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Cities and spaces

2012/03/02

Although called the footloose industry financial activities traditionally tend to concentrate in cities. Places such as New York, London, Tokyo and Hong Kong are among the latest ones in a long series of historic examples dating back to the big trading places of antiquity in Babylonia, Egypt and Phoenicia and, much later, the Italian fairs in Lucca, Genoa, Venice and Florence.

Financial activities are an important element of world cities, large urbanised regions with a high density of economic activity and flows of money, workers, commodities and information whose influence is stretching far beyond national boundaries. In contrast to widespread expectations, the rise of information technology seemed to reinforce the tendency of financial agglomeration by creating unforeseen dependences on the built environment as well as a rising rather than declining need for personal contacts, information and expertise.

Beside fulfilling their function as providers of financial services financial centres have a strong symbolic dimension. They live on myths and create their own myths. In our imagination, they are crowded places, full of energy, where fabulous fortunes are made overnight, only to be destroyed by ruinous greed the next day, where skyscrapers signal might and power, and influential men and institutions decide the fate of the world.

Financial industry myths and city myths overlap. To a large extent the attractiveness of financial centres is determined by social and cultural influences and by a general view of what makes a city. With the rise of huge non-financial agglomerations in many parts of the world city myth influences are becoming stronger and, at the same time, our imagination of cities is increasingly shaped by other, new concepts and ideas. On the other hand, perceptions of cities and places are also influenced by people spending an ever increasing amount of time in what Marc Augé in his influential little book has called non-places.

The links in this category are a rather eclectic compilation of contributions from many different sources approaching the question of what determines a financial centre and how cities and places are perceived from different angles.

The following are the latest examples I came upon in my twitter timeline.

Thinking Cities (made by Ericsson as part of their Networked Society series). This short film is about city research and urban projects showing how cities will drive global change. From the introduction: “Cities are the future, and innovations to make them better, smarter, and faster are happening every day.” (Co.Exist, Fast Company, PARS International Corp.)

New Learning from the past: In History of urbanism in the 20th century in 10 videos Ateneo Naider posted “10 pieces that draw a selective and incomplete … picture of some of the main ideas that influenced how cities were thought, designed and built in the 20th  century” showing, among others, Lewis Mumford on the city, a 1939 Documentary on From Farms to Factories and Jane Jacobs on Neighborhoods in Action. Via @manufernandez.

New Some cities pose special challenges. See Venice Backstage: “Venice is not just a stage set. It is also a city with a resident population, which has productive activities, transportation and services. But how does the “Venice system” work? How do the tides in the lagoon behave? How are the canals formed? And the embankments? What’s under the buildings?” (directed by Nicolò Scibilia, motion graphics: pholpo, produced by Insula spa, operational division of Venice Municipality).

New One aspect of places and spaces is connectivity. There is a very nice post by Ben Schmidt about Visualizing Ocean Shipping, via @MSagebiel

Cities evoke emotions and memories. The following text is a good example:

A Love Letter for London (by Laurie Penny) via Berfrois (@berfrois)

Asia is probably the continent where currently  the most impressive contrasts and most rapid city developments –  with all positive and negative side effects –  can be seen.  Watch the following examples:

Video: China’s Ghost Cities   (by SBS Dateline) “Vast cities are being built across China at a rate of ten a year, but they remain almost uninhabited ghost towns. It’s estimated there are 64 million empty apartments.“ h/t Franz Traussnig (@offwitz)

Photo Essay: The Smog That Ate Beijing  by Sean Gallagher, a Beijing-based photojournalist, specializing in covering environmental issues in Asia.  h/t Franz Traussnig (@offwitz)

Video: The largest migration in history  (The Economist) “Migration from inland villages to coastal cities has transformed China. Now that is changing, as regional cities inland become the new focus of migration patterns.”

Photos: Tokyo Gate Bridge or Dinosaur Bridge by Lee Chapman, “a long-term resident of Tokyo who arrived in 1998 for ‘a year or two’, and, for a plethora of reasons, stayed put”. He is running one of my favourite sites, Tokyo Times.

And here the contrast – a world without cities: Drive Across Mongolia in 4 Minutes – 11 days in a 1.2L Fiat Panda to get from the Russian border to the capital city of Ulaanbaatar (by Spots Unknown)

For more have a look at my link list.

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