Urban Anecdote does a bit of everything. If it relates to the city, we're game. Here you will find recent examples of articles, lectures, books, exhibitions and films that we've worked on.
The Granary. Food Security, Cities and Architecture is a contribution to the exhibition ‘FOOD dal cucchiaio al mondo’ undertaken by MAXXI which focuses on the architectural and spatial implications of food and food security around the world. MAXXI Museum acts as a satellite of the World Expo in Milan, themed: "Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life".
The Granary. Food Security, Cities and Architecture presents an Architectural History about how the storage and distribution of grain has been one of the main drivers of politics and the economy and has shaped our cities and landscapes since man first settled and invented agriculture thousands of years ago.
In a 20 meter long allegorical panorama, handdrawn on the double curved wall of MAXXI’s main gallery, the evolution of the granary is depicted: from central granaries in antiquity, through their successors in the warehouses and silo’s at the edges of our industrial cities to the palaces of abundance in the urban centers. But ‘The Granary’ is about more than a building type or urban form; it is first and foremost a genealogy of our answers to the problem of providing food security for an increasingly urban global community.
Urban Anecdote is currently working on the long-term project 'Urban Africa: A Handbook for New Planned Cities' with UN-Habitat and the International New Town Institute. The research was presented at Habitat III in Quito, Ecuador, in October 2016. Research for the project also informed the INTI conference Urban Africa: New Strategies for the World's Fastest Urbanizing Continent in April, 2015. The results of the research are published in To Build a City in Africa: A History and a Manual (Nai010 Publishers, 2018), co-edited by Rachel Keeton and Michelle Provoost.
About the book:
Africa’s urban future is being decided at this very moment. It already exists in master plans, policies and financing models that we cannot see. Between 2010 and 2050, Africa’s urban population is projected to increase from 400 million to 1.26 billion. Moreover, African urbanization is projected to reach 50% around 2035. The major part of this urbanization will take place by means of informal and self-organized settlements if there is not a strong commitment to plan in advance. Over the last decade, informal urbanization has become a popular topic in scholarly work. But until now, very little has been published on the most recent generation of urban extensions, new towns and cities in Africa, despite the massive social, financial, ecological, and political implications of these new developments. This book intends to address that lack of debate by presenting in-depth case studies, comparative analysis and large data sets in a clear and visually engaging manner—making this information available to the public for the very first time.
To meet new urban requirements, many African governments are turning to large-scale private development as a way to decentralize urban amenities and spread employment into rural areas, accommodate the growing middle class and attract foreign capital, escape the challenges of overcrowded existing cities and sidestep gridlocked governance. Unfortunately, this approach also has many disadvantages, as established by the International New Town Institute’s extensive research on this topic . These disadvantages can include a reliance on car-based transit, homogenous demographics and segregation, increased criminality and social tensions over time, poor land and natural resource usage, and environmental degradation. While it is certainly true that the private sector is simply reacting to a market demand for greater security, more reliable services and better amenities, the International New Town Institute together with UN-Habitat argues that planned city extensions and new town developments can proceed in a format that is more compact, better integrated and connected, socially inclusive, resilient to climate change and human rights-based. With this book, we will analyze the shortcomings of the less successful approaches as well as provide concrete examples of good practices and innovative participatory planning strategies to achieve sustainable urban development. The final chapter will summarize a clear strategy for city-makers detailing guiding principles for sustainable cities in African context. Ultimately, the goal of this book is to improve the quality of life and achieve prosperity for urban dwellers across the African continent.
Next City columns
From 2013 - 2014 Rachel Keeton wrote a bi-weekly column on urban resilience for Next City. Next City is a nonprofit media organization with a mission to inspire social, economic and environmental change in cities through journalism and events around the world.
You can find all the columns here. Topics range from an interview with floating-architecture-wunderkind Koen Olthuis to Europe's dysfunctional carbon pricing system. The columns were part of Next City's The Future of Resilience project, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation.
Verwoest Huis Leiden
Verwoest Huis Leiden is a short film by Marit Geluk profiling artist Marjan Teeuwen's sensitive installation in a hundred-year-old building scheduled for demolition. Urban Anecdote translated the film's subtitles from Dutch to English.
Throughout the Asian continent, much of the recent urbanization has come in the guise of New Towns—cities that are completely planned and built from scratch. Many countries like the Emirates, India, China and Korea use these New Towns as a tool to manipulate and control an otherwise unwieldy urbanization process. Rising in the East: Contemporary Asian New Towns examines not only the urban designs, the architectural and urban character of these New Towns, but also the intricate political, economic, and social motivations that bring them into being. The stories of these cities are wrought with political intrigue, financial corruption, ruthless displacements and spatial segregation. Their justifications are often unrecognizable to people familiar with the origins of New Town planning.
This book aims to illustrate both the opportunities and challenges that present themselves in contemporary Asian New Town planning. In doing so, Rising in the East presents a relatively immediate account of the current urbanization processes that are transforming the Asian continent. As a key part of this development, New Towns have their own sometimes tragic, sometimes spectacular stories to tell. Their histories reveal the drama behind the mundane rows of cookie-cutter housing blocks. While globalization continues to blur regional differences, it becomes imperative to ask: what can we learn from these new New Towns?
In this lecture, given at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal on August 21, 2014, Rachel Keeton describes a new development that has become a poster child for private cities springing up around the world.
Saadiyat Island is a “dreamscape” created by Tourism Development & Investment Company just half a kilometer from downtown Abu Dhabi. It is an amalgam of luxury residential areas, 5-star resorts and golf courses crowned by a Cultural District containing a hallucinatory collection of museums designed by five Pritzker Prize winners.
Is this the future of private development?
Private developers are building more like Saadiyat, where the “chaotic and compromised” city championed by Rem Koolhaas has met its match.
The Learning From… series takes its title from Learning From Las Vegas (1972), Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour’s influential publication, which analysed the commercial strips and architectural symbolism of Las Vegas in order to understand urban sprawl. In this spirit, the series brings together experts to explore specific urban conditions and their relevance to the future development of cities.
Learning from Saadiyat Island
Lecture at the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal on August 21, 2014.
Rotterdam: Story of an Open City
We worked with Crimson Architectural Historians on the film "Rotterdam: Story of an Open City", providing the voice-over and editorial input for their contribution as subcurators of the 4th International Architecture Biennale in Rotterdam (IABR), 2009.
As subcurators of the theme "The Make-able City (Rotterdam: De Maakbare Stad)" Crimson Architectural Historians offered a diptych consisting of a polemical exhibition showing the travails of the Open City in Rotterdam and the shifting positions of the architectural profession, and a pro-active project involving architects in coalitions with local stakeholders to (re)develop a number of urgent sites and programs in the city of Rotterdam. Informed by the complexity of Rotterdam as a collage of Open City types, Crimson hoped to create some facts on the ground, to show the relevance of architectural and planning practices for the social, economic and cultural development of the City.