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The Cities This Week: Edition 20




The 2013 Serpentine Pavilion (Source: OliverN5/ flickr)

The 2013 Serpentine Pavilion (Source: OliverN5/ flickr)

ISTANBUL

Over the past week, Istanbul’s Gezi Park and Taksim Square – where police violence against peaceful demonstrators first provided a spark for what have become nationwide anti-government protests – has transformed into the calm, if crowded, eye of the storm. Since police pulled out of the square last Saturday afternoon, the people have taken over, setting up tents, workshop and teach-in areas, community libraries, and booths offering free food, medicine, and other supplies. Musicians put on free concerts and yoga instructors – including some well-known international teachers in town for a now-postponed MindBody Festival – give free daily classes. Turkish political groups typically (and sometimes violently) at odds sit next to each other distributing leaflets about their respective causes. While clashes between police and protesters continue nightly in the capital city of Ankara and other parts of the country, the tens of thousands camped out in the Taksim area are celebrating into the wee hours.

Also read:

  • 5 Reflections on The Istanbul by Urban Times here
  • #OccupyGezi Fights to Save Historic Istanbul Park by Polis here
  •  Istanbul’s fight for its public spaces by Sustainable Cities Collective here
  • Lack of participatory planning is to blame by Global Site Plans here
  • In Istanbul’s Heart, Leader’s Obsession, Perhaps Achilles’ Heel by the New York Times here

XIAMEN

Chinese police have identified a suspect who might be responsible for the fire that gutted a commuter bus, killing 47 and injuring dozens more during rush hour in the southeastern port city of Xiamen. Investigators said early on Saturday that the fire appeared to be intentionally set, and not an accident, the state news agency Xinhua reported. Xinhua also said that in addition to the 47 dead, 34 people remained hospitalised. The fire ripped through the bus during the Friday evening commute while it traveled on an enclosed and elevated road in the city.

JOHANNESBURG

Johannesburg is set to be the most popular destination in Africa, with a projected 2.54 million international visitors expected to visit the city in 2013, according to the third annual MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index. Mastercard released the figures stating, despite a marginal 5.5% increase in the number of international visitors from 2012, Johannesburg’s substantial 53.6% growth in international visitors from 2009 to 2013 has propelled it into the Index’s top 20 fastest growing cities globally. Johannesburg also comes out tops in Africa in terms of international visitor spending, with US$2.7 billion estimated (about R27bn at R10.03/$) to be injected into the city during 2013, a slight increase (1%) on 2012’s expenditure.

ABUJA

The Abuja administration has approved the request of a consortium of Brazilian investors to build a model satellite city in Abuja that would depict the Brazilian character and flavor as well as boost the bilateral and cultural ties between Nigeria and Brazil. Abuja Minister Bala Mohammed pointed out that the Brazilians would undertake the multi-billion naira investment under the land swap programme recently introduced by the Administration to fast-track infrastructure and housing development in the nation’s capital. In addition to their participation in the land swap programme, Senator Bala Mohammed announced that the Brazilians have also indicated interest in developing an industrial park, a mono rail transport system, a world class hospital and a standard university in the Nigerian capital.

SANTA MONICA

The gunman who went on a shooting rampage in Santa Monica, California, killed four people, police spokesman St. Richard Lewis said. Authorities said earlier that six had died, but revised the number to four. The gunman was also killed, bringing the total number of deaths to five. The shooter began his rampage at a residence near the campus of Santa Monica College, opening fire in a house, where police later found two bodies. He then shot at a passing car before carjacking another vehicle, Lewis said. He forced the driver, a woman, to drive onto the college campus. There he shot two people in a passing vehicle. One died at the scene. The gunman also fatally shot someone outside the campus library, where he engaged police in a gunfight, Lewis said. Officers fatally wounded him.

KISMAYO

Hundreds of people are fleeing the southern Somali port city of Kismayo after fighting broke out between two self-declared leaders of the region. At least 10 people were killed on Saturday as clashes between the rival militias flared for a second day. Seven were killed on Friday, residents said. Fighting began when one of the leaders tried to meet the defence minister, who is seeking to resolve the situation. African Union troops are in charge of security in Kismayo.

MANZINI

A senior government engineer has warned that construction flaws in Swaziland’s new Sikhuphe International Airport are likely to render the R2.36-billion facility unusable. AmaBhungane is in possession of two confidential technical reports by the engineer, Derrick Dlamini, alleging that there are major structural defects in the airport’s concrete apron and that it is unfit for use by large commercial aircraft. The Swazi government; the project manager between March 2010 and June last year, Pretoria-based Aurecon; and the contractor on the apron, Inyatsi Construction, have all denied the claims.

LONDON

A cloud appears to have dropped out of the sky and landed among the trees in Kensington Gardens, in west London. This hazy lattice of spindly white rods, which hovers above the ground like a digital apparition, is the 13th annual Serpentine Gallery pavilion, designed by the Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto. At 41, Fujimoto is the youngest architect to be selected for the commission, and he brings a fresh, experimental energy to the project. “I wanted to create a structure that was somewhere between architecture and nature,” he says, “something like the primitive beginnings of a building.”

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Melissa Meyer

Future Cape Town London-based correspondent

Urbanist-in-training from Cape Town, currently working in London. MSc City Design & Social Science.

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