MAS Urban Design”, ETH Zurich <http://uneven-growth.moma.org/tagged/latin-america>

[5] Marcio Kogan (2014) “Cobogó House ” 13 Oct 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 01 Dec 2014.<http://www.archdaily.com/?p=175686>

[6] Jeffery H (2010) Insurgent Public Space: Guerrilla Urbanism and the Remaking of Contemporary Cities, London: Routledge