Technological abundance in modern cities often deludes us into thinking that surely everywhere, people have enough food and shelter. And yet even within the same city living conditions can vary dramatically, and in an even more pronounced way between countries. By 2050 it looks like we’ll have 9 billion people breathing, three people for every two breathing now. Bear in mind most of those will live in cities, while checking the urban thermometers below.
Part I : New York City
“The ‘Broken Window’ theory states that unapprised disorder is a sign that noone cares and actually invites both further disorder and more serious crime, and has been a cornerstone of the New York City Mayor’s governing and crime fighting strategies. ”
Is the window actually broken? Though stylised hip-hop graffiti has flowed the world over, NYC remains as a kind of centre of gravity for it all. In 2003 graffiti almost seems a natural part of the urban landscape, and mostly unthinkable as a punishable crime, let even considered a ‘broken window’ or ugliness / vandalism. In their book ‘Broken Windows’ – documenting the history of NYC graffiti, authors James & Karla Murray have taken the time to extensively map it’s rise and development, exploring aesthetic techniques, social / cultural histories and society’s changing perceptions of graf. Text is juggled of course, alongside 180 full colour, wide-style pages which offer a heavily saturated panoramic (and often fold-out) excursion into the artform draped all over the walls, subways and trains of NYC.
Most of the book’s words belong to graf writers themselves, chunky quotes resonating beside spreads of the graf pieces themselves. This lends a friendly, community feel to the book, with the collective voices echoing each other’s passion, excitement, and perspectives. The anecdotes also trace the edges of an ongoing battle between authorities and artists about the legitimacy of graf, and the legalities of art, property & public space. With page after page of quotes and spreads, it’s hard not to be swept away, caught in the fever of adding colour to the everyday, of transforming urban decay, the play of the spray.
Part II : The Rest of The World
On a more literal tip, Habitat for Humanity International have created an actual ‘Slum theme park’ ( see www.habitat.org ), with the aim of showing tourists a look at the world’s worst slums. Habitat are a US based Christian ministry dedicated to eliminating poverty housing, with it’s founder Millard Fuller keen to expose Americans to the problems in other countries as well as environmentally and culturally appropriate housing solutions. What’s it like to visit?
“You’ll come out of the (Habitat) center and walk right into a slum. You’ll see the kind of pitiful living conditions so many people in the world have.” After touring mock slums from Africa, Asia and Central America, visitors to the Global Village will see examples of the modest homes Habitat builds in those regions.
“You see what a steep improvement acceptable housing makes in someone’s life. We think we’ll recruit a lot of volunteers this way,” Fuller said.
In the 6-acre attraction, guests travel to the Habitat homes of 15 countries in Africa, Asia and Central America and participate in hands-on activities such as brick and tile making. Hosts and guides describe the lives and customs of families around the world and re-create scenes with guests that include tribal welcomes in Ghana or villager meetings in Fiji. Demonstration Habitat homes include a hurricane-resistant stone home in Haiti, a Guatemalan house of concrete and steel, a pressed-earth brick home in Kenya and a wood home on stilts in Papua, New Guinea. The village eventually will expand to 35 houses, including those from poor European and South American regions, all with different building styles that demonstrate housing solutions. Since 1976 with its affiliates in 3,000-plus communities and 87 nations, Habitat has built more than 125,000 homes with partner families with no-profit, zero-interest mortgages.