“Dystopic pockets of inequality and dirt inhabit the not so shiny bits. Ask a gathering of leading thinkers in the worlds of architecture and design, and you get a rather different picture. Some 70 million people a year migrate from the country to cities. That is about 130 a minute, says Robert Neuwirth, author of Shadow Cities. Many of these set up home in squats, put together from scarce materials, if put together at all. There are a billion squatters in 2005. By 2050, that figure will reach three billion. At this rate, our future cities may turn out to be quasi-temporary, low-tech shacks, missing the basics of human life, such as water and electricity, still belching out the waste of fuels that warm the globe.”
That’s a mighty number of squatters. The article continues with a typical McDonough story about ecologically sound future development. That’s not to say that the notion of a living city should be ignored. I mostly agree, but there’s something persistent about the presence of squatters.
The area that used to be SoDo in Seattle, which I suppose now is SoStad or something, was the home for a very large Hooverville, so large they, apparently, formed a union in order to represent themselves to the government.
I just re-watched Blade Runner. In the graphic novel Fray, by Joss Whedon, there’s the division of upper and lower cities which I clearly remember from The Fifth Element, also.
What is it here? In Barbara Erhenriech’s Nickel and Dimed, I started to see the way in which property ownership was being heavily eroded in the class of economically challenged. Some even taken to live in motels because they were unable to make the kind of financial leap to renting a space for real. So, there’s contingency workers living in contingency spaces.
Corporations, mostly hiring temp or contingency workers, have contingency buildings. Instead of owning or building, they lease space. They could dissolve, in a flash, into just a holding company, perhaps.
I wonder, sometimes, if the future of the city isn’t to embrace, even more, this notion of contingency living in some fashion. I wonder what that future would look like that embodied a mobility so uncertain. Is this the future of Snowcrash where Hero lives in a storage shed? Or, is it a cyclical return to the migrations of hunter gatherers in a future where income and work and life are once again variable to seasons and luck?
Reminds me, also, about a Zine I used to have, and may still have, that outlined how to squat. It actually included information about squat toilets too.