Who's Your City?, by Richard Florida
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Archive for May, 2010

Dublin, Ireland

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

My home is Dublin’s fair city, located on the beautiful emerald isle of Ireland. I love Dublin!

Dublin is a compact city and I’m lucky enough to live in a quaint cottage among a small tight knit and friendly community just outside the city centre. My walk to work takes forty carefree minutes and I’m sharing it with you in the hope that I can convey a little about the city I call home.

A few minutes after leaving home I encounter the Royal Canal immortalised by one of Ireland’s many famous writers Brendan Behan in ‘The Auld Triangle’ (which I occasionally attempt to sing after consuming too many pints of Guinness…).

A hungry feeling
Came o’er me stealing
And the mice were squealing
In my prison cell
And that auld triangle went jingle-jangle
All along the banks of the Royal Canal
Oh! To start the morning
The warden bawling
“Get up out of bed, you! And clean out your cell!”
And that auld triangle went jingle-jangle
All along the banks of the Royal Canal

Mountjoy Prison, to which Behan refers and in which he was incarcerated, still stands today and is a short distance further along the canal, though I do not pass it going to work (which is my personal prison!). I continue along North Strand Road where, on the night of 31 May 1941, four bombs were dropped by German aircraft. The casualties were many: 34 dead and 90 injured, with three hundred houses damaged or destroyed. This bombing was interpreted either as a deliberate ploy by Hitler‍ s government to force neutral Ireland into the war or as a reprisal for the assistance given by Dublin Fire Brigade during the Belfast Blitz. After the war, Germany paid compensation to the Irish Republic for what it described as a military error.

Today, on either side of this same broad majestic road are gracious old trees that stand proudly, their lush green foliage injecting colour into the ubiquitous grey of city life. One of these trees had an unfortunate encounter recently with a double decker bus and needed to be significantly pruned – although I believe the bus came off worse!

I amble for another five minutes until I come upon the Five Lamps. Unlike some cities which are based on grid systems allowing their inhabitants to give directions according the intersections of avenues and streets, Dublin residents use local landmarks for identification (well-known pubs, an old cinema, a famous house etc.) . The Five Lamps is one such landmark and is exactly what is says – a dec orative lamp post, dating from the 1880s, with five lanterns standing at the junction of five streets – Portland Row, North Strand Road, Seville Place, Amiens Street and Killarney Street.

My route then takes me along Seville Place. At the end of this road I meet a beautiful new bridge opened towards the end of 2009. Named after another of our beloved writers, the Samuel Beckett Bridge was designed by the world-famous Spanish architect and engineer Dr Santiago Calatrava. It is beautiful and I enjoy walking over this fabulous structure every day passing over the River Liffey (which as kids we referred to the ‘sniffy Liffey’ due to the overwhelming stink of pollution, much improved now I’m happy to say).

I continue along by the river Liffey marvelling at how our city was transformed during the years of the Celtic Tiger. Conference centres, apartment buildings, restaurants and theatres now populate what until only a few years ago was a wasteland.

A short trip over a cobble-stoned street brings me to Dublin’s second canal, the Grand Canal. I walk along by its grassy tree-lined verge until I reach my office where poet Patrick Kavanagh sits in quiet reflection all day long every day on a bench by the canal (in the form of a statue of course!). I enjoy looking at him through the window from my desk, even though as a young student I was tortured by his unbearably grim poems…

O stony grey soil of Monaghan
The laugh from my love you thieved;
You took the gay child of my passion
And gave me your clod-conceived.

Lunchtime brings the office workers out for strolls in the vicinity including Raglan Road where Kavanagh redeemed himself for me with his composition of one of Ireland’s most beautiful verses, later sung with haunting beauty by Luke Kelly a ballad singer from Sheriff Street not far from the Five Lamps and only a quarter of a mile from Dublin’s main thoroughfare O’Connell Street.

On Raglan Road on an autumn day I met her first and knew
That her dark hair would weave a snare that I might one day rue;
I saw the danger, yet I walked along the enchanted way,
And I said, let grief be a fallen leaf at the dawning of the day.

And best of all, at the end of the working day Dublin’s magnificent bay is accessible at just a handy twenty minute commute.

Sent by Maria from Dublin

Lisbon

Monday, May 17th, 2010

Lisbon, in Portugal, is the most western capital of Europe. Lisbon opens the way to the Tagus river and extends its ancient core through seven hills which testify several centuries of history. The Roman Empire, in the 1st century AD, has baptize the city with the name Olisipo. Over this legacy, the medieval city expanded after 1147, when D. Afonso Henriques, the first King of Portugal, conquered the territory to the Moors.

Despite the construction of a Christian new town, there are many influences, still visible today, of the Arabian presence, specially in Alfama neighborhood where we can walk in the twisting and narrow streets and alleys, similar to the characteristic North African cities. The successive generations incremented and overlapped to the dynamic of the city their existence and their architecture, creating a patchwork of lives and styles that complement or clash their selves…

The downtown was strongly modified by a disaster – the earthquake of 1755. In seconds, the reality of the neuralgic center of the city has been substituted – through the strong personality of the Marquês de Pombal, the first minister – by the one of the most important urban plans of Europe of the 18th century and a symbol of modernity and rationality. In the north of the city, emerged the urban tissue of the 19th century through the construction of the Avenida da Liberdade, a large avenue inspired in the Parisians boulevards. From Belém, in the west limit of the city, departed the Tagus river, in the 15th and 16th centuries, the flagships discovering the unknown world – Brazil, India, Angola, Mozambique, Ceylon, Japan…

Who is my City today? Like in other cities, there is a good side and a bad side. Lisbon ia a metropolis, aggregating a process of conurbation but, at the same time, is a cozy and a humanized city. In the historical area there is a mix of sun, light and poetry. The old buildings surround the “mother-hills” conferring organic forms. It appears that buildings have born of the hills. However, time and uncontrolled edification (sometimes chaotic) of the new urban and suburban areas, are the main factors of the abandon, the degradation and the aging of the ancient tissue. Urban rehabilitation is a recent political option and is beginning its first steps. But Lisbon is still beautiful. Joining the undulating skyline, the sun light gives to the city a powerful game of shadows and a nostalgic color. It re minds me a poem for music of Saudade, an untranslatable Portuguese word that means to miss someone or something. That music exists and is called Fado: played in every picturesque corner, it symbolizes the nostalgic feelings. Lisbon and Fado merge in a unique identity.

Sent by Sofia from Lisbon

“Place Finder”

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

The place finder presumes that all users value the same things in their environment as the author.

I might find the living costs in a successful economy too stressful. My work might not be reliant on location. I could work in an industry where jobs are secure regardless, or even in one where demand rises in hard times. Perhaps I just enjoy a challenge.

Whilst I would strongly wish that most people attach high value to equality in their communities, and to any measures which reduce inequality, I thought it odd that the author presumed to know my beliefs. Just because a person has ignorant views on the issue of equality does not mean that you have the right to dismiss their concerns.

Besides, perhaps I am an ardent campaigner for equality, or work in the field, and am actively seeking to locate to a place where I may be of assistance. Or maybe I want to open a factory and hope to exploit locals who are not properly protected by their community or by legislation etc. Maybe I hope to be an agent provocateur for major social reform and seek a community that is already very divided. I could be an anthropologist, a sociologist, an epidemiologist or an Athenian sophist ;) And of course, it is just possible that I am just tired of being granted the “equality” of positive discrimination and pity by which the liberal will always mark me as other – seeking instead to forge my own path on my own merits and earn my equality myself!

As to “diversity”, an automatic assumption that it is good seems plain bizarre. On the one hand it perpetuates the idea that minorities are not wholly a part of the larger community, because in celebrating difference it also continues to mark some people as “other” and prevents a free exchange of influences. On the other hand it arbitrarily favours homogeneity over our collective histories and all that they have to offer, and ultimately leaves us more disconnected from our community as individuals. In addition “diversity” seems all too often to hold some cultures as more worthy of esteem than others. Furthermore, it appears that “diversity” only celebrates certain modes of engagement with the community. If I come to your city wishing to be untouched by the experience, I am to be pitied. If I come to your city hoping to become one of you and to wholly adopt the majority culture, I will not only be pitied, I will be constantly reminded that I am not one of you.

Finally, “diversity” can be used to prevent the majority culture from extending rights to minority cultures. This is evident in many Western countries with regard to women’s rights. And that is before one examines whether one is looking at a major international city such as New York, a city which has a large migrant population that came from one region primarily such as Bradford in the UK or Dearborn in the US, or a city that might have had very little migration in recent times, such as Ulaan Baator in Mongolia.

Of course, a community which is confident will not seek to promote or quash differences within, but will just accept (and hopefully enjoy) what differences and similarities may exist at a given time. If I come to this city I will be valued equally regardless of the degree to which I engage with her. Such a community can be genuinely diverse.

On a lighter note, I might wish to settle in a place that I do not find beautiful. Beauty might be distracting, it might be dull after a while, maybe I regard it as a bourgeois concept. Or perhaps I am just a humble town planner seeking work.

Sent by Miss Objective Subjective from London