Antwerp and the Dream of the Future

The title City of the Future has recently turned into something of a buzz word in itself. It is also a cathegory in which almost all european cities compete fevershly. The big dream is a mystical bridge between a glorious past and a dynamic future, but what is that bridge and how to build it seems to still be a trade secret.

In the 16th century Antwerp rose to the status of the richest city on Earth, accounting for more than 40% of the world trade. Profitable economy and perceptive politics put the city forward and used the financial fortunes to foster culture, arts, crafts and among them also architecture. With a shining past like this, today the city reaches for a new title – “city of tomorrow”. When a bridge steps that high at the beginning, where does it  lead to? Since its Golden Age Antwerp has suffered some setbacks, but today seems to be a different day.

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The Broken Heart of Rotterdam

Between 1940 – 1943 Rotterdam was throughly bombed by the nazi army to become the worst damaged city during the WWII. The city looses over 26 000 homes and 6 000 other buildings and receives the name of “stad zonder hart” (dutch for “city without a heart”). In recent years Rotterdam has been praised as “the city of the future” and “world class center of architectural innovation”.

It is fascinating to observe how some places, such as Mostar or Berlin, which were once torn by war, never really recover, while others seem to thrive and find new life from the ashes. But how does a city go from “heartless” to an architectural gem?

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The Mortifying Powers of Tourism

More people travel for pleasure today than any other time in history. Mass tourism is not a new term anymore and it seems it is not one we are going to forget any time soon either. The number of tourist only increases from year to year, everywhere around the world. Due to overcrowding however, the most beautiful and spectacular places of the planet become unpleasant to visit. With their presence, too many people turn a unique place into a deserted and meaningless territory. Since in recent years the digital domain becomes ever so large and all-encompassing, speculations suggest that it might in the near future be able to substitute many physical environments and needs such as shopping or communication. This post focuses on the link between the digital and physical in travelling and tourism – what are the dependencies between the two domains and how do they influence each other.

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Cities and Memory

One of the most peculiar and mysterious features of a city has to be the way it collects, stores and shares its memories. Memories of big and small events, moments of  personal drama or of national upheaval, someones and everyone’s stories seem to intertwine in the curious fabric we call a city’s identity.

A city’s memory can be its greatest charm. Walls soaked up in love and romance smell of perfume and lure lovers century after century. Memory of power empowers and memory of courage inspires. Other times this memory might be the one poison slowly draining the life out of a city until it remains all but a memory itself. Some city’s strong and glorious past prevent them jealously from having a future while others, heavy under the weight of their history seek for a different tomorrow of forgetfulness and hope, thus risking their identity and purpose. And then there is the third type – the cities with artificially induced memory. Those cities which were built to represent something they are not. They stay frozen in time as in a never ending coma and leave their visitors with a sense of unease and confusion – for even a beautiful lie remains a lie and it is very difficult to built a future upon an unsteady ground.

Studying cities I am studying the ways a past can define a present or how it can forbid it. How something so temporary as a feeling can become something as eternal as a city and how it is the small stories that contribute to the big history of us.

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Gossips from the Jordaan

This is a story about the everyday lives of every street’s buildings. The happiness and worries of those most prominent residents, who don’t even have a name, but we sweetly call them home.

One of the main reasons why we love cities is because in their royal slowness, they are also so dynamic. Every city changes with its residents, new neighbourhoods pop up, old ones change and so on. One of Europe’s (and not only!) most charming move is the transformation of previously poor and downtrodden areas by artists. As the story goes – a district on the lower end of the spectrum catches the attention of local artists and young people for its low rent prices. The new life in the area inspires many new activities and soon it is the hip place to be.With people on the move, the entire districts changes, but it is only the architecture that remains the same. All the way from Oslo’s Grünerløkka to Berlin’s Kreuzberg, we all know about the social policies that changed their status and the economical aspect to it.  This time, we’re looking into the architectural side of the question to see what do buildings have to say about that shift. The following is a conversation we happened to overhear at a street in de Jordaan – Amsterdam’s hippest district, which almost got demolished after WWII for the bad smells of its canals, but now is a blossoming tulip in the capitals garden with property prices sky rocketing.

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Split : The Struggle to be One

The Death of an almost eternal city comes with its recognition for UNESCO, or so say the residents of the city of Split, Croatia.

In my previous posts on the series Space in and out of Time I commented briefly on the phenomenon that this specific city of cultural significance exhibits and this time I would like to focus a bit more thorough on the lessons and threats that this precedent teaches and predicts.

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