East-West Connections Submission

I just made a submission to NZTA on the East West Connections project. There are six proposals for improving traffic (particularly freight) movements between State Highway 20 and State Highway 1. The connection route passes to the north of the Mangere Inlet. The best options are A, B, and if we’re feeling spendy, C. D is a version of C that proposes the Te Hopua crater be finally obliterated in favour of easier on- and off-ramps for SH20. Options E and F are appalling and iredeemably bad proposals to run a motorway along the entire foreshore. They would obliterate Te Hopua, desecrate the Waikaraka Park Cemetery (currently quietly tucked alongside the water under mature pohutukawas, it would become an island between two noisy, smelly freight corridors), and sever forever any possibility of a connection to the water or the foreshore. The Council’s page linked above says the Options were developed out of a process that considered:

transport performance, cost and constructability, urban design, social, natural environment, human health, cultural and heritage.

It’s very hard to believe that anything but the first of these was considered in Options E and F. It doesn’t instil confidence in the process that these two options even reached the table.

There’s still a day to get a submission in.

The lunar frigidity of electric light: atmosphere and infrastructure in Haussmann’s Paris

In his Arcades Project (1999), Benjamin cites Georges Laronze:

“The visual effect was thus very striking, with the swirling branches of the fifty-six great streetlights along the avenue, the reflections from the surfaces below, and the flickering of flames from the five hundred thousand jets of gas” (128-29).

And Georges Montorgueil:

“A dreamlike setting, where the yellowish flickering of the gas is wedded to the lunar frigidity of electric light” (562).

Light exemplifies the relationship between atmosphere and infrastructure in Haussmann’s Paris. Atmosphere and infrastructure, while seeming to belong to two different worlds, are actually two sides of the same coin.

Benjamin, W. (1999). The Arcades Project. Harvard University Press: Cambridge.

Failed Architecture

Failed Architecture, with its studies of urban decay and quixotic hopes, has been on a roll recently. I’ve enjoyed Celeste Olalquiaga’s Tropical Babel on a helical tower in Caracas that became “a black sun, radiating inconspicuous state control, detention, and surveillance”; Barbara Prezelj’s description of Jože Plečnik’s abandoned Ljubljana stadium, which now hosts allotment gardens; and The Sudden Death of Cambodia’s Homegrown Modernism, in which Alexander Doerr visits Kep, where ruined villas in the jungle attest to an interrupted local modernism. And there’s plenty more good stuff in the archives.

Severe models — Le Corbusier and Addis Ababa, 1936

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SEVERE MODELS — LE CORBUSIER AND ADDIS ABABA, 1936

At Failed Architecture, Rixt Woudstra writes about Le Corbusier’s sketch proposal for Addis Ababa. The drawing was sent to Mussolini in 1936, a manifesto for the modernist city:

“Le Corbusier’s sketch shows Addis Ababa literally as a tabula rasa: the rigorously superimposed plan cleared the land of all signs of humanity and centuries of urban culture. In his letter, Le Corbusier described his drawing perfectly by writing that he was attracted by “…models so severe, that one might think the colony was a space without time, and therefore, without history, and without any particular geographical meaning.” Further in his letter he added: “…the city is direct dominion; the city becomes the city of government, in which the Palace of the Governor must stand overall…””

The drawing is a perfect example of what I’m writing about currently as the ‘unified city model’, in which the city is treated as a single integrated entity, in keeping with an emerging “techno-cosmopolitanism… an understanding that society must be constructed, planned, and organised through art and science… the operationalisation of history, society, and culture” (Rabinow, 1996: 59). The allegiance between fascist ideas of governance and organic or unified models of the city is more than superficial. Once the city is imagined as a single entity, it’s not a big step to understand its purpose and ends solely in terms of the will of its rulers.

Rabinow, P. (1996). Essays on the anthropology of reason. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.