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.


The Church of Bones

If you’ve ever been to Kutná Hora in the Czech Republic then chances are you’ll be familiar with their most famous tourist attraction: The Church of Bones. This is not just a name either The Church of Bones is literally made out of human bones. In the 13th century CE, a priest came home from Palestine with a pocketful of soil that he then sprinkled in the cemetery that surrounded the Chapel of All Saints. From that point on the graveyard was an overwhelmingly popular burial site (especially for aristocrats). In fact it was so popular that they quickly ran out of space so they began exhuming bodies in order to make room for newcomers. The remains that were exhumed from the graveyard were placed in the chapel. The bones grew so many that by 1870 František Rint, a woodcarver, was commissioned to use these bones as decoration for the chapel and to “create a reminder of the impermanence of human life and inescapable death”(site).This is exactly what he did.


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Even though this may seem very off topic for a history of urban development class it is a solution to aid in the functionality of this city. By means of being able to store upwards of 40,000 human remains in one chapel. Besides this, it is an undeniably beautiful (albeit creepy) piece of historical architecture that brings tourists in from all over the world. And The Church of Bones is not the only example of its kind.

Paris had a similar problem, it was such a popular city to live and die in that they too needed a solution for the large amount of human remains within the city. Therefore they built catacombs, and between the years 1786-1788 virtually all bodies in Paris were exhumed from their burial spots and placed in the catacombs. It somewhat resembles (to a lesser extent) the Church of Bones in the Czech Republic. However the catacombs hold upwards of an astonishing 6 million bodies.



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So it is easy to see that the catacombs of Paris are less artistic than the Church of Bones however both places managed to solve the same problem. They needed a new place to store or bury the exhumed bodies that were taking up all of the desirable grave plots so they found ways to not only store the remains but to turn them into points of interest for the cities themselves. Now they are seen as tourist destinations and there are people today who want to be part of these displays when they pass, which is in fact possible. Would you be interested in being a part of one of these displays?


Notes from ANTH 430 Tatiana Nomokonova. Nov. 2015


The Urban Food Revolution and its Effect on City Planning

I recently found a very interesting online presentation on the Urban Development Institute Kelowna website called The Urban Food Revolution: Changing the Way we Design Cities and created by Peter Ladner. The presentation begins with an overwhelming amount of problems that are negatively impacting our society. One of the problems that Ladner brings up is the way that we produce and consume food in today’s society. One of the first things worth mentioning here are the added health risks with the type and quantity of food we eat in a large part of the world. In Canada alone the Health Care system spent $10 billion on diabetes in the year 2000. This is projected to increase to about $17 billion by the year 2020.
Another problem brought up was unsurprisingly, pollution. It is widely known that humans create much of the co2 levels in the atmosphere that is currently causing drastic climate change all over the world. However many people are unaware that the largest producers of co2 are in fact, cows. Yet the demand for beef is so high that rain forests are being chopped down in order to make room for more cattle, even though there are many countries whose cow population outnumber the people. Some examples being: Uruguay, New Zealand, Argentina, Australia, as well as Brazil. (site) Yet the demand continues to grow.

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So what does this all have to do with Urban Planning? Well the idea of The Urban Food Revolution is that it is meant to fix these problems and more. Essentially this movement is an increased global interest in locally grown food. It has been common knowledge for a while that local organic food is better for you because of the lack of pesticides, gmo’s, sugar, and so on. Also that without these added substances our food becomes much richer in nutrients. Now according to Ladner’s presentation, besides the increased interest in natural and local food there has also been a movement of people wanting to control the growth of their own food. Therefore many governments have begun making changes to their cities . For instance it is stated that the government in Seoul, Korea would like to implement the idea of personal food-growing plots for each citizen.

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Another example Ladner used was a grocery store in London that has recently begun growing their vegetables on the roof. They are calling it ‘Food from the sky’ with the idea being that it is possible to grow and sell fruit and vegetables in a city. (site) Ladner also uses Montreal as an example as they supposedly have the world’s first commercial rooftop greenhouse called Lula Farms.

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Therefore, the whole idea behind this presentation is that hopefully cities around the world, including Kelowna, can begin implementing new ways the people to buy or produce their own local food, starting simply with garden food and hopefully moving past that to the point where each city can be self-sufficient as well as much healthier in regards to food production.



Vancouver Viaducts

Vancouver, British Columbia; it is the largest city in Western Canada. It’s captivated by diverse culture, and the ‘Western Canadian teenage dream’ wanting to move to Vancouver and smell the ocean air every day. With Vancouver population increases, and people wanting to move into the already dense downtown core, the question presents itself where will all these people live.


But Vancouver City Council is proposing a plan; knock down the Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaducts and replace it with a park, and residential buildings. The Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaducts are the far from attractive looking big concrete bridges that greet the public to the Vancouver downtown core. A viaduct is a bridge spanning across land that has large arches to support the bridge.


This plan however has received criticism from the public specifically people within that area that are concerned about an increase in traffic. However with the viaducts removal will allow for streets to connect to directly to Georgia, and allow an increased efficiency for transit in that area of the downtown core. With an even greater improvement to the already well-structure transit system in the downtown-core, will encourage the population to take transit over a car. Not only will this street connection to Georgia allow for improvements to transit, but allow for an increase in the accessibility for cycling and foot traffic.


The plan to demolish the viaducts and create green space, and more residential housing in Vancouver’s downtown core is a plan that needs to be taken seriously. This plan is about to go before Vancouver City Council in the next few weeks, and should be a contender for solving the problem of Vancouver’s growing population.

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.

Garden of Profit.

The topic for this semester’s term paper is Ebenezer Howard’s garden city movement and how his concepts have influenced urban planners over the past century. I had hoped to write a paper on how planners had intended to monetize early development of the Okanagan Valley, but time constraints and the difficulty associated with using primary sources led to a change in subject matter. However, I would like to still be able to add a little local flavour to my research paper, which is why I’ve continued some of the research into the early planning done in the Okanagan Valley. During this research it came to my attention that one of the driving forces behind early development in the valley was a gentleman from Inverness Scotland named George Grant MacKay.

During the late 1880s, while Ebenezer Howard sought inspiration for his garden city movement in the works of Howard Bellamy and Henry George, another man was also drawn to North America and its abundance of farmland (Howard briefly farmed in Nebraska during the 1870s before returning to England). However, unlike Howard, George Grant MacKay did not concern himself with social issues, such as, the uncontrolled growth of European cities and its resultant urban sprawl. Mackay was a real estate developer and land speculator that learnt of British Columbia’s burgeoning agricultural industry and its potential for development while visiting a Glasgow exhibition. After relocating his family to Vancouver, he founded a real estate company that purchased and then subdivided a large tract of land in North Vancouver. MacKay’s next investment was in the Okanagan Valley. MacKay formed the Okanagan Land and Development Company in 1890. He and a small group of investors began purchasing ranch properties in the Kelowna and Vernon area, which they then subdivided into fruit farming properties and town sites. These properties where then marketed to prospective farmers in British Columbia, as well as, in the United Kingdom. Some of my research suggests that Mackay may have been the first to recognize the developmental potential of the valley. Thereby, making him at least partially responsible for its fruit growing industry.

Ebenezer Howard and George MacKay appear to have few characteristics in common. They might even be considered polar opposites. Howard, the avid social reformist, and Mackay, the profit driven capitalist. However, the two men are not entirely dissimilar. They were both men of vision that knew how to use their connections to help accomplish their goals. Each man founded an organization that were responsible for the planning and creation of town sites. Finally, Howard and MacKay both embraced technology as one of the means by which their plans could be brought to fruition.




The fin-de-siècle period in Paris

I am writing my paper on Paris at the end of the 19th century and its urban planning, with emphasis on the 1889 exhibition and the building of the Eiffel Tower. This period is also known as fin-de-siècle Paris . In order for me to even gain the smallest grasp on my topic, I first had to gain a working definition of what the term fin-de-siècle actually meant.

The fin-de-siècle period, literally translated to end of the century–roughly the years 1880 to 1900–was characterized by great cultural and political ambivalence, an anxiety for things lost, and a longing for the new. It is characterized by a fear for society due to the idea of it being a time of degeneration, but also a feeling of hope because of the start of a new century.

The term “Fin de siècle” is most commonly associated with French artists, especially French symbolism  and was affected by the cultural awareness characteristic of France at the end of the 19th century. However, the expression is also used to refer to a European-wide cultural movement. The ideas which were developed in this period went on to greatly influence the subsequent modernist movement. The major political themes of this era were those of revolt against materialism, positivism, the bourgeois society, and liberal democracy.

The fin de siècle encompasses a broader set of concerns, social and political, that often stand in tension with aestheticism.It was also a period of great cultural change including an outpouring of intellectual responses to the conflicting times from such eminent writers as T. H. Huxley, Emma Goldman, William James, H. G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw, and Oscar Wilde. When talking about the fin-de–siècle in relation to art, the general meaning is of an artistic climate of sophistication, escapism, extreme aestheticism, world-weariness, and fashionable despair.


World Exhibitions and Urban Planning

The tradition of International Exhibitions began with the 1851 Crystal Palace Exhibition which was held in London. It expanded upon an existing European tradition of regional and national commercial fairs as well as a more recently emergent “exhibitionary complex,” enjoyed by the people of the time, comprised of museums, public monuments, panoramas, arcades, and early department stores. After this first international exhibition in 1851, exhibitions would become fixtures of European and American life, taking place every 1 to 5 years, mostly in major cities such as Paris, London, Chicago and New York. These Exhibitions became seen as symbols of a dawning culture of mass spectacle in the West, bringing together crowds of varied national backgrounds, gender, and class in a shared experience of visual consumption.

Historically, these Exhibitions had a major effect upon the Urban Planning of the city or area which is hosting the Exhibition. Nineteenth-century world’s fairs were the epitome of modern times, as were the cities that hosted them. Cities such as Paris, London, New York and Chicago were metropolitan centers that were truly examples of universal modernity during this period. These cities were cosmopolitan, financial, and cultural centres that concentrated and combined both national and international trends. World’s fairs were thus, the controlled portrayals of these cosmopolitan cores, as much as they were the cities greatest spectacles showing off the marvels of the city and its capabilities.

World exhibitions were conscious representations of what was thought to be the epitome of progress and modernity, and they were the ideal rendition of the modern city. Fairs embodied and fostered the primary components of nineteenth-century modern existence: the belief in positive, universal, and homogeneous truth; the presumption of freedom; the concept of ending history by summarizing the past and controlling the future; and the creed of nationalism as an intrinsic part of both international cosmopolitanism and economic imperialism. While in some instances the impacts of the Expos are barely visible, in other instances the strong impacts produced involves alterations to the structure and the urban forms of the city or of the wider territory in which the Expos have taken place. Exhibitions proved to be important instrument of renewal as a catalyst of urban regeneration with growing, substantial and lasting physical impact. Being that, landscapes are made by ideas as well as construction, and the last decade of the century was full of ideas about society and the city might be like in the future, the buildings created for the Expos were very cutting edge and modernistic.

Albert Speer Part III

To conclude my trilogy of Albert Speer posts, i have decided to write this blog posting on what may be the only piece of Germania that remains to this day, which, ironically, was only meant to be temporary.  This structure is called the Schwerbelastungskörper.  This basically means heavy load-bearing body. It also came to be knicknamed “the mushroom.”  What this structure is, essentially, is just a heavy piece of concrete, designed to test the stability of the soil of Berlin.  The fact that this lone structure is composed of concrete is another irony, as it is all the exists of Germania.  Considering that the main buildings of Germania were going to be constructed from heavy granite blocks, and looking at how much this Schwerbelastungskörper sunk, it seems that without a great deal of foundation planning, compacting, and further testing, Germania, as it was imagined and designed would not have been feasible, largely due to this single factor.  The plan, at the time, was just to bury the structure.  Currently, this block is a historical monument, largely due to the fact that it could not be safely blown up.  Not exactly what Hitler had envisioned.

Growth of Madrid: Puerta del Sol

My term paper focussed on the growth of Madrid throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. I really enjoyed researching for my paper because I knew nothing about Madrid before this assignment, and now I have a greater knowledge of how Madrid came to be the city that it is today!

The information that was most intriguing to me, was from Carlos Sambricio`s piece “Arcades in Early Nineteenth-Century Madrid”, and his discussions on the Puerta del Sol. It was recorded as the best known and busiest place within Madrid, and the heart of the city. As the center of the city, it was used immensely for transportation, communication, and entertainment. When it was first created, medieval suburbs began to surround the Puerta del Sol and created it to be a central meeting place from then on. Within the Puerta del Sol there are a lot of famous buildings and landmarks. For example, mounted in the square is the statue of Charles III of Spain. Such monuments create a historical feel for the lively square and in 2011, the square had been established as a focal point and a symbol for ongoing Spanish democracy. Overall, I truly enjoyed digesting all of the information on Madrid that I researched, and thought that Sambricio`s piece, “Arcades in Early Nineteenth-Century Madrid” was the most effective in describing how influential the Puerta del Sol was as the center of Madrid.