Tag Archives: catastrophic urban development

Regeneration Games (London)

www.freewordonline.com

Regeneration Games
Unpicking the Olympic regeneration of East London
Presented by Mute Magazine

Wed 20 Jun 2012, 6:30pm
Free Word Lecture Theatre

Photo by Alberto Duman

Artist, writer and photographer Alberto Duman, in association with Mute Magazine, invites Ben Campkin, Owen Hatherley and David Cross to respond to a series of videos, objects and documents that question the official story of East London’s regeneration.

The discussion will centre on three ‘artefacts’: a short film promoting East London as a regeneration supernova, the Adidas-sponsored outdoor gyms, also known as adiZones, and the inescapable mass of the ArcelorMittal Orbit tower. Each brief presentation will be followed by a short response from the three invited speakers and then offered to the audience for further discussion.

When the world-class city is marketed as a commodity on the global investors’ stage, how can we understand the role of its citizens? Are we the unpaid producers of the value repackaged as world-class status?

What can we make of sponsorship opportunities in mega-events such as the Olympics, which extend beyond the timeline of the event into a legacy framework that protects their status as permanent branding and frames their contribution as public service?

Has the role of landmark art and architecture at the heart of notions of cultural regeneration reached its terminal point with the ArcelorMittal Orbit in the Olympic Park?

Free Word Centre


60 Farringdon Road
London
EC1R 3GA

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Police Crack Down on Tsagovsky Forest Defenders (May 19, 2012)

On May 19, 2012, defenders of the Tsagovsky Forest in the Moscow Region town of Zhukovsky attempted to stroll through the city and re-establish an environmental protest camp. Police prevented them from entering the forest and detained approximately twenty people.

In the following video, a police official explains to activists that they cannot enter the forest because a “special fire prevention regime” has been declared there. The original protest camp was destroyed by police on May 14.

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The United Russia Guide to Winning Hearts and Minds. Strategy 3: Crash a Protest Demo, Break An Old Man’s Arm, Then Have the Police Arrest Bystanders at Random

Elderly Man Roughed Up as [Protest] Rally Turns to Boos
15 November 2011
The Moscow Times

St. Petersburg resident Nikolai Shkalin, 72, became one of the first real victims of the ongoing parliamentary campaign, sustaining a broken hand at a local rally crashed by a candidate of the ruling party.

Several city media outlets reported that Shkalin was thrown down from the stage by bodyguards of the candidate, Maxim Dolgopolov, during Sunday’s rally, where some 700 residents protested development plans for the district.

video from the scene shows Dolgopolov booed off the stage by protesters — many of them senior citizens — who clapped their hands and chanted “Go away!” and “Off with you!”

Several protesters, all young opposition activists, were detained and face hooliganism charges [Editor’s note: although, as we know for a fact, they had nothing to do with the scuffle], the Neva24 web site said. Shkalin, a co-organizer of the rally, was hospitalized.

Dolgopolov denounced the incident as provocation and said he did not see the attack on Shkalin, which [was] caught on video.

He did not identify the alleged provocateurs, but said in a blog post Monday that he came to tell the locals that the new city governor, Georgy Poltavchenko, had addressed their concerns after Dolgopolov’s lobbying.

No officials commented on the story Monday.

Earlier this month, an alleged United Russia official was booed off stage at a concert of the veteran rock band Mashina Vremeni in Kemerovo. The group later denounced his appearance as provocation.

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“Noblesse Oblige” as a Wrecking Ball (Paradny Kvartal, Petersburg)

Legality of Demolition of Historic Barracks Contested
By Sergey Chernov
The St. Petersburg Times
May 11, 2011 (Issue # 1655)

Another planning controversy is developing in the city, as more historic buildings in the center were demolished last week to make way for luxury apartment and office buildings.

Built by architect Fyodor Volkov in the early 19th century, the demolished buildings on the corner of Paradnaya Ulitsa and Vilensky Pereulok are known as the Preobrazhensky Regiment’s Barracks and used to house one of the Russian army’s oldest regiments, formed by Peter the Great in the late 17th century.

Following a public outcry, Governor Valentina Matviyenko ordered an internal investigation into the legality of a construction permit issued by the St. Petersburg State Construction Supervision and Expertise Service (Gosstroinadzor). The agency is subordinated directly to Matviyenko.

Matviyenko’s orders were based on a memorandum sent to her by City Hall’s Heritage Protection Committee (KGIOP) after the last building was demolished on May 3.

Yulia Minutina, a coordinator of preservationist group Living City, said that Gosstroinadzor issued the construction permit that contradicted the protected zones law.

The local press suggested that the investigation may result in the dismissal of Gosstroinadzor’s head Alexander Ort. Preservationists and public figures such as film director Alexander Sokurov asked Matviyenko to dismiss Ort in a petition in January.

The developer failed to show the demolition permit, according to Minutina.

“Demolition is a separate type of work that requires a separate permit,” Minutina said Tuesday.

“Nevertheless, it was not presented to us, nor have they seen it at the KGIOP and I’m not sure it ever existed. Of course this is a violation.”

“Besides, buildings in the center can only be demolished if they are in a poor condition, but we haven’t seen any document stating that the building was in a poor state and impossible to restore either.”

Minutina said the demolition was one of the issues the preservationists are planning to raise during a planned meeting with Matviyenko on Thursday.

While the last building was being destroyed during the May Day holidays, the authorities did not react to the appeals of concerned residents. At the same time, police reportedly harassed activists who picketed the demolition site, rather than checking whether the developer had the necessary permits.

“We waited for two hours for the police to arrive,” Living City’s Pyotr Zabirokhin said.

“But instead of stopping the demolition, they started checking our passports, copying our placards into their notebooks and threatening to disperse us if we didn’t go away.”

St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly Deputy Sergei Malkov has written a complaint regarding the police actions to the St. Petersburg police chief Vladislav Piotrovsky.

The tactic of demolishing historic buildings during public holidays was recently used when a large portion of the 19th-century Literary House was destroyed on Nevsky Prospekt during the Russian Christmas holidays in January, Zabirokhin pointed out.

“It has turned into a bad tradition that not entirely legal cases of demolition start during or just before holidays, when people are not ready to get mobilized quickly, and while officials are on holiday and nobody can be reached,” he said.

According to the project’s web site, the area previously occupied by the Preobrazhensky Regiment Barracks will be home to an “exclusive” Paradny Kvartal, an isolated “mini city” of 16 office and residential buildings.

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“The true adornment of the quarter’s center will be a square with a fountain, comparable in size with that in front of the Kazan Cathedral,” the web site said.

However, apparently as a result of the controversy, the site was no longer available on Tuesday, redirecting to the web site of the developer, Vozrozhdeniye Peterburga. The original site can be viewed as files cached in Google.

Anna Mironovskaya, the marketing director of Vozrozhdeniye Peterburga, a subsidiary of the LSR Group, said Tuesday her company was only a sub-investor and was not in charge of legal matters and permits, citing the Ministry of Defense as the project’s developer and the Pyotr Veliky Construction Company as the commissioner.

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http://paradny.ru/questions/

— Who acquires real estate in Paradny Kvartal?

One of the main advantages of Paradny Kvartal is the social homogeneity of [one’s neighbors]. Our buyers are people of high social status. That is why we will be able to create “our own world” in which it will be pleasant and comfortable to live.

[…]

— What does the phrase “noblesse oblige,” which is frequently applied to Paradny Kvartal, mean?

The well-known phrase has rightly become not just the slogan but the authentic motto of Paradny Kvartal. It translates as “[one’s] station obliges [one].” For in Paradny Kvartal each detail underscores the project’s elitism, its exclusivity.

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Photos courtesy of Zaks.Ru and Chto Delat.

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International Leaking Roofs Day (Saint Petersburg)

ROOF LEAKS UNITE RESIDENTS
By Sergey Chernov
The St. Petersburg Times
April 13, 2011 (Issue # 1651)

Residents, artists and anarchists united Sunday to protest the St. Petersburg authorities’ failure to deal with housing issues by celebrating the fictitious International Leaking Roofs Day in the courtyard of a 19th-century building on Kolomenskaya Ulitsa.

The celebration, which included a discussion, an outdoor art exhibition and tea party, was organized by Verkhotura art group, one of whose members, Polina Zaslavskaya, lives in the building.

“The main idea was that people should unite and organize themselves to fight the problem, rather than deal with it alone,” Zaslavskaya said.

“And we came up with this humorous form: An exhibition, to invite artists to unite and tackle the problem with their artistic means. The housing problem is a common one; it doesn’t matter what you do, the main thing is to do it all together.”

Called “Everything Leaks and Everything Abides,” the art exhibition featured satirical posters criticizing the city’s housing services for the lack of transparency and alleged corruption, as well as documenting the effects of leaking roofs — a problem that affects thousands of the city’s households.

Zaslavskaya painted a series of watercolors with titles such as “Roof Pierced By a Crowbar,” “Electrical Wiring Has Burnt Out” and “Leak in the Kitchen. A Hot Water Pipe Burst in the Attic.”

The anarchists — some of whom held a regular Food Not Bombs event nearby, distributing free vegan food to underprivileged and homeless people — provided vegan snacks and hot tea as well as background music.

According to Zaslavskaya, the date was chosen to mark the first anniversary since the roof of her building, located at 38/40 Kolomenskaya Ulitsa, first started to leak. Despite promises from St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko to fix city roofs, the leaks returned last winter.

Zaslavskaya attributes this to corruption and inefficiency. “When such housing horror occurs, when things are on the verge of catastrophe, it immediately becomes clear to everybody how everything works,” she said.

“The Housing Code was issued back in 2005, but it still doesn’t work. City Hall came up with the “St. Petersburg Roofs” program in which they replaced old roofs with new ones, but it made things even worse because they were poorly made.

“It’s an example of solidarity among thieves and completely insane corruption, because incredible amounts of money are just draining away.”

The exhibition’s title, “Everything Leaks and Everything Abides,” is a play on words on Heraclitis’ quote “Everything flows and nothing abides” (in Russian, there is one word for both “leak” and “flow”), and was used on a poster that Zaslavskaya and her friends made for a rally against leaking roofs last month.

“The residents asked us to do something like ‘Valya, Fix Our Roof,’ which was an almost supplicating tone,” she said.

“I don’t know how productive that is. Quite the opposite, I think it makes sense to say, ‘Let’s battle, let’s unite, let’s organize ourselves and take everything over.’ There should be moods like that.”

Zaslavskaya believes that outdoor art events could overcome alienation and unite people — at least the residents of a specific building.

“There are severe problems now, and they can be used to try and stir up people,” she said.

“To overcome total loneliness and isolation, because I think it’s sad.”

Photos by Sergey Chernov. They are used here with his permission.

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The Unbearable Lightness of Saint Petersburg

The St. Petersburg Times
February 2, 2011
Governor Tries to Remove City’s Historic Status
By Sergey Chernov, Staff Writer

Actor Oleg Basilashvili and author Boris Strugatsky were among artists, teachers and rights activists who wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Tuesday asking him to deny City Governor Valentina Matviyenko’s request to exclude St. Petersburg from the Register of Historic Settlements.

“Recent years have demonstrated convincingly that the city authorities are not capable and, more importantly, do not want to protect the historic center of St. Petersburg,” they wrote in the letter.

“The ‘planning mistakes’ that appear one after another, distorting the unique appearance of our city, are a direct consequence of the permits and authorizations issued by the city authorities.”

The letter cites the new Stockmann building erected in place of two historic buildings demolished to make way for the Finnish department store, which has altered the view of the portion of Nevsky Prospekt close to Ploshchad Vosstaniya, and the 19th-century Literary House on the corner of Nevsky Prospekt and the Fontanka River that is being demolished right now, as the most recent examples.

Matviyenko’s letter to Putin, in which she asked him to strip St. Petersburg of its historic status, was leaked to the press last week. According to an article published by Kommersant on Thursday, City Hall deemed the city’s protected status as a historical settlement to be “excessive,” hindering investment projects and construction activities.

St. Petersburg was included in the Register of Historic Settlements in July, along with 40 other Russian cities. The status implies stricter control over valuable historical objects and demands that the local authorities authorize construction plans and regulations with Rosokhrankultura, the Ministry of Culture’s heritage watchdog.

“Considering that neither Pskov, Novgorod or Moscow have been included on the register, I am asking you to consider excluding St. Petersburg from the said register,” wrote Matviyenko to Putin, according to Kommersant.

Since taking office in 2003, Matviyenko has been accused of overseeing the gradual destruction of St. Petersburg’s cultural heritage. According to preservationist organization Living City, more than 100 historic buildings, including six on Nevsky Prospekt, have been demolished during her tenure.

Late last year, Matviyenko made moves toward preservationist activists, inviting them to take part in a discussion — an initiative that appears to have reached a deadlock over the scandal caused by the demolition of the Literary House at 68 Nevsky begun on Jan. 7.

“I appreciate the activities of preservationist organizations; they are sincere in their care for the city, and I am open to dialogue,” Matviyenko was quoted as saying in November.

“Preservationists and the city authorities are interested in the same thing — in effective work to preserve historic heritage.” Matviyenko also offered the job of deputy chair of the [city’s] heritage protection committee to Living City coordinator Yulia Minutina, who works as a schoolteacher.

In late January, after film director Alexander Sokurov spearheaded an unsuccessful campaign to stop the demolition of the Literary House, City Hall’s stance seemed to change.

“Teachers should teach, doctors should treat patients, film directors should make movies; if people attempt to do a job for which they are not qualified, mess and madness ensue,” Deputy Governor Roman Filimonov was quoted as saying last week.

Meanwhile, the demolition of the Literary House continued Tuesday. “Maybe one third of the building remains, two thirds have already been demolished,” Living City’s Natalya Sivokhina said by phone Tuesday evening.

Activists of Living City and a newly formed group called Nevsky 68 continue to picket the building, collecting signatures for a petition to President Dmitry Medvedev.

Their demands include a halt to all the work, the future conservation of the site, punishment of the city officials responsible for the destruction of the historic building, the withdrawal of permits and the site from its current owner and a broad public discussion on the restoration of the building.

Photos by Sergey Chernov. See his entire photo reportage of the destruction of the Literary House here.

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Goodbye, Gazprom Tower

http://sergey-chernov.livejournal.com/559307.html

The St. Petersburg Times
Issue #1633, Friday, December 10, 2010
Governor Scraps Plans for Okhta Center Tower
By Sergey Chernov, Staff Writer

The controversial Okhta Center project was scrapped Thursday, as St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko cancelled her Oct. 2009 decree allowing the planned Gazprom Tower to increase its planned height to 403 meters, contrary to the 40-meter limit for the site set by the law.

“We had talks with Gazprom and took a mutual and final decision about moving the project to another site,” she was quoted by Ekho Moskvy as saying.

Matviyenko made the statement during a planned meeting with journalists during a congress of construction businesses in St. Petersburg. She said she had already signed the decree.

Last week, Matviyenko first admitted that the move was possible. “We are interested in ensuring that the city is unified, that there is no tension and confrontation,” she was quoted by City Hall’s official web site as saying on Dec. 3.

A new site for the planned skyscraper has yet to be selected.

Okhta Center’s press officer Tatyana Yuryeva said she had no comment when called Thursday.

St. Petersburg residents, preservationists and the political opposition have been struggling against the project since it was announced in 2006 – despite the massive pressure from the authorities as both the Kremlin and City Hall demonstrated full support for the project.

Opponents warned that the planned skyscraper that was to hold the offices of Gazprom Neft threatened to destroy St. Petersburg’s UNESCO-protected skyline, among other objections.

One of them was the threat to archeological findings on the site that was once home to two medieval Swedish fortresses and a Neolithic settlement.

“It’s a victory for the whole of St. Petersburg, it can be credited to all those who fought against all the odds, in the face of being told that doing anything was hopeless, it’s a victory of the spirit over the belly, a genuine achievement for the civil society,“ said Maxim Reznik, the local chair of the Yabloko Democratic Party.

According to Reznik, the party’s firm stance against the project led to his party being dismissed from the local parliamentary elections, when the signatures needed for the party to be registered for the elections were declared “inauthentic” by the St. Petersburg election committee in 2007.

“We paid a high price, but it was worth it,” Reznik said.

“It was strange to have to fight for four years for things that are so obvious,” said Pyotr Zabirokhin of the preservationist organization Living City.

“It’s a first concrete action that should put an end to the project in its current form, which is exactly what the defenders of St. Petersburg fought to achieve over the past few years.”

The Other Russia’s local chair Andrei Dmitriyev described the Okhta Center’s cancellation as a “great victory for the whole of civil society and the opposition,” but warned that other controversial projects could appear under the political system created by Vladimir Putin.

“I wouldn’t want to indulge in euphoria; we will only be able to solve our problems when the St. Petersburg authorities will be accountable to the residents,” Dmitriyev said.

“A hundred Okhta Centers could appear in every sphere of life, and until we start electing the governor, until we have honest elections and until we have normally organized self-government, such situations will appear all the time and we should demand political reforms.”

Putin canceled the election of governors in 2005 as a “security measure” following the 2004 terrorist attack in Beslan.

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