Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Another Twenty-Seventh City

With Aberdeen City Council taking the steps necessary to establish a special delivery vehicle (wassat?) to manage and develop publicly-owned assets in Aberdeen worth hundreds of millions of pounds, it is unsurprising that the town's thriving ecosystem of independent journalists, bloggers and activists are restive.

Earlier in the month, Aberdeen City Council published this report (PDF) which you might want to read. Though it's pretty tough going, full of pencilneck lingo bingo type rubbish like this:
Within this backdrop, the City Development Company would seek to remediate pockets of ‘market failure’ within the City region, and to not only contribute to the sustainable ‘macro’ economic future of the area, but to facilitate with partners the capturing of value for targeted beneficiaries within a charitable / regeneration role.
Articles and opinion expressing reservations about and opposition to the setting up of what will be Scotland's first city development company have been published in citizen journalist organ "Aberdeen Voice" and political blog Lenathehyena.Facebook groups such as Friends of Union Terrace Gardens and ACSEF Must Go are, as ever, alive with dissent. Opposition politicians murmur their dark misgivings into the twittersphere. Not wanting to be left out, we thought that Other Aberdeen had better chip in. So here goes...

This new development company (to be called "One Aberdeen") is to be a public-private partnership, with the aims of attracting investment, increasing the value of taxpayer-owned land and creating jobs.

Right. Firstly, the whole philosophy of transferring real-estate assets out of council control raises existential questions about the legal entity status of this development company. We are told that the organisation is to be a not-for-profit charitable foundation. We are nonplussed by this - we would have thought that the sole justification for transferring assets out of council control would have been to set loose the unfettered zeal of the entrepreneurial profit-motive. Thus freed from the dead hand of the state local authority, liberated capital in the hands of unrestrained capitalists is operated in an uninhibited fashion to generate profit for the capitalist and in the process provide value for the consumer. So, if all profits are to remain within the development company for re-investment, where is the incentive for the capitalist to operate the assets to the peak of their potential? How will the capitalist add to his capital under this charitable arrangement?

The "One Aberdeen" charitable trust will be set up as a holding company for a "Property Company" which will be its wholly owned subsidiary. A majority (3 from 5) of the members of the Property Company's executive board will be drawn from the private sector, and it would be reasonable to assume that these individuals will be professionals from within the real-estate sector in the local area - anyone else would not be competent to hold the post from lack of contextual experience and expertise.

Since time immemorial, real estate deals have been characterised by now-you-see-it-now-you-don't misdirection and sleight of hand. Bad things are made to look good and good things are made to look bad. We at Other Aberdeen pretend to no expertise in these matters, but in order for capitalists to become interested in operating within the One Aberdeen framework, one can be sure that there will be arrangements which we cannot at first see which will enable the capitalist to add to his capital or add to the value of his capital. For instance, one way to increase the sale price of an item is to reduce the supply of that item which is available to reach the market. In the context of publicly-owned real estate operated by a board member with links to a private-sector real-estate company (which operates its own private land-bank) it would be in the interest of that private-sector company to frustrate any attempts to bring the publicly-owned land to market. As it is likely that those drawn from the private sector to operate the "Property Company" subsidiary of One Aberdeen will be professionals who currently operate within the private real estate sector in the area, it is, therefore, easy to see how conflicts of interest will arise. Should those board members not be drawn from the private real estate sector in the area, then they will be incompetent holders of their posts. This is, of course, Catch 22. If board members are competent, then they will be subject to conflict of interest. If they are not subject to conflict of interest, then they are incompetent.

Perhaps this move to shuffle non-performing assets off to another body is simply an admission of inefficiency and incompetence on behalf of our council's current Enterprise Planning and Infrastructure (EP&I) committee; they are unable to generate value from certain assets, so they're just letting someone else have a go. Fair enough, perhaps we should admire the straightforward self-critical candour implicit in the creation of One Aberdeen as an executive replacement for the major part of the business of the EP&I committee. If we look at the move from this angle, it is merely a management change, and one which will change not much. If the council are guilty of anything, they are guilty of management by vogue. A fairly outmoded vogue at that; by their own admission, this move has been under consideration by the EP&I committee for at least a decade, and this type of public private partnership has been attempted before elsewhere, with varying results. For instance: the private-sector's attempted putsch on the civic sphere in Leeds failed spectacularly in 2009; Wolverhampton Development Company was culled in the summer; Hull's development company, Hull Forward, failed at the end of September; and Plymouth City Development Company closed its doors at round about the same time.

Others have rightly drawn a portentous comparison between John Aberdein's splendid satire on civic Aberdeen "Strip the Willow" in which private enterprise has its rapacious untrammeled way with an initially supine yet increasingly insurgent polity and populace in Aberdeen. The novel seems astonishingly prescient and is a damn fine read, so we recommend it. Along similar lines, though less obviously satirical is Jonathen Franzen's "The Twenty-Seventh City" which is set in St Louis, Missouri during a period of economic decline in the mid 1980's. The novel is a fictionalised account of a real-estate speculation led attempt to revitalise the city.

St Louis had, at one time, been the fourth-largest and richest city in the USA. Highly wealthy, it sat in the centre of the continent at the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers at a strategic location linking north with south and east with west. Transportation hub and engineering powerhouse, a centre of both high technology and buchaneering risk-taking capitalism, St Louis hosted the 1904 Olympic Games and World's Fair. However, the Atlanticism of the second half of the 20th Century (along with other social and economic factors) didn't serve St Louis well, and by the 1980's, the city had declined from its eminent position to being only the "Twenty-Seventh" city of the title of Franzen's novel.

As the novel unfolds, we learn that the private-sector real-estate speculation-led attempt to revitalise the city is a great success. Through their own city development company - "Municipal Growth", business owners, land-bankers and construction industry interests gain political influence which allows them to sucessfully lobby for (among other measures) the relaxation of zoning (planning) constraints, the abolition of rent controls and the transfer of civic land-banks to private control. All of which has the desired effect: the inner city is gentrified, property values and rent receipts rise, inward investment increases, urban renewal. All spruced up and tickety-boo! Fantastic! Just like that.

However - and this is what should concern us in Aberdeen - this real-estate led renewal threw the baby out with the bathwater. Something had been lost, the ineffable St Louis-ness of St Louis was gone. The marginal, the marginalised the already disenfrancised had no place in the re-developed St Louis. The element of the city which lent the city it's color and vibrance, the creative, bohemian jazzy edgy of musicians and artists, poets and writers are squeezed out of the edges which they had occupied in the city before the arrival of "Municipal Growth". While the city is now sanitised for white-collar white-people to admire each other's choice of consumer goods, this is against a sterile background lacking in cultural context - it is a rat-race money-go-round only. Without meaning, without direction and without hope.

We should worry that here in Aberdeen, the proposed supremacy of private sector real estate interests will create a city suitable only for self-similar white-collar people - a homogenising swarm of cookie-cutter cubicle clones, an army of pre-indebted consumer/producer drones. So we must make sure to work to keep these private sector interests honest, we must be sure to scrutinise what they do and how they do it. There are plenty handbooks out there.

Like the fictional ones above and this real-life one below:

Leeds Plan B

Monday, 29 November 2010

Unknown Stones

The city, having evolved to its current state over many centuries, contains many signs and signifiers, artifacts and arrangements which encode the events of the urban story and which can be understood by anyone who possesses the key to the code. Sometimes the key is apparent, often it is not. A good example of this type of artifact is Aberdeen's system of boundary stones  - the March Stones - which we've been exploring over the weeks and months.

All of the March Stones are hidden in plain view, but sometimes they are difficult to see. That's partially because our modern perception is simply not focussed upon estate boundaries; we've no need to know of rights of way along free byways and waterways or any other feudal concerns. During the psychogeographical process of exploring these boundary markers we had to learn where and how to look, where to direct our cognition so that we could locate the artifacts.

So, once we had those eyes switched on (as it were) - once we'd directed our consciousness towards ancient boundaries and how they might be marked - we coincidentally found other stone marks and markers, signifiers of past property or infrastructure and not registered on the council's reference pages.

Enigmatic "S" - Any ideas?
Ferryhill Road

Rosebank boundary stone and wall
Rosebank Place

"D" (for Devanah?)
Whinhill Road

These three artifacts are within easy striking distance of Other Aberdeen Towers in the upscale heart of downtown Pitmuxton, so other neighbourhoods around town are likely to be similarly strewn with artifacts which signify their bypassed past.

By their nature, and signified by the fact that they have survived into the modern era, these artifacts are off the beaten track - tucked away in corners, overlooked and forgotten; their significance now obscure. There are bound to be many others similarly tucked away, waiting for us - or you - to find.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

March Stones 32 to 36 ABD

Aha, right. Back to the March Stones.

Aberdeen's cultural histobunk periodical "The Leopard" published a splendid and helpful article titled "Aberdeen's Stones of Time" by Aberdeen City Council's Chris Croly. Chris also published the council's "March Stones Trail" leaflet (pdf) which has been indispensable as we've sought out these sometimes enigmatic artifacts.

Part of the article in The Leopard highlights the ancient aspect of the stones, some of the older 'earth-fast' stones significantly pre-dating the later 'ABD' engraved stones. We've seen some of these more ancient stones already, notably the large glacial erratic 'earth-fast' stones at nos. 16 and 18nos. 23 and 25 and no. 31.

Finding these more ancient stones is somehow especially satisfying - you get a feeling of achievement from researching the locations, tramping across the rough ground, jumping burns, sinking into bogs, getting snagged on barbed wire and seeing the site (and sight!) that many before over the last 500 years and longer have used as a significant marker of property, propriety, politics and populace. Indeed, stones 26 to 30 sit on the boundary of the unitary authority (Aberdeen City Council) to this day. But while the stones have long-since been supplanted as practical boundary markers by the growth of the city and improvements in surveying and cartographic technology, there they still sit, waiting for us to discover and use that discovery as a construct around which to build a psychogeographical journey.

We were aware that other towns and cities have historical stone boundary markers, and so we were delighted by Richard Miles' fascinating BBC programme "Ancient Worlds". In episode one, Miles tells us about the very first cities which developed from 5000 BC in the middle east's "fertile crescent" between the Persian Gulf and the Levant. From the very first cities of Sumer (Sumeria) these cities and their successors marked their limits with splendid boundary stones.

This one's Babylonian, about 3000 years old. The pictographic and cuniform inscription is the title deed to the land, as well as its boundary marker. "The Establisher of the Boundary Forever"

Image courtesy of the British Museum. Many thanks.

Not as ancient or explicitly magnificent, Aberdeen's boundary stones 32 ABD and 33 ABD are found in the fold between Brimmond Hill and Elrick Hill. These retain both the more ancient 'earth-fast' stones and the more recent engraved 'ABD' numbered stone markers.

Ancient and more recent.

Saucer-hole and witter holes

The saucer hole is full of water, and has a red tinge.
While scholars can read and fully understand the explicit cuniform and pictogram inscriptions on the Babylonian markers, the Aberdeen stones retain an enigmatic dimension; no-one can say for sure what function (ritualistic or practical) the 'saucer marks' and 'witter-holes' fulfilled.

Stone 34 ABD is accessed by crossing one of the holes of the Craibstone Golf Centre at Greenwelltree (our thoughts about golf have been recorded elsewhere - ugh!).

The stone is quite difficult to find - follow the dry stane dyke towards Glendale. The electrified barbed wire fence is somewhat less than friendly.

Between Stones 34 ABD and 35 ABD we see other markers laden with psychogeographical significance - these mark the route of the Forties Oil Pipeline as it skirts the west of the city on its way from landfall at Cruden bay to its destination at the Kinneil plant at Grangemouth.

Just south east of the pipeline marker, we find stone 35 ABD

And further along the same dry-stane dyke - stone 36 ABD.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Another Pictish Homage - Mile-End at Beechwood.

Having felt all brave and urban-explorerey looking round Oakbank, we needed to recouperate and sit down and have a nice refreshing and relaxing sip of tea from our flasks. So, looking for a nice place to rest, we found ourselves sitting on the un-dry-stane dyke at the entrance to the new Mile End School off Midstocket Road. The new Mile-End School is on the site of the former Beechwood School, which was for kids with special educational needs. Both schools are integrated now and the former Mile-End School sits empty to the east, about a half mile down Midstocket Road. We'll be keeping an eye on that.

Guarding the entrance to the new school is this homage to the Pictish Symbol Stones which are strewn all over Pict-land from the Forth to Shetland. We've noted the sculptor's work before, at Ruthrieston Pocket Park.

There have been about 350 known Pictish stones discovered to date. Historic Scotland have put together an excellent website which gives lots of information about the Picts and the artifacts and enigmas they left us to wonder over and waste our time blabbering on about. 

There are no doubt many, many more which have been ploughed under fields, biding their time and keeping their council, leaving us to guess and speculate on the nature of the Pictish enigma and their obscure symbol-language. Doubtless many more languish undiscovered, hidden in plain sight having been incorporated into more recent buildings or walls like the Brandsbutt Stone at Inverurie, which has now been restored. 

We don't know what we think about that. Certainly the stone should have been rescued from where it had been unthinkingly secreted -  unseen and unstudied. But some might suggest that the Blue Peter-y concrete patch 'restoration' almost mocks the stone.

Like the Brandsbutt Stone, the new sculpture at Mile-End School shows a "V-Rod" symbol in combination with a crescent.

Beneath the V-Rod and crescent we see a "Z-Rod" in combination with a "Double Sun". As mentioned above, the meaning of the symbols is obscure, but some analysts suggest that the V-Rod is a symbol of death, and that the Z-Rod in comination with the double-disk (or double-sun) represents the solar cycle and by association the cycle of life, death and rebirth into an afterlife. So maybe the sculpture represents the re-birth of the school in its new location.

Beneath the pictograms, we see an inscription in the Ogham alphabet which we can transliterate thus:


Though perhaps we've gone wrong somewhere.

The new school with Foresterhill behind, looking to the skyscrapers of Cairncry

Autumn suits Midstocket Road

Oakbank School

Oakbank was, to people of a certain age in Aberdeen, the great threat. Used by our parents to guarantee our good behaviour, the threat of 'Approved School' (let's call a spade a spade: 'borstal') was weilded, Damoclean above our heads, as the place we'd end up if we didn't "learn to behave".

Oakbank main building.
I can just, if I strain, remember visiting Oakbank on an fundraiser open day in the 1970's (most probably the centenary celebration). A family outing to a borstal. Nice. All I can really remember was the celebrity guest of honour performing his tombola obligations. That guest of honour was local superstar continuity announcer Jimmy 'Spunky' Spankie, steadfast and redoubtable stalwart of Grampian Television's 'just like your living room' in-vision continuity suite. A man who's fame was compounded by his trademark plaid trousers, which he always wore. Those were the days.

Jimmy - wearing slippers and looking a bit 'tired'.
Oakbank was founded in 1878 and sited high in the Stocket Forest off Midstocket Road. When it was new it was then what was known as an 'Industrial School'; the class of institution which became know as 'Reformatories', then 'Approved Schools', then 'List D Schools'.  All just euphamisms for children's prison - though these institutions did have an open regime, which set them aside from the pure 'borstal', which is a tougher and more enclosed kind of youth prison.

Midstocket Road at entrance to Oakbank.

Latterly, Oakbank was classed as a 'List G School'; an establishment which catered for the needs of young people with emotional and behavioural disorders and specific mental health issues. We're gratified that over the decades the emphasis and aim of this institution changed from that of disciplined reform of the character to recognising that many of the troubled inmates were in need of intensive support - not punishment. Fees ranged from £93,600 to £179,400 per pupil per year.

The Governor's Lodge - a listed building.
However, nothing good will last forever, and we wonder about the fate of the institution's final pupils who were receiving that support In 2008 when it closed it's doors, the charitable trust which ran it collapsing amidst reports of mismanagement leading to "serious concerns about many aspects relating to the school". 100 jobs were lost. We hope that the skills which were embodied in that staff have not been dissipated and are still being used to help young people who need the support of our society, in order that - in turn and in time, they might become productive, active and supportive members of that society themselves.

Since the closure of the school, there has been all the usual now-you-see-it-now-you-don't bad things made to look good and good things made to look bad real estate dealing bullschist going on about getting the school rennovated to maintain its function (no chance!) or redeveloping it as 'aspirational, exclusive' housing (ker-ching!) or as a business park (the 'park' bit meaning 'carpark', of course). The local press report concerns of anti-social behaviour and vandalism at the abandoned site. There are also reports that dangerous chemicals and personal files are stored on the site. There has, it is said, been fire-raising. Local residents, it is reported, live in fear.

Document box-files plainly visible in office.
All very nasty, we're sure, and local councillor Bill Comrie has lead calls to have the school demolished, saying that the "huge amount of fear" suffered by his residents justifies the indescriminate destruction of the buildings by new site owner "Carlton Rock Ltd" (they don't appear to have a website). Thus conveniently clearing the site and clearing the way for planning consent in the spring (housing, we reckon being favourite). Yes. It's an ill wind that blows nobody any good.

But at present, the site is lying vacant and derelict.

Pull up a seat...

And admire the views...

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Guerilla, Public and Semi-Public Art in Queens Cross

Returning from our visit to the Crypto-Communist Roof of John Lewis, we walked back to Other Aberdeen Towers in the heart of downtown upscale Pitmuxton via a route suggested by this photo of the view from the Roof of John Lewis.

We're glad that we chose to walk that way, rather than slalom in-and-out between all the chuggers on Union St (bah!). We're glad we went off-the-beaten track, because, as so often, we were delighted by what we saw...

Smile, life is what u make it

This advice reminded us of the fellow psychogeographer (and guerilla artist) who we mentioned the other day, Lewis Dryburgh and his "A Message for You" guerilla art project which he conducted this summer in Aberdeen. It's always comforting to come across stuff like this - strangers sending uplifting and comforting messages out into the world. You could almost feel like you were being benignly watched over.

We said 'benignly"!

We were also delighted to come across a customised example of this most invisible and ubiquitous piece of street furniture; the "Bigg" electrical junction box (they control the streetlamps).

This junction box has been jazzed-up.
Action Art. Dynamic. More, please.
We like garden displays - even the kitschest gnome-tableau speaks of someone who cares deeply about their surroundings - and in Queens Cross the residents bring a sophisticated edge to the traditional garden gonk.

The feeling of being watched over continues.
Who knows what scenarios are played out by the personifications of these characters in this highly sophisticated display (below) with its toy-box juxtaposition of totems, tikis and teddies. Bart Simpson lies supine, his catapult broken and Thomas the Tank engine is derailed. The black horse standing at the foot of the eagle-headed totem-pole consults Scooby Doo for advice. Let's hope he gets it. The wooden woodsman looks stoically and silently on - a knowing smile spreading thinly across his lips, his axe-arm relaxed (but ready) as he surveys the scene with the bucket-living water-spirit. The teddies don't know what to make of it all.

Fantastical. Phantasmagorical. Literally - look it up.


The Crypto-Communist Roof of John Lewis

Coincidentally continuing the theme of multi-storey car-park top-decks, today I found myself on the top of the building which is occupied by the John Lewis department store. The top of the building forms an adjunct to the Loch Street car-park of the Bon-Accord centre. The building was formerly called "Norco House" and was occupied by the department store of the Northern Co-operative Society.

The Communist Party and the Second and Third Socialist Internationals paid great attention to the Co-operative societies, seeing them both as a form of communism-in-action but also potentially as a counter-revolutionary lightning-rod sop to the working class; earthing the charge of revolutionary tension through their rosy ideologies; thus preserving the status quo.

As far as the Northern Co-operative Society goes (and, skating all too quickly over the surface of this frozen yet deep pond) its own history of soaring idealism betrayed by mis-management, pilfering, inefficiency, spanish practices, featherbedding, jobsworthy empire-bulding and eventual over-reach and collapse in 1993 (followed by subsequent carpet-bagging and asset-stripping) parallels the history of Soviet Communism itself. In a very approximate way. Sort of.

John Lewis is an employee-owned partnership business, which is managed through a system which resembles that of worker's councils, so it's entirely apt that they should occupy this building in Aberdeen.

The roof of the building is accessed by car via this thrilling sky-bridge from the main section of the Loch St carpark. The sky-bridge straddles Loch Street below. Pedestrians can reach the roof via the stairs inside the John Lewis store itself.

You can drive your car on top of that. Really, you can.
As usual, this open-to-the sky portion of the car-park was largely deserted.

Nobody here but us psychogeographers.
And the views are, of course, spectacular.

George St



Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Chapel Street Multi-Storey Car Park


One of the things which first got us into this psychogeography lark was the writings of Alex Mitchell in his "Round and About" articles for Aberdeen Civic Society. In documenting one of his psychogeographcal walks, Alex tells us of the panoramic views which are available from the top-deck of Union Square's multi-storey carpark.

More recently,  noted local psychogeographer and guerilla artist Lewis Dryburgh appeared on the Fred MacAuley radio show via high-tech live link-up from the top-deck of an Aberdeen multi-storey car-park, enjoying his packed lunch and promoting his forthcoming attendance at a conference in London where he'll be talking about just this very subject.

There's clearly something in this...

So, armed only with open minds and a digital camera off we went to revel in the delights of the splendidly modernist brutalist pay-and-display municipal carparking facility which squats on the corner of Huntly Street and Chapel Street.

Béton brut

From the top-deck, we're treated to amazing views.

No motorist uses the top deck for parking.

Someone's been enjoying a lovely snack ... Lewis?

Pizza, spesh & tabs.

As was mentioned on the Fred MacAuley radio show, because the motorists who park there prefer to use the lower levels (lest they inadvertently catch a glimpse of the sky or are exposed to the wind) the top-decks of these carparks are invariably-deserted splendid urban refuges and viewing platforms for pedestrians where the skyline of the town can be ogled in peace and tranquility, away from the street-level hurly-burly noise and pollution.


We're not even joking when we say that this aspect of the top-decks should be promoted. A handful of picnic benches could be installed and the area landscaped with a bit of container-planting. We appreciate that readers will draw a parallel between what we're suggesting and what's been proposed for Union Terrace Gardens, but we're not trying to be too-clever-by-half cynical here. The top-decks are a fantastic and extensive pre-existing resource within the heart of the city. We should make use of that resource as if it were urban green space. Even if it isn't.


However... as with all things... not all is rosy in our putative urban garden on the top-deck. There are plenty artifacts around the place which signify the security regime to which this carpark is subject.

To intrude, deter and intimidate.

If not; lacerate, injure and eviscerate.
As we went to leave, descending the north-frontage starwell, we heard a voice shouting at us:
"Jist hud on you two, ahm wantin a word with yiz!"

This carpark has an Aberdeen City Council caretaker. Oh no! He's a jobsworth: his jobsworthy credentials confirmed by the fact that he only chose to challenge us as we were on the way out. Squatting in his bothy, pouring over the CCTV footage, he observed us. He watched what we were doing. He didn't like it. He told us that we were "bein checked up on" because "Ahv bin telt te keep an eye on things".

So, you saw us on your monitor and just assumed we were up to no good...

Hmmmm... in which case, why challenge us only when we were leaving - when it was perfectly clear that we'd done no damage, stolen nothing, touched nothing, interfered with nothing. Indeed (and as always) we'd behaved with a high degree of upright decorum. Surely it would have been much better to challenge us when he first saw us. Then we could have had a nice chat rather than him make insulting assumptions about us. Of course, we thought that if you've done nothing wrong - then you've nothing to worry about. Isn't that how the surveillance state was sold to us all? But by this unpleasant encounter we certainly felt we'd been punished for something.

Apparently he's been "telt te clamp doon" because he gets "a lot of Big Councillors" using his carpark.

Clamp down on what? Perfectly legal activity? What are they afraid of? Are they afraid that my act of photo-logging will scratch their car? Or is it like the First Nation people of North America who believed that to be photographed was to surrender a part of the soul? Does my act of photography devalue the car?

One of the reasons why we 'do' psychogeography is to uncover the events and relationships which are encoded within the environment of the town and the behaviours, events and relationships which in turn are moulded and promoted by that environment. Our jobsworth caretaker unwittingly reveals a number of these relationships, events and behaviours.

Do the "Big Councillors" (does that mean fat? he didn't specify) pay for their parking? Or is it a perquisite of their position; is this jobsworth merely a form of subsidised valet parking for the "Big Councillors"?

We can't imagine why so many "Big Councillors" are attracted to the area anyway.

According to the jobsworth, cars have been stolen from that car park. And so, having been "telt te keep an eye on things" the jobsworth believes that all non-conforming behaviour is challengable. The car-thiefs, it seems, can be detected by their enthusiasm for photo-location-logging.

Odd. We'd heard that over-indebted motoristis had been abandoning their heavily-financed hire-purchase cars in this facility. Quite the opposite of car theft.

Can't pay? Then just walk away.
And, as so often, as we make our way through life in the surveillance state and the empowered jobsworths it begets, we find ourselves thinking of he words of Bryan Finoki from his 'Field Guide to Military Urbanism' blog. The blog mostly refers to urban situations in war zones, siege areas, divided communities and the like - but these words are pertinent to us, now, here:
[The] contemporary city is defined by a kind of de facto psychopathology that is embodied in the very spaces and architectural rationales that order urbanization today, from gated communities to urban surveillance landscapes, to the last dying refuges of public space that have been [will be?] overwhelmed by privatization and a complete hyper securitization of the built environment at all scales.
One might ask... what is the current diagnosis and mental health state of western democracy? Or, how can the city be viewed as an architectural weapon to enforce behavior, to mandate neo-liberalism in a way, to turn a population into an obedient supporter of rampant commerce? What are the inherent narratives of power that run through spatial constructs like maximum-security prisons, shopping malls, refugee camps, suburban sprawl, and the hardened borderzones between nation-states? Is there a psychopathological connection between them? Is there a new urban archetype here to be deconstructed?

Yes. There is.