Urban Rebirth in South Africa

Maboneng Precinct, Johannesburg The skies threatened rain, but the streets in Braamfontein were buzzing. On De Beer Street, crowds spilled out of the ground-floor bar of the Bannister, a hotel with retro 60s signage. Across the street, the scene was even more intense at the Neighbourgoods Market, which every Saturday transforms a parking garage into […]

The City That Built Norman Foster

The HSBC Building under construction It was a typically busy morning at Chek Lap Kok. Thousands of passengers swarmed beneath the vast sweep of the airport’s white roof, duty free bags in hand, squirming children in tow. The line for Starbucks inched ever longer. Yet a cool tranquility reigned over the terminal. That was especially […]

La ville à l’échelle animale

Bobo-Dioulasso. Photo : Matthew Bradley Il est commun maintenant de dire d’une ville qu’elle est à l’échelle humaine. Il s’agit plutôt d’un compliment, généralement, mais a-t-on déjà vu une ville à l’échelle animale ? Je réponds oui, et j’y ai vécu un court instant. Il s’agit de Bobo-Dioulasso, une ville du Burkina Faso, petite en […]

Posted in: Africa and Middle East, Environment, Public Space, Society and Culture by Jean-Mathieu Nichols Comments Off on La ville à l’échelle animale , , , ,

Accra’s Backyard Greenhouse

Accra from above by Jason Armstrong With tree-lined avenues and hilltop views, the ACP Estate in Accra already feels greener than much of Ghana’s fast-growing, densely populated capital. It has the appearance of a comfortable suburb: leafy, peaceful and wholesome. But the yard of Florence Benson is more than just green. It also boasts a […]

Posted in: Africa and Middle East, Environment, Public Space, Society and Culture by Nathan Midgley Comments Off on Accra’s Backyard Greenhouse , , ,

Revisiting the Fortress Embassy

Security forces intervene during the protests at US Embassy Cairo. Photo by Gigi Ibrahim. There are probably at least a few in your city, hiding on the upper floods of office buildings, secluded in elegant townhouses, tucked somewhere behind high fences out of view. Nearby cars’ license plates are sometimes their only identifiable feature. Whether […]

Posted in: Africa and Middle East, Architecture, Books, Europe, Politics by Christopher Szabla Comments Off on Revisiting the Fortress Embassy , , , , ,

How Tall is Too Tall?

Dubai. Photo by Zeyad T. Al-Mudhaf The Burj Khalifa defies the imagination. It stands nearly one kilometre above the streets of Dubai, spanning a total of 163 floors — 209 if you could the maintenance levels in the building’s spire. When it was completed in 2010, at a cost of more than US$1.5 billion, it […]

Cairo’s Taxi Revolution

Photos by Peter Morgan (top), and MatHelium (bottom) Hop in any cab in any city of the world and you’re likely to be treated to lively political commentary. That’s especially true in autocratic regimes, where the availability of other spaces in which random strangers can meet and speak openly has often been severely curtailed. Cairo’s […]

Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt, Hiding in Plain Sight

Photo by Sarah Carr I couldn’t quite glimpse Hosni Mubarak from my balcony in Garden City, but simply knowing that his portrait was nearby made me unable to shake the sensation of being watched. Not exactly towering over, but nudged by its rooftop mechanicals above the rooflines of the neighborhood’s decadently decomposing 19th century apartment […]

Posted in: Africa and Middle East, Politics, Society and Culture by Christopher Szabla Comments Off on Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt, Hiding in Plain Sight , , , , ,

The Childish Folly of Dubai

Dubai feels like it was designed by a five-year-old boy. What kid doesn’t get excited about the BIGGEST BUILDING EVER, or the WORLD’S BIGGEST MALL? And then there’s the idea of a SEVEN STAR HOTEL. Wow! A real kid’s drawing would have these elements laid out side-by-side, in two dimensions. Drawings by five-year-olds generally don’t […]

Beirut: Signs of Postwar Politics

Posters along the former green line calling for “real change.” After years of foreign/militia rule, the Lebanese navy reasserts itself through this poster featuring a group of scowling teenage boys. “We’re back!” reads the caption in the lower left. Should we feel threatened or reassured?

Posted in: Africa and Middle East, Politics, Public Space by Patrick Donovan Comments Off on Beirut: Signs of Postwar Politics , , ,

Cape Tin

A row of numbered tin shacks in Blikkiesdorp. Photo from the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign Nestled in a sun-kissed valley amid coastal mountains, pastel-hued, historic Cape Town is arguably one of the world’s most beautiful cities. So it’s long been a rude awakening for first time visitors expecting to arrive amid its sweeping vistas and […]

Street View in South Africa

View Larger Map Hillbrow, Johannesburg With the world’s attention trained to the World Cup in South Africa, it’s a logical time for Google to debut its Street View coverage of the country. People unfamiliar with South Africa now have a chance to peer beyond the stereotypes and get a look at the country as it […]

Posted in: Africa and Middle East, Public Space by Christopher DeWolf Comments Off on Street View in South Africa , , ,

The Art of Personal Space

Nathan Destro and his “personal space protector” on the streets of Johannesburg. Photos by Christo Doherty In New York, bulging sidewalks have led to the partial pedestrianization of Times Square and plans for something similar along teeming 34th St. In Cairo, fed up pedestrians often take matters into their own hands, competing with cars to […]

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 […]