The Athens Charter: Hoogvliel and Bijlmeer

For our second essay assignment we were required to describe the extent of how the Athens Charter was implemented in the (re)construction and development of certain areas in/close to cities throughout Europe. During my research I was surprised and impressed by the extent to which the policies of the AC were implemented into the cities and areas throughout the European nations – particularly in the Netherlands (Rotterdam and Amsterdam). During and after the end of the Second World War, the Dutch naval ports and city transportation hubs were essential for the movement and transport of men and supplies – both military and civilian –  throughout Western Europe. In order to meet the growing demands for its allies, and to provide proper medical and residential aid for the beleaguered Dutch, the Netherlands underwent massive re-development and reconstruction from the destruction left behind by the Nazis occupation forces and Allied total warfare.

In his article about the urban renewal policies in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, Graff provides an in-depth description of the intense reconstruction of the city borough of Hoogvliet in the central area of Rotterdam. Throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s, Hoogvliet feel behind its neighboring regions in terms of residential housing and educational infrastructure, resulting in most of its younger citizens leaving to seek better opportunities elsewhere. Consequently, Hoogvliet was subjugated to several reconstruction programs designed to improve its educational and recreational stability. Even today these improvements play a key role in the city’s expansion as a major naval port and trade center for Rotterdam and the Netherlands in a whole.

Graff, P.F. van der (Jan. 2009). “Out of place? Emotional ties to the neighborhood in urban renewal in the Netherlands and the United Kingdoms”. Amsterdam: Vossiuspers UvA – Amsterdam University Press, XV, 313.


Soviet Silent Film: the Sins and Aspects of Humanity

On Friday October 16th, we watched a Russian silent film that was based around the worst aspects of humanity. While I was watching I couldn’t help but compare it to some of the silent films I had seen when I was younger. All the silent films I was used to were more light hearted and comedic than the Russian film. This demonstrates the difference in ideals between soviet and Western films at that time: During the late 1890’s-early 1900’s, all the Western films were produced to catch the attention of every member of society from children and teenagers to adults and elders. Even without sound or voices these films were easy to understand and caught everyone’s attention through the comedic relief of the main character(s). This seems to match the ideals towards humanity in Western society – that everyone has a goodness inside us that will emerge to help bring light to the dark. The producers and writers for the Russian film we saw in class had a different objective in mind: from the outset one could tell that the film was based around a much darker outset on life, that almost every character in the film had a dark ideal/belief/outlook on life be it greed, fear, lust and/or hopelessness. In a scene after the son Freder has a moment with Maria, he is seen praying to several statues representing the deadly biblical sins (lust, deceit, etc.) Rather than look to the blessings of God and the Holy Son, he prays to the dark spirits of life and the world to spare him and his beloved. At the same time, the father lusts for the face of Maria to be added to the robot built by his ‘trusted’ scientist-inventor; this was done against the advice of the scientist who quoted how it would cost him the most important thing he had in Hel: his son, Freder. The fact that he would commit such a thing in spite of his own son made me feel sick to the stomach; if I never see this film again in my life, it’ll be too soon.

European Infrastructure: Beauty vs. Efficiency

In the class discussion on September 24th, 2015, we examined and compared the attitude and emotions that arose with the emergence of high modernism; among these were the ideals of social and economic efficiency for modern cities and communities in the twenty-first century. At the same time we discussed the differences between the newly emerging utopian city designs during the mid/late 1800’s. I could not help but notice how this reminded me of the buildings and streets I’d seen and marveled during my trip this summer to Europe. What really set the city’s in Europe apart from each other was that a number of the these were designed to represent the national culture and style of the nation and its past monarchies; this was evident in the structure of Charles Castle and Charles Bridge (Karlov Most) in the heart of Prague. While the beauty and emotional mood of the city was breath taking, it was evident that the medieval designs did not take into account the long term efficiency for expanding markets or trade with the international community – save for tourism and historical research. In addition, a number of smaller villages and communities throughout central Europe, such as the small a town of Spreewald (between Dresden and Berlin) still rely  on small motor boats and light barges for transportation and resupply throughout the vast system of canals and island homes/businesses. However, upon further recollection of my travels through central Europe, the cities and businesses that emerged during the Reformation period were based on the concept of combining modernist design and efficiency with national artistic style and form. From the large cobble stone streets to the large open city central courts and parks, these cities were clearly designed to provide easy access to local/traveling market merchants and business dealers. I myself found these roadways and courts to be quite open and efficient for tourists and local shops in spite of the medieval designs and styles of the buildings and bridges/roadways.