Monday, 28 June 2010
Thursday, 10 June 2010
Tuesday, 8 June 2010
By now London ruled Europe, controlled India and was the base of industrial growth in all of Britain. The City of London was flourishing with the creation of virtual capital – the National Debt – by the help of Dutch Jews who had settled here. But with all this money, London’s urban growth remained organic.
Comparing to London’s ‘refurbishment’ at times of flourish, most notably the Hausmannian re-design of Paris that bulldozed anything in its way to create the circular and all-boulevards-lead-to majestic views of national celebration, London was rather modest despite dreams of grandeur by both developers and royals. Today we can breathe a sigh of relief that many a gaudy plan were never materialized due to their extremely high cost. Planners allowed for the more functional rather than visual mapping of the city keeping the workers’ Soho on one side and the high-priced Mayfair to lay on the other.
Prince Regent was among those with grand ideas that never saw the ground. Regent Street was not designed as the vein that it serves as now, but rather as a line of commercial exploitation – if this is true, then that particular design was one that got stronger with age. The Prince, at the time, was hoping to have Regent Street stretch from Picadilly Circus, through Oxford Circus ending at Regent Circus – as it does today. But along with that were visions of piazzas and colonnades. John Nash, the man credited as planner of Regent’s new London, was responsible for the creamy motives of Portland Place as well as the inception of what is now called the London Zoo, originally called the Zoological Gardens. The Zoo added a new element to city planning: the design towards spaces of public access, areas for relaxation and, ultimately, tourism.
The two new concepts, public spaces and tourism, were deemed successfully accomplished. The Zoo recorded to have had hosted 30,000 visitors in the first seven months. Public parks and gardens were a symbol of newly growing democracy as well as a reborn interest in gardening and horticulture. (I always thought public parks were a sign of an advanced society.)
Nash was also responsible for the idea of housing national art treasures at Trafalgar Square. The National Gallery is not boasted as an architectural feat, but socially fitting and nationally essential, it stands at the head of the biggest square in London. There also stands Nelson’s Column, one of London’s most prized memorials, positioned to face Westminster. Nelson, not a ruler nor a royal, stands as a symbol of pride and defeat against Napolean at a time that lead to London’s biggest surge of urban growth boldly stating that the city is looking to the future of commercial fortitude and metropolitan expansion.
Wednesday, 2 June 2010
Back in 2006, archeologists in Iraq were teaching US Troops about the value and importance of historical sites after damage was made to various locations. Reading about this brought an article I had read a couple of months ago back to mind. Unfortunately (and ironically), the second article was not as thoughtful. It was from a Bahraini newspaper announcing the bulldozing of historical burial mounds in Bahrain, by local Bahrainis. The said burial mounds are among Bahrain’s most valuable sites dating back at least 4,000 years. These mounds were on a list waiting to be accepted by the UNESCO onto the World Heritage Sites list. This is something that would bring Bahrain's heritage into the international arena having recognized the mounds’ global significance. They were bulldozed in order to build private residences and, supposedly, a public park.
No matter how it can be read, American military personnel, quite violent and dehumanizing people by nature of the fact that they are attacking, occupying, forces, at the time discussing the importance of bombing ‘around’ the historical sites in Iraq and training not to damage them is a rude contradiction to the fact that local ‘developers’ in Bahrain have no qualms with the destruction of their own local history. I have always been weary of comparing issues in countries of war to the sprawl occurring in Bahrain or anywhere else. But the fact that ‘war’ is more sensitive to culture (in this very particular case) than the locals of a culture is a jarring reality.
The article on Bahrain made me miserably sad the first time I read it. It made me question the simple logic about it, such as: where is the communication that would prevent this from happening, and how is it that the land of invaluable historical significance is sold to individuals? Seeing the ignorance that surrounds it more clearly by reading stories that illustrate an absolute and shameful contradiction where military troops are taught to respect sites of the grounds of their supposed enemy is a sobering realization. The American soldiers were given playing cards to recognize the sites they are instructed to protect. The article also points out that Professor Ulrich, in charge of training the soldiers in the matter, was hoping to expand his own knowledge of Mesopotamian archeology. Which brings us to the point that education around values of the past must be developed. It is an important topic to add to the local history or even ‘nationalism’ curriculum in Bahrain for students to learn more about the significance of these sites. In Bahrain, it is already an ongoing issue that people lose, by way of neglect and demolition, areas of personal significance, but it really must not be fought when big sites of international significance are being groomed for UNESCO protection. It really is time for Bahrainis to realize that the historical sites are a part of their own country’s history, it is unique and that they should claim these sites, enjoy them, and realize that they are important and are there for them.
Tuesday, 1 June 2010
These pictures were taken at the protest in front of the Israeli embassy at High Street Kensington, London on May 31, 2010. The protest was in response to the attack on a civilians' flotilla attempting to get aid into Gaza.