Money, power and politics collide in the battle for Mumbai’s slums

ATHENS: Peri Arthur

Brief History of Athens, Greece

The city of Athens, Greece is one of the world’s oldest cities with a history spanning approximately 3,400 years.  According to Greek mythology, the city was named after the goddess Athena after she won a competition with Poseidon over who would become the protector of the city.  The city’s location (in the fertile plains of Attika between the Parnitha, Penteli, and Hymettos mountains), proximity to the Saronic Gulf, and its mild climate were probably the main reasons why the founders of the city chose to live there.

The city was founded when the king Theseus united several settlements of Attica into one state.  The last king of ancient Athens was Kodros and after he sacrificed his life to save the homeland, the nobles ruled over the land until the people of Athens overthrew the sons of Peisistratos, Hippias and Hipparchos, and began to organize a democracy.  The main creator of the first democracy, Kleisthenes, radically reformed the constitution and restructured the government organization created previously by Solon to give all citizens the right and duty to participate in the governance of the state.  The creation of Democracy was one of the most significant achievements of the ancient Greeks.

The 5th century BC, under the rule of Pericles, was one of the most glorious periods in Athenian history and laid the foundations of western civilization.  It was during this Golden Age that the Parthenon was built, and the fields of art, philosophy, and drama developed significantly.  The Peloponnesian wars between the Athenians and Sparta brought an end to the Golden Age, but Athens continued to be an important cultural and intellectual center for centuries to come.  By the mid-4th century BC, the Northern Greek kingdom of Macedon was becoming a dominant force in Athenian affairs and in 338 BC the army of Philip II effectively ended Athenian independence.  The conquests of Alexander the Great made the traditional Greek city state obsolete and by the 2nd century BC, Greece was taken over by the Roman Republic.  Athens remained a center for learning and philosophy during its 500 years of Roman rule.  The conversion of the empire to Christianity ended the city’s role as the center of pagan learning and the schools of philosophy were closed in AD 529 marking the end of the ancient history of Athens.

By 529, Athens was under Byzantine rule where they saw great periods of uncertainty as well as prosperity.  In 1204 the Fourth Crusade conquered Athens and the Latins ruled until 1458 when the city fell to the Ottoman Empire.

After the Greek Revolution of 1821, Greece was established as a modern independent Greek state in 1830 by the Treaty of London and Athens was made the capital.  A Bavarian prince, Otto, was proclaimed King of Greece and one of his first tasks as a king was to conduct a detailed archaeological and topographical survey of Athens.  During the time of King Otto’s rule, Athens had a population of only 4,000-5,000 people who were located in the district of Plaka.  Athens was chosen as the capital of Greece for historical and sentimental reasons.  Once the capital was established, a modern city plan was laid out and many public buildings were erected.

Athens experienced its first period of explosive growth following the disastrous Greco-Turkish War in 1921 when more than a million Greek refugees from Asia Minor were resettled in Greece.  Modern day suburbs of the city such as Nea Ionia and Nea Smyrni  began as refugee settlements.

Athens  was occupied by the Nazis in World War II and experienced terrible privations during the later years of the war.  Heavy fighting between Communist forces and the royalists backed by the British broke out in 1944.

After WWII, Athens began to grow as people migrated into the city looking for work.  Greece joined the European Union in 1981 which brought in many new investments to Athens, but also increased social and environmental problems.  At the time, Athens had some of the worst traffic congestion and air pollution in the world which posed a great threat to the ancient monuments.  Traffic vibrations weakened the foundations and the air pollution corroded the marble.  Because of the environmental and infrastructure problems, the city failed to secure the 1996 centenary Olympic Games even though it was the host of the first modern-day Olympic Games in 1896.

Since the failed attempt to secure the 1996 Olympics, the city and the Greek government, aided by the European Union funds, started major infrastructure projects such as building a new Athens Airport and a new metro system.  The City of Athens also restricted the use of cars in the city center to reduce the air pollution problem.  As a result of its efforts, Athens was rewarded the 2004 Olympic Games which were a great success and brought renewed international prestige to the city.

The most recent polls performed  in 2001 state that the city has grown to a population of 745,514 within the city’s administrative limits and 4,013,368 within the Larger Urban Zone (LUZ) making it the 7th most populous LUZ in the European Union.  The population density within the city is 19,133 people per square kilometer and the density within the LUZ is 1,370 people per square kilometer.  Most recently, the city along with the entire country of Greece is suffering from a major economic crisis.  Hopefully the city will recover from this crisis soon so it can return to being one of the oldest and greatest cities in the world.


“A Brief Reference to the History of Athens.” Athens Greece Guide. Web. 1 Jan. 2011.  <;.

“HISTORY OF ATHENS.” HistoryWorld – History and Timelines. Web. 31 Jan. 2011. <;.

“History of Greece – Ancient Greek History.” Around Greece. Web. 31 Jan. 2011. <;.


MUMBAI: Chengcheng Huang



Brief Introduce:

The city of Mumbai is one of the most popular cities which lies in the western coast of India. It is the capital of the state of Maharashtra, which has a long history from the 15 century. And with the fast growing economy status of India recently, Mumbai has a great development that gradually become the financial and commercial metropolis which can generate over 7% GDP of the whole country over last several years. The city has a population of  fourteen million people in downtown area. And it is also one important deep natural harbor in India and South Asia,.


Arising from the beginning:

Mumbai consists of an archipelago with seven small islands at the its origins. The earliest historical record can be traced to 2000 years ago; it is called as Heptanesia by ancient Grecian people. The manual sediment found in northern Mumbai shows that these islands were inhabited since the Stone Age. The Maurya Empire ruled by Ashoka of Magadha form the islands in the third century BCE before the Sihara dynasty from 810 AD to 1260 AD.


Colony and After Independence:

The Portuguese coerced Humayun, Sultan Bahadur Shar, the leader of the Mughal Empire in mid-16th century to abandon these islands from the rule of India in 1526. After that, as the gift for the marriage treaty between Charles ll of England and princess Catherine, and the British East India Company leased these islands from the government in 1668. The company built the deep harbor in the eastern coast of the island as their first stop port in South Asia; and this was the first fast development in Mumbai’s population which grew from 10000 of 1661 to 60000 of 1675. Afterward, the headquarter of the company moved to Mumbai and it was gradually placed of all the Company’s establishments in India. And large-scale civil engineering projects reshaped the entire city, which combined the archipelago into single amalgamation, called Hornby Vellard; This process enlarge the city’s area several times when it was done in 1845. After it, the railway system built with other cities and the opening of Suez Canal in 1869 make Mumbai become the biggest cotton market of the world during the time of U.S civil war. So the shipping flourished through the Indian sea and demand of the cotton made Mumbai develop to the largest port off the coast of the Arabian Sea. After the following 30 years, as the main metropolis, the development activated the building construction all over the city; due to this reason the population reach over 1 million at the beginning of the 20 century. The city become the capital of Maharashtra after the independence of India in 1947 and enlarge the area to north as the city’s boundary nowadays.


The city of Mumbai. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from  

Toronto: Yan Lu

Toronto, the principal capital of Ontario, is located on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario. As the largest city in Canada, Toronto is the center of the nation’s commercial, financial, industrial, and cultural life. As the seventh most populous municipality in North America, it has a population of 2.5 million.

The name Toronto is derived from the Huron word for “fishing weir”. Covering an area of 641 square kilometers in a broad sloping plateau cut by numerous river valleys, Toronto has a north-south distance of 21 kilometers and an east-west distance of 43 km with a 46-kilometre long waterfront shoreline on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario. As a result, Toronto is a good place richly endowed by nature to form a city.

Toronto has a long history. As the Wisconsin ice sheet melted northward, exposing the Toronto area, aboriginal inhabitants began moving into this area to get food. The first human presence is established by The Iroquois about 11 000 years ago. About 20 years, the long houses which the Iroquois deteriorated and natural resources were exhausted. This cycle lasted for thousands of years until the first European came and established the French trading Fort Rouillé in 1750, south of the village site of Teiaiagon.

In 1793, known as “york”, Toronto became capital of the new colony of Upper Canada. In 1812, Toronto was attacked by American troops and burned partially. Then as revenge, British army fought back and burned the White House. After the war, York began to expand and was named Toronto officially by the mayor, which means “a place of meeting”. In 1904, The Great Toronto Fire destroyed a large part of downtown Toronto, but the city was quickly rebuilt. In late 1900s, after the coup detat in 1824, Toronto grew rapidly and a large number of skyscrapers went up. After the Second World War, refugees from Europe and Chinese arrived trying to find jobs. In the 1980s, Toronto became Canada’s most populous city and the major economic center. In 1954, the City of Toronto and 12 surrounding municipalities were federated into a government–Metropolitan Toronto. In 1967, the seven smallest municipalities of Metropolitan Toronto were combined into their larger neighbors, leading to a six-municipality. In 1998, the metropolitan government was dissolved by the Provincial Government and all six municipalities which were amalgamated into a single municipality which is current Toronto.

There are two major rivers across Toronto: the Humber River in the west end and the Don River east of downtown at opposite ends of the Toronto Harbour. The many creeks and rivers cutting from north toward the lake created large tracts of densely forested ravines, providing ideal sites for parks and recreational trails. The ravines affect the city plan, which results in major thoroughfares ending on one side and continuing on the other side. The current lakeshore land area in the front of the Toronto Harbour is almost artificial landfill filled during the late 19th century. A storm in 1858 severed Toronto Islands’ connection to the mainland, creating a channel later used by shipping interests to access the docks.

Toronto’s population is cosmopolitan and international. As one of the world’s most diverse cities in the world, about 49% of the population of Toronto comes from other countries. It is now considered as one of the most livable cities in the word.


  • Mike Filey. A Toronto album 2
  • Toronto 2001-02.
  • Fulford, Robert (1995). Accidental city: the transformation of Toronto. Toronto: Macfarlane, Walter & Ross.
  • Rayburn, Alan (2001). Naming Canada: stories about Canadian place names. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 2nd ed.
  • Phillips, Robert; Bram, Leon & Dickey, Norma (1971). Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Inc. Volume 23.
  • Careless, J.M.S.. “Toronto”. The Canadian Encyclopedia. Historica Foundation of Canada.
  • The novel “In the Skin of a Lion” by Michael Ondaatje depicts Toronto in the 1920s, giving prominence to the construction of Toronto landmarks, such as the Prince Edward Viaduct and the R. C. Harris Water Treatment Plant, and focusing on the lives of the immigrant workers.

RIO DE JANEIRO: Meredith Butler

On January 1, 1502, Gaspar de Lemos arrived in Brazil from Portugal and entered the Baía de Guanabara, inhabited at the time by the Tamoio people. He mistook the bay for the entrance of a river and named it Rio de Janeiro. The French settled the area in 1555 as a trade outpost for pau-brasil, or Brazilwood and formed an alliance with the Tamoio against the Portuguese, but were expelled in 1567. The Tamoio were driven from their land by the Portuguese and the settlement Sao Sebastiao do Rio de Janeiro was established by the Portuguese government.

By the 17th century, Rio became an important Brazilian settlement. African slaves were brought over to work first the sugar plantations and then the gold mines of Minas Gerias. These gold mines proved to be prolific and the city increased in population and importance as gold and diamonds arrived in the port from Minas Gerais. Because of its new significance in the region, the capital of Brazil was relocated from Salvador, Bahia to Rio. The wealth brought to Rio by the transportation of gold transformed society by establishing a free working class, in contrast to the typical master-slave structure of colonial settlements.

Before the invasion of Napoleon in Portugal in 1808, the monarch and his court of 15,000 set sail for Brazil. His Brazilian subjects celebrated his arrival as he took over the rule of Brazil from his viceroy. Eventually, Dom João became king of Portugal, but because of his love for Brazil, he stayed and declared Rio the capital of the newly established United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarve.

In conjunction with the independence of Brazil in 1822 came the decline of gold production and exportation. Labor and efforts were directed a new product, coffee. Coffee production and trade led to the development of railroads for efficient transportation. The rails connected many of the cities and led to great economic gains for each one. In 1889, however, the coffee production in Rio began to decline due to soil problems, erosion and their dependence on slavery. This brought on an economic decline and Rio lost political power to São Paulo and Minas Gerais.

Towards the end of the 19th century, the city’s population grew rapidly due to immigration from Europe and migration from within the country. By 1891, Rio was host to more than 500,000 people. The city continued developing and spreading rapidly, removing mountains, reclaiming bay water and constructing skyscrapers in the process.

The early 1920s to the late 1950s were considered Rio’s golden age. The oligarchy of São Paulo – Minas was disrupted and Rio boomed economically with steel, naval and oil plants. It became an exotic destination due to its grand hotels, where celebrities and international society came to play, gamble, dance or perform.

Rio remained the political capital of Brazil until 1960, with the inauguration of Brasilia and the transfer of the government. There is still discussion today over whether Rio was hurt or improved by the government’s move. During the 1960s, modern skyscrapers rose in the city, and some of Rio’s most beautiful buildings were lost. During the same period, the favelas of Rio grew to an unmanageable size and immigrants continued to pour into the city from the poverty-stricken areas of the Northeast and the interior of the country, greatly increasing the number of Rio’s urban poor. This cause crime and violence to increase within the city.

From 1964 to 1985, the final decade of the military dictatorship ruled Brazil with a heavy hand. This was a time of notable protests, such as in 1968 when 100,000 marched upon the Palácio Tiradentes. The military regime was opposed by all, even Rio’s politicians, who fought by withholding federal funding. This lack of vital funding led to a deterioration of the city’s infrastructure.

Today Rio is stable financially, and the city has a new creative energy, as long anticipated projects are fully financed. It has become a center for the service industry, a financial center and an area of light industry. One of the largest projects is the Favela-Bairro project, which has the goal of integrating favelas into the rest of the city by adding basic sanitation and by planning for public leisure areas, health clinics, schools, preschools and community centers. Also, a great revitalization of Rio’s aging colonial buildings and structures is taking place as new businesses arrive in the city. Rio has an extensive cultural life, as well. Their annual Carnaval displays the festive spirit of the city with its three days of music, dancing, singing, and parades.

Rio currently has a population of around 6,100,000 inhabitants occupying 1,182 square kilometers. The greater metropolitan area’s population is estimated to be 11-13.5 million people.

“History of Rio De Janeiro – Lonely Planet Travel Information.” Lonely Planet Travel Guides and Travel Information. Web. 01 Feb. 2011. <;.

“Rio De Janeiro, Brasil by Sergio Koreisha.” University of Oregon. Web. 01 Feb. 2011. <;.

“Rio De Janeiro, Brazil: History.” Brazil – Travel, Political and Cultural Information. Web. 01 Feb. 2011. <;.

BROOKLYN: Maggie Bryan

Maggie Bryan

January 31, 2011

ARCH 638


New York City: Brooklyn


New York City is the most densely populated city in the United States with a population of 8.5 million distributed over a land area of roughly 300 square miles. New York City is home to a vast community of global commerce, media, culture, art, fashion, education and entertainment that touch all parts of the world. Over 800 languages are spoken in New York City easily making it the most diverse city in the world. It is broken down into five boroughs: Manhattan, The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. Brooklyn is the most populated borough with a population of approximately 2.5 million people. Brooklyn is quickly becoming the “it” place of New York City and is increasing in population and tourist visits each year. Brooklyn has it’s own motto, Een Draght Mackt Maght which means In Unity there is Strength.  What a great motto for Brooklyn seeing as it is becoming the cultural hub of New York City which, in essence, makes Brooklyn the cultural hub of the world.


A brief history of Brooklyn begins with the Dutch who settled Brooklyn in the early 1630’s on land purchased from the Mohawk Indians along the East River shore of Long Island. This was a perfect city for the Dutch to expand the West India Company because it was along a great body of water that allowed from travel between continents.  In 1664 the Dutch lost Brooklyn, then known as Breuckelen, in the British conquest of New Netherland. From then until 1898, Brooklyn remained an independent city until its consolidation with New York City.


The land area of Brooklyn is approximately 71 square miles located in Kings County, which is the second most populous county in the United States. Brooklyn is governed by the New York City Charter, which states that the New York City government is responsible for issues such as public education, libraries, public safety, sanitation and water supply. But because New York City is so populated, each of the five boroughs has their own president who has strong connections to the centralized New York City government and they are responsible for creating and approving the borough’s budges and proposals for land use as well as keeping an eye on the borough. Currently, Democrat Marty Markowitz is the president of the Brooklyn borough. The Democratic Party holds the majority of offices throughout New York City and the party platforms on affordable housing, education and economic developments, which are major issues throughout the city of New York. Along with each borough having a president, they each also have their own criminal court system and District Attorney that allows for a more tight watch on crime throughout the city.


2.5 million people call the “city” of Brooklyn home. Forty-five percent of Brooklyn’s employed population works within the Brooklyn city limits while the remaining fifty-five percent take the infamous Brooklyn Bridge to work in Manhattan. In the early 1900’s Brooklyn was know as a manufacturing based city but since 1975 Brooklyn has shifted to a service-based economy.


New York City is known as the nations melting pot. Brooklyn is the place to go in New York City to visit all kinds of culture from difference ethnicities across the globe. According to the 2009 American Community Survey, Brooklyn’s population was broken down as 36.9% white, 32.9% African American, 19.6% Hispanic, 9.5% Asians, and 1.1% Native American and Multicultural Americans. The average household income in Brooklyn is approximately $32,135. The average age in Brooklyn is 33. Brooklyn has the largest lesbian community of the five boroughs.


Brooklyn is the most cultural of the five boroughs and has played a major role in all aspects of American culture including literature, theater, and music.  Brooklyn is home to the world-renowned Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Brooklyn Museum, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum and the Brooklyn Technical High School that houses the second larges auditorium in New York City with a capacity of 3,000.  Brooklyn is also home to numerous local newspapers including a thriving ethnic press, Prospect Park, Brooklyn Botanical Gardens and the world famous Coney Island. Brooklyn is growing in popularity every year with the help of the increasing cultural scene among the community. It is starting to take the place of Manhattan as the “hip” place to live and play.












“Brooklyn (New York City).” New York News, Traffic, Sports, Weather, Photos, Entertainment, and Gossip – NY Daily News. 2011. Web. 28 Feb. 2011. <;.


Brooklyn On Line – All about Brooklyn, New York – Brooklyn Food – Brooklyn Events – Brooklyn Fun – Brooklyn History – Brooklyn Tourist Info – Brooklyn Is New York City! 2009. Web. 28 Jan. 2011. <;.


“Population Estimates.” Census Bureau Home Page. 2010. Web. 29 Jan. 2011. <;.



LAGOS: Nnaemeka Mozie

Lagos is the largest city in Nigeria and is one of the fastest growing cities in Africa with a population of around 15 million.  This number is expected to increase to 25 million by 2015.

Lagos was originated as a war camp named Eko, located off the Gulf of Guinea, which was later replaced by the Portuguese word lagos, meaning lakes.  It was a major port center of the slave trade from the early 1400’s to the late 1800’s and was annexed as a British colony in 1861 which ended the slave trade.  In 1914, Lagos was officially declared the capital of Nigeria.  During the 60’s and 70’s, Lagos experienced an enormous population growth and economic boom (oil boom) following Nigeria’s independence from the British in 1960.  This growth was accompanied with decades of military and civil unrest.  It was during this time that many people emigrated from Nigeria to other countries.  In 1976, the capital was moved to Abuja which was specifically created to host the country’s new capital.

Lagos is the economic hub of Nigeria.  It is a dense and complex city full of entrepreneurs.  In fact, an estimated 10,000 people move to Lagos weekly in search of work.   This massive growth is putting pressure on land which is in such high demand that the city is sprawling in every direction and landscape that it possibly can.  This includes moving into underdeveloped parts of the city, lagoons, mud land and even landfills.  Through this chaotic population growth and urban planning, many opportunities arise which provide citizens with ingenious ways to make a living.  Everything is being used and nothing is being wasted which creates many informal jobs and specializations.  Some informal jobs take place in trash dumps.   More than 5,000 people sort through and select trash by hand everyday which keeps them in regular employment.  Anything and everything which can be used again is sold for reprocessing.  Due to the decreased availability of land, the majority of these resourceful people live where they work.  These small makeshift communities that are created become cities within a city.  This same idea of “living where you work” is applied to other informal jobs like taxi driving and hocking food and valuable items on the road/street.

Lagos is afflicted with poverty, pollution, energy complications, underdeveloped infrastructure, corruption and crime due to its rapid population growth and faltering economy.  The slums of Lagos make up three quarters of the city.  Crime is existent, but is a very minor thing compared to the hazardous infrastructure of Lagos; unkempt and unorganized roads, poor sanitation, unreliable power, disease, pollution/industrial waste, and lack of telecommunications (which recently has started to decline).

Ajegunle is the largest slum and largest entertainment district in Lagos with over 4 million people (Ajegunle means “The threshold of wealth” in Yoruba language).  It’s a renowned district, filled with multi-talented youths, which has produced many well-known musicians and athletes.  Over the years, many social groups and organizations have attempted a social rehabilitation of the community.  One of these current organizations is the project which is designed to impart positive, creative and constructive knowledge to the youth in the community through training.

HONG KONG: Xiaodan Luo

Background of Hong Kong

With a total area of 1098 km2, a population of 6845400, Hong Kong is located in the Far East, just south of the Tropic of Cancer. Hong Kong Island is 32km (20 miles) east of the mouth of Pearl River and 135km (84 miles) southeast of Canton. It is separated from the mainland by a good natural harbor. Hong Kong is mountainous, and approximately 80% of the Territory is over 100 meters above sea level. Only a small amount lands can be used for city construction. Thus, the construction area only occupies 15.6% of the total area. Shortage of land suitable for development has led to reclamation from the sea, principally from the seafronts of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon.

It is interesting that the current boundary of Hong Kong is found by various treaties that signed in different years. Hong Kong Island was ceded to Britain in 1842 by the Treaty of Nanking, the Kowloon Peninsula (south of Boundary Street and Stonecutters Island) in 1860 by the Convention of Peking, and New Territory in 1898 by the Convention for extension of Hong Kong Territory.

Hong Kong is a nameless village before the colony of British. Admittedly, the import of capitalism and the opening to the outside world as a crucial harbor help Hong Kong transform to an International metropolis.

Hong Kong is subtropical climate with marked seasonality, typically hot and humid with the heaviest rainfall between April and September. The winters are mild and relatively dry. This climate condition fosters the emergence of an efficient urban transportation system, which provides successful experiences for the cities in the similar situation.

Chinese and English are the official languages with Cantonese most widely spoken. English is spoken by many, particularly in business circles. Buddhist, Confucian and Taoist are the main religions, with Christian and Muslim minorities, but there are also places of worship for most other religious groups.

Hong Kong is a typical multi-culture society, which can be rooted from its multiple combinations of people. There are three main components of people: the first one is the original residents which have lived in Hong Kong since 1898 or before. They have special customs and rituals, by which segregate themselves from other Hong Kong people. The second one is the immigrant. All kinds of foreign immigrants immigrate into Hong Kong since the colonial period. The last one is the new immigrant comes from China Mainland since the foundation of China in 1949. This complicated composition of people leads to interesting culture conflict and fusion.

One special Hong Kong style public space is the sky walk system. In Hong Kong, there are total 693 sky walks, among which the longest is in the Central – Mid – Levels Escalator system with a length of 800 meters. The existence of highly develop sky walk system attributes to the high density population and climate condition. The skywalk system creates space to transit outdoor and indoor, connect different levels and buildings, and the most importance, provide an ambiguous space to foster some distinctive culture. This kind of space is the hallmark of Hong Kong.



Bai hao L,. 2009, Early-modern City Planning before 1945

Yishan F, Jianguo W,. 2004. Urban Form and Transportation in a High-density City — Take the Development of Hong Kong as an Example, 5,4-6.

BERLIN: Jose R. Terrazas


Berlin. Origins. Present.

The name Berlin was first documented around the thirteen century (year 1244), it was a twin settlement to then the main town from the region at the time “K’olln”. Over the centuries these two settlements came to become one powerful and influential city soon after they united around the turn of the fourteenth century. The city of Berlin became increasingly populated, and embedded in the culture of Kings, Medieval bounds, Prussian Autocracy thru the form and theoretical aspects of Architecture, and severe urban planning expansions of the city. Berlin’s most acclaimed cultural spectacle has always been Architecture and city planning, from the time of the middle ages to the reconstruction after the war, and finally to present day as its trying to become a more progressive, futuristic city through the Architecture and Intriguing Urban Planning of today. Most importantly it is making progress to a city about technology, addressing environmental factors, and diverse exploration through underground subcultures and spectacles.

The drastic historical changes that the city has experienced throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries are fair to use as a justification for Berlin’s present cultural explosion and underground subcultures. The twentieth century was probably the most dramatic and important time period that served as the development of the city’s social and cultural behaviors; Industrial Revolution, Railroads, Transportation, Political presence, World Wars, Berlin Wall, Unification of a Nation and Reestablishing a city, Architecture, High quality of living. Overall Berlin has turn into a focal point for young intellectuals and artists, attracted by a new liberal and modern lifestyle. This gathers unique groups of people which are getting involved in cultural subjects and ‘projects’ from all over the spectrum. Such events are happening that the city of Berlin has acquired a name such as “the factory of culture”. The conceptual idea behind “the factory of culture” is that the city of Berlin has or it is been portrayed as a place where subcultures and cultures are been created. A place where new cultural spectacles are developed to later be blend-in into the mainstream world, as these new philosophies are pick up as commodities and eventually everyday events. The way I would describe how these events are happening or what type of events are been created would be in the form of this underground subcultures idea. Where subjects such as history, music (Techno music is said to have been started under this underground subculture phenomena, and later thrown out to the mainstream world eventually becoming a commodity), and art are been developed into new cultural forms.

Located in Eastern Germany, Berlin is home to 3.5 million people, with an area of 891.85 sq. km and is part of one of the most intriguing and significant metropolitan areas in European Union. The city is recognized for its festivals, diverse architecture, nightlife, contemporary arts, and public transportation networks. Berlin is a world city of culture, politics, media, and science.

PORTLAND: Richard Bassett


Portland Vignette Richard Bassett
Arch 638, Spring ‘10

Portland, Oregon sits between the Cascade Mountains and the Pacific Ocean with a population approximately 580,000 strong. The metropolitan statistical area is 2.2 million the biggest in Oregon and the third biggest in the Northwest. The city was founded as a port town 60 miles inland on the Willamette River. In fact Portland remained the largest port in the northwest until the completion of the railroad to Seattle in the 1890’s (Portand’s Columbia river is more difficult to navigate than rail.) Incorporated in 1851, by 1879 the population was 18,000. Portland continues to export large amounts of steel and aluminum and is generally a very industrial city by today’s standards. Some have compared the Northwest climate to London yet lush with tall trees and a drizzly winter–it rains six inches in each of the months November, December and January, and less than one in some of the summer months.

The Olmsted Brothers (landscape architects) helped plan much of the Northwest’s parks at the turn of the 20th century including many of Portland’s. “The Rose City” claims to have the largest urban forest in the country, though Dallas claims the same. The main difference between these big parks is that one is almost urban, Portland’s Forest Park sits close to downtown atop a mountain range. 5000 acre Forest Park sits alongside the city, ranging from 50 to 1100 feet above sea level replete with trails.

With a continued progressive attitude in the 1970s the state legislature implemented an urban growth boundary around Portland. The boundary meant to limit urban sprawl and densefy the city, allowing more of the farmland around the core to remain just that. On this same side of the Willamette River sit some scholastically reputable public high schools, an absolute rarity in downtown America. And there is not just one, 40 percent of high school students attend a campus with less than 30 percent poverty level among its students. More than 40,000 students attend Portland State, University Oregon Health Science University, The University of Portland, the National College of Natural Medicine and others.

In a May 16, 2009 article of the Wall Street Journal young people are “drawn” to the city much like Austin or Seattle. This morning at the dentist the lady next to me related that she was moving to Portland to work on spiders!  Between 1995 and 2000 more single college educated people between the ages of 25 and 39 moved to “Stumptown” than any but three other US cities–278 more for every 1000 of the same group already living there in 1995. Many go there without a job in this tough economy hoping to find a place to live and make it by with gusto. One gentleman mentioned that if he was going to be out of work anyways he might as well live somewhere he enjoys. Of those with a job 8% of people travel to work by bike, the highest rate by far in the nation says the same Journal piece.

In a city where the mayor (Adams) pushes bicycle and rail projects, it is no wonder that the trailer for the new comedy on the Independent Film Channel “Portlandia” tells of a magical place where Al Gore won and the dreams of the nineties still exists, where tribal tattoos are in but nose rings are too ‘San Francisco’. Money seems to count for a lot less than endearing eccentricity and a commitment to local coffee shops. What kind of culture will a lot of young, single, unemployed, well educated people create? I am almost afraid to look, almost.


Dougherty, Conor. “‘Youth Magnet’ Cities Hit Midlife Crisis –” The Wall Street Journal. Web. 24 Jan. 2011. <>.

“Portlandia: Dream of the 90s.” YouTube. Web. 24 Jan. 2011.


Richard Bassett
M.Arch ’12, Texas A&M