Archive for February, 2010

February 26th, 2010

Frutti, merci e pesci! Markets in Catania

Posted in Europe, Society and Culture by Daniel Corbeil

DCORBEIL | Rose sur Azur

DCORBEIL | Bloody morning

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February 26th, 2010

Delhi Steps Towards the Future

Nothing embodies the way India is modernising like the Delhi Metro. Opened in 2002, the system’s clean, marble floored stations and smooth, linked-carriage trains rival those of the most developed cities across the road.

The network has changed city life. Destinations that once took hours to get to on the traffic clogged roads can now be reached in just a few minutes. Parts of the sprawling city that you’d once never consider visiting are suddenly easy to discover.

For some the metro has offered even more radical changes. A lady in a bright sari stands at the base of the metro escalator. She peers forwards at the moving steps with a look of terror on her face, shuffling slowly towards them then backing away. She is confronting the modern world perhaps for the first time. She reaches out with her foot towards the step, but then changes her mind and backs away to the stairs. She will remain traditional a little while longer.

While Hong Kong’s rush into the future means sweeping away much of the past, in Delhi something different is happening. The city is becoming stretched between the very modern and the still thriving traditional cultures.

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February 25th, 2010

Moving on from Fort Point

Posted in Art and Design, Society and Culture, United States by Christopher Szabla

The bridge where Summer Street crosses over A is literally the bowels of Fort Point, the shadowy bottom of a neighborhood where buildings reach different heights depending where they meet the grade of the street. In October, the underside of the bridge was covered in rainbow-colored, neon slinkys. Closer to the holiday season, it was bedecked in the brilliant illumination of hundreds of blue lights.

A block away, prints by Shepard Fairey — infamously arrested last year for promoting his show at the Institute of Contemporary Art, just a stone’s throw from Fort Point, with a guerilla street art installation — cover an abandoned diner, and ghostly photo portraits intermittently stare from walls.

This prevalence of open-air art — not even counting what’s in the neighborhood’s galleries and studio spaces — give one the impression that Fort Point’s art scene is thriving. But stroll just a few feet from the Summer Street bridge and a pair of homemade, laser-printed posters bearing the logo of the Fort Point Artist Community proclaim it an “endangered neighborhood”.

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February 24th, 2010

New Home, New Roof

Posted in Asia Pacific by Christopher DeWolf

Last October I moved to a new apartment — and with a new apartment comes to a new roof to explore. Unfortunately, my new building’s rooftop is far from spacious, with just two narrow platforms accessible through the fire stairs. Ladders lead up to two higher platforms, one atop the elevator shaft and another on top of what I assume is the water tank. The only things up there are satellite dishes, antennae and mobile phone receptors, which makes for a kind of depressing space. There isn’t even room to dry laundry.

There are, however, some pretty good views. To the east, there’s Langham Place and the highrise jungle of central Mongkok. To the east, there’s a view down Argyle Street towards Ma On Shan, one of Hong Kong’s tallest peaks, and to the west, a view over the Diocesan Boys’ School towards Kowloon Tong and the Lion Rock.

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February 21st, 2010

Hong Kong Street Art Goes Political

In a winter marked by rallies and protests, young people unhappy with Hong Kong’s government are taking to the streets in more ways than one. Over the past year, Hong Kong’s street artists have left their mark with posters, stickers and stencil graffiti that attack some of the city’s most prominent politicians and business leaders.

The most recent example is a poster of Henry Tang Ying-yen, modelled on Barack Obama’s now-legendary “Hope” campaign poster, that depicts the government’s chief secretary laughing, with horns on his head and the Chinese character for “kill” branded on his forehead. “Devil” is written at the bottom, in English, along with a short phrase in Chinese: “Political reform killer.”

The poster, which first appeared in the streets last December, is the work of local street art crew Start from Zero, which until now has been known more for its black-and-white stencil art and t-shirt designs than for biting political commentary.

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February 21st, 2010

White Nights on Sharia Talaat Harb

Photo by Vyacheslav Argenberg / VascoPlanet

It’s two in the morning on Talaat Harb Street, the heart of downtown Cairo, and the sidewalks are sclerotic. People shuffle slowly past shop windows exploding with merchandise. An intense white light beams across the thoroughfare. Avoiding hawkers thrusting t-shirts in their faces, trying to lure them to clothes and sneakers piled in tables approximately every ten feet along the way, the throngs spill out onto the street, taking control most of the roadway, permitting only a lane or two for a line of taxis to proceed.

The scene doesn’t suggest it, but suburban flight is no stranger to Cairo. Its well-to-do are increasingly leaving the city center for suburban villas in the desert to the east, may now prefer to shop in tonier Heliopolis, or the cavernous (and, crucially, air-conditioned) City Stars Mall. Even a seemingly more entrenched presence, the American University, has largely decamped to a vast new McCampus on the city’s outskirts.

None of this seems to have affected the density of the crowd along Talaat Harb.

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February 20th, 2010

What Colour for Montreal’s Taxis?

Posted in Art and Design, Canada, Transportation by Christopher DeWolf

New York is yellow, London black, Hong Kong red (and green and blue, but let’s not complicate things). What colour will Montreal be? After years of wrangling with the taxi commission, Montreal’s government has finally reached an agreement that will see all of the city’s taxis adopt a uniform livery. The transition could be complete within six years. At this point, however, nobody has yet decided on what that livery will look like.

You might think that the colour of a city’s taxis is something trivial. You’d be wrong. With 4,500 licenced taxis in Montreal — about one for every 400 people, a denser concentration than many cities, including cab-crazy New York — they represent one of the city’s most ubiquitous pieces of design. Since taxis are always passing by, how they look affects how the city as a whole looks, and their livery can become the city’s most easily-identifiable visual symbol.

There are a handful of cities whose taxi liveries have become inextricably tied to their civic sense of self. New York and its yellow cabs is the most obvious example, but there’s also Madrid, which has white taxis with a red stripe, and Tokyo, whose green-and-yellow and sky-blue-and-grey-checkers taxis once inspired a line of Nike shoes. Though its taxi liveries vary from company to company, Toronto has a surprising penchant for bright oranges, reds and yellows.

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February 19th, 2010

Swiss Lane: Still Mysterious

Posted in Art and Design, Canada, Heritage and Preservation, History, Maps by Christopher DeWolf

Last year, after returning from Montreal, I posted about a Mile End alley with a strange name that doesn’t appear anywhere in the city’s official toponymical records. Nobody has yet come forward with an answer as to how Swiss Lane got its name, but one Flickr user, DubyDub2009, did a bit of extra research and found that Swiss Lane used to be even longer than it is today.

In a map dated 1949, Swiss Lane is shown running two blocks, from St. Dominique to de Gaspé. Today it runs only between St. Dom and Casgrain. At some point, probably in the 1950s, a small factory was built on the lane’s eastern half. But the street signs were never changed to reflect this fact, so the one sign of Swiss Lane’s existence still points towards the long-vanished eastern part of the alley.

February 18th, 2010

Aero Diptych

Posted in Canada, Interior Space by Karl Leung

Photographed a couple years ago while en route to Calgary from Pearson International Airport in Toronto. I love how the pilot’s silhouette is so well defined and yet the idea of multiple existences in time and space is very much alive. If you’re viewing with a calibrated display you’ll enjoy subtleties like aqua pastel tones.

February 17th, 2010

Summering in Lunenburg

Posted in Architecture, Canada by Karl Leung

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February 15th, 2010

Three Months Till Beach Weather

Posted in Asia Pacific, Public Space by Christopher DeWolf

Shek O Beach, Hong Kong

It’s a drizzly, damp 10 degrees in Hong Kong right now. Not ideal for going to the beach. By mid-May, though, when the variable weather of spring gives way to the muggy heat of summer, places like Shek O will beckon once again.

Shek O Beach, Hong Kong

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February 14th, 2010

‘Round the Side Entrance

Posted in Canada by Karl Leung

Theatre patrons, Toronto, 2004

February 13th, 2010

One Minute in Little Vancouver

Posted in Canada, Video by Christopher DeWolf
YouTube Preview Image

With the Olympics industry a-churning and global media attention now devoted to Vancouver, at least for the next two weeks, this tilt-shift time-lapse video might make a good introduction to the city for those who know nothing about it. Unfortunately, it lacks the wit and narrative drive of Keith Loutit’s similar videos of Sydney, and it’s little more than a tourist postcard, but it’s still fun to watch.

February 13th, 2010

Fighting Over Flowers

Posted in Asia Pacific, Public Space, Society and Culture by Christopher DeWolf

I’ve never seen anyone get so angry over flowers.

It’s tradition to buy flowers in advance of the Chinese New Year, a festival that celebrates renewal as one lunar year gives way to another. Last year, when I was living in the Mongkok Flower Market, I watched as traffic became more and more snarled as the days led towards the new year. By the time the last week year came around, I was being woken up on weekend mornings by endless honking and angry shouts. Leaving my building meant fighting for sidewalk space with housewives willing to slaughter and maim for the last peach blossom or peony.

When I returned to the Flower Market last week to take some photos, it didn’t surprise me that the first thing I saw was a shouting match. A crowd had formed at the corner of Sai Yee Street as several people stood screaming at a few uniformed men and women.

After a few minutes, the screamers gave up and walked off in a huff. I followed them to a flower stall in a nearby laneway and asked what they were so angry about. I was answered by Kelly Cheung, a petite young woman with plastic-framed glasses and vaguely elfin features whose family has run the stall for more than 30 years.

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