Places don’t have DNAs – living organisms do

DNAby Ares Kalandides

I recently came upon a very interesting (and in my opinion also very useful) document, the World Towns Framework, which begins with the following: “We shall support the unique characteristics of each town and urban district, the ‘DNA of place’, to engage communities, businesses and institutions in driving forward their future, and to address the plural and distinctive set of challenges facing these unique places.”

There are several issues I could raise here (e.g. does each town really have unique characteristics or is it the blend of characteristics that is unique? are communities, business and institutions players of the same level or are they different types of categories?), but today I’d like to ponder only the ‘DNA of place’. It is an expression that bothers me and always has.  Continue reading

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How Night Mayors Harness the Power of Cities After Dusk


by Valentin Schipfer

Slowly but surely cities around the globe realize that there might be a slight relation between a vivid night club scene and a flourishing creative industry, including tech start-ups. The global competition for these promising economic branches is the reason why more and more cities take a cue from the pioneering work done by the first Night Mayor in Amsterdam. His task: Acting as a liaison between the needs of night owls and the ones of workers and sleepers. Continue reading

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Ten Take-Aways from the World Cities Summit 2016

2016-07-12 17.04.02

By Renard Teipelke

It is for sure not comprehensive to distill ten take-aways from the World Cities Summit, which takes place every two years, brings together more than 1,000 delegates, and is co-hosted together with the International Water Week and the Clean Enviro Summit, in addition to the City Solutions Expo, which is visited by 8,000 people. But we have to start somewhere, and this is my proposition of some relevant messages from the summit synthesized along four major themes: Continue reading

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Communities of exclusion: Some thoughts on the concept of community

IMG_5226by Ares Kalandides

A bizarre piece of news caught my attention recently: A Kosovarian family was allegedly denied citizenship in Switzerland, not for failing to comply with the formal requirements, but for not adapting to the local norms. The transgressions (according to the article) were that the family wore tracksuits instead of jeans and that they did not greet people in passing. If this is true, it sheds a strange light on the very concept of community, which thus appears inward-looking, conservative and exclusive.

Indeed, I find it increasingly difficult to think of the concept in other terms and I believe we should be careful if we want to use it in any meaningful way. Community, the way I understand it, is first of all a group of people who share something – an idea, a common feature or a place[1].   Continue reading

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How public is public space?

Sowohlalsauch Delikatessen in Sredzkistrasse in Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin.

Sowohlalsauch delikatessen in Sredzki Strasse in Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin.

by Ares Kalandides

A signature list is being passed around in my Berlin neighbourhood around Kollwitzplatz in Prenzlauer Berg. We’re asked to sign against the regulations by the local borough of Pankow on how to use public space. Cafés and restaurants obviously have permits to use the pavement for their tables and chairs, and so do other businesses that use it to present their ware. All businesses pay a fee to the local borough for the right to use that space and it all makes good sense – until now. But all of a sudden, it seems that the administration is going through a phase of overregulatory frenzy:

Continue reading

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Ten Take-Aways from the Last Day of the Metropolitan Solutions Conference 2016

Metropolitan Solutions 2016 (, Apr'16)By Renard Teipelke

While there is always a breadth of thematic areas and topics that is represented and discussed during the Metropolitan Solutions Conference (particularly as it coincided with the German Habitat Forum this year), I would like to provide ten (not necessarily related) take-aways that I found most relevant or revealing regarding the current state of integrated urban development. Continue reading

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Naples: The anti-tourist city

IMG_5389by Ares Kalandides

I’m not often a tourist – a real tourist I mean. I usually travel to places for work or in order to meet friends. But last week I visited Naples in Italy for the third time in my life, as a common tourist. Just four days of sightseeing, eating and enjoying doing nothing in particular. Of course I could not avoid observing things around me that got me thinking about authenticity, place management, tourist promotion etc. Here are some initial thoughts that would need to be developed further in order to make any meaningful contribution to urban studies: Continue reading

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An Implementation Critique of Jan Gehl’s “Cities for People”

Jan Gehl Cities for People (belik13, Aug'14)By Renard Teipelke

In 2010, Danish architect and urban design thinker Jan Gehl compiled his profession’s key urban design principles and convictions in the well-received book “Cities for People”. I like the way he describes how the planning and development of urban spaces should be done and I can easily underwrite most of his statements/conclusions about how cities can be supportive or detrimental to urban dwellers’ lives.

Underscoring the importance of quality urban space and a human dimension of cities; correcting an often wrong perception by practitioners of the relation between human senses and dimensions in cities (human scale versus car scale); and proposing numerous solutions for achieving a lively, safe, sustainable, and healthy city – Gehl makes valid points against modernist planning theory and practice. For him, city planning and development should combine “life, space, buildings”, and prioritize them in that order. His “city at eye level” contributes to a people-centered perspective on how urban space can truly function. Nevertheless, I think one can formulate a critique against his propositions by putting them to a reality check and discussing their implementation side – because, even a good book should not be spared a critical discussion. Continue reading

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Further Densification – Are They Ready for This?

2015_10_06_Apartment (Fort Bonifacio) (27) KK Best OfBy Renard Teipelke

Eight out of the 30 most densely populated cities of the world are located within Metro Manila, Philippines (here). Number 30 is Makati City with about 19,000 people per square kilometer. Number 1 is Manila City with about 43,000 people per square kilometer. Metro Manila consists of 17 cities/municipalities and has a population between 12 million (“National Capital Region” – NCR) and 24 million (“total urban area” including the urban agglomeration beyond the NCR boundary). The NCR accounts for more than one third of Philippines’ gross domestic product and is the country’s center for basically everything – from government and politics to economy and culture. Continue reading

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Key Messages from the ICLEI Resilient Cities Asia-Pacific Forum in Melaka, Malaysia, March 2016

2016_03_03_Malaysia - Melaka - ICLEI RCAP (2)

By Renard Teipelke

The following are a couple of key messages and interesting thoughts from the ICLEI Resilient Cities Asia-Pacific Forum, held in Melaka, Malaysia, 2-4 March 2016.

On capacities and partnership:

  • There will always be trade-offs for convincing actors to join your effort.
  • Youth are not only leaders of tomorrow, they are also leaders of today.
  • You need to build the capacity of people before they will listen and engage.
  • Use smart monitoring – engage stakeholders, as they provide the feedback service at no cost.
  • Mayors better use the youth, as they are a strong force.
  • Pay attention to capacitate several departments, as often qualified city staff is leaving to new opportunities.
  • We should rather talk about mistakes: Not what we have delivered informs others, but what we have learned.

Continue reading

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