Yolande Barnes

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Story of cities #4: Beijing and the earliest planning document in history

The seemingly incoherent sprawl of modern Beijing is based on meticulous plans to bind citizens together under imperial rule. Conceived as a means of enforcing social order, the impact of planning remains strong in the city today<p>Read other articles in our story of cities series<p>In the depths of …

China

Story of cities #future: what will our growing megacities really look like?

Will we live in buildings made out of waste, heavily surveilled smart cities, or maybe floating communities designed to cope with rising sea levels?<p>Amid the much-mythologised graffiti that appeared around Sorbonne University during the French civil unrest in May 1968, one line still stands out as …

Smart Cities

Story of cities #50: the reclaimed stream bringing life to the heart of Seoul

In September 2005, the new Cheonggyecheon Stream opened in downtown Seoul, looking for all the world like a modern urbanist’s dream come true: not just a pedestrian-only public space bringing water and vegetation into the centre of a dense metropolitan area of 25 million, but one built where a …

Urbanism

The story of cities: the tales we missed

To complement our 50-part series on the history of urbanisation, our readers shared fascinating stories of the cities we didn’t cover – from Bergamo to Isfahan<p>Old Adaminaby, Australia<p>When the Snowy Mountains hydro and irrigation scheme was built in Australia in the 1950s, a whole town was …

Urbanism

Story of cities #49: the long road to Rawabi, Palestine's first planned city

In a hi-vis jacket and jeans, Shadia Jaradat pauses on a tour of Rawabi, a new city rising out of a West Bank hill, to point up at the top floor of an apartment block. “That one is mine,” she says with visible pride, before continuing her exposition of Rawabi’s considerable merits.<p>This privately …

Israel

Story of cities #48: Cybercity, Mauritius – a vision of Africa's 'smart' future?

As the fruit bat flies, it’s only 300 metres from Cyber Tower 1 to the massive food court and commercial centre that was built to service Ebène Cybercity – the hi-tech office community on the outskirts of Mauritius’s capital, Port Louis.<p>But walking from the ostentatious lobby of Cyber Tower 1 to …

Urban Design

Story of cities #46: the gated Buenos Aires community which left its poor neighbours under water

On 2 April 2013, Matías Duarte awoke at three in the morning. For once it was not the noise of his alarm clock that stirred him, but the sound of pouring rain outside – and a room flooded to the level of his bed.<p>Duarte lived in Las Tunas, a working-class neighbourhood 35km north-west of Argentina’s …

Argentina

Story of cities #45: the death of Richard Nickel, guardian of Chicago's heritage

Richard Nickel was missing. The photographer and preservationist had told his friend to meet him at the partly demolished Chicago Stock Exchange building on 13 April 1972. But when Tim Samuelson arrived at what was left of the Lasalle Street structure, Nickel was nowhere to be found.<p>“I was calling …

Urbanism

Story of cities #44: will Dadaab, the world's largest refugee camp, really close?

Kenya’s third biggest city, after Nairobi and Mombasa, is not a city at all but a refugee camp – the world’s largest. This year the Dadaab refugee complex is 25 years old: young for a city, but old for a camp that was only ever supposed to be a temporary sanctuary.<p>Dadaab was built in 1992 for …

Africa

Story of cities #43: how Dubai's World Trade Centre sold the city to the world

There is a story told about Dubai’s World Trade Centre. It is about a businessman who came to the city in the early 1970s. He entered the court of Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed al Maktoum and asked for a piece of land on which to build. The sheikh consented, and sent a surveyor to show the businessman …

Skyscrapers

Story of cities #47: Myanmar rising – how democracy is changing Yangon's skyline

“Premium life for your dream,” announces a billboard beneath a new tower of serviced apartments in the heaving, traffic-choked city of Yangon. “Play in infinite luxury,” says another featuring a couple lolling in a pool on their balcony, with a badly photoshopped pagoda twinkling in the …

Asia

Story of cities #42: Medellín escapes grip of drug lord to embrace radical urbanism

“I’d never been to that neighbourhood before. It was a new world to me.” The architect Luis Miguel Velez Wiesner is recalling the first time he set foot in Santo Domingo, one of Colombia’s most notorious <i>comunas</i> (slums), when the Medellín cable car opened in 2004. “The first time, I felt like I was …

South America

Story of cities #41: Soul City's failed bid to build a black-run suburbia for America

At first glance, this North Carolina town would have looked much like the thousands of others that were built across America’s vast countryside in the decades following the second world war. It would have consisted of single family homes on curvilinear streets within walking distance of manmade …

Urbanism

Story of cities #40: how a village had to die so Hamburg's port could survive

One morning in the late 80s, a pick-up truck full of sinister looking men came to a halt in front of Heinz Oestmann’s house in Altenwerder, a historic fishing village on the outer edges of Hamburg’s port. Oestmann, a fisherman and lifelong Altenwerder resident, could make out a pile of crowbars, …

Container Ship

Story of cities #38: Vancouver dumps its freeway plan for a more beautiful future

In the 1960s, Vancouver’s historic downtown was at risk of being razed for modern road projects – only for an extraordinary protest movement to turn the tide, helping transform it into one of North America’s most ‘liveable’ cities<p>Read more articles in the series here<p>Half a century on, Shirley Chan …

Urban Design

Story of cities #39: Shenzhen – from rural village to the world's largest megalopolis

“It should be here somewhere,” says Leo Houng, a retired cello player with the Hong Kong Philharmonic. We are in a tangle of small streets in central Shenzhen, just next to Lao Jie underground station. Lao Jie (“Old Street”) has existed for decades, which is more than can be said for most of …

China

Story of cities #34: the struggle for the soul of Milton Keynes

Despite decades of mockery, the city’s modernist buildings and wide boulevards are now hailed as visionary. But as developers move in, could there be trouble in this urban paradise?<p>When the architects designing the centre of Milton Keynes in the early 1970s discovered its main street almost …

Urban Planning

Story of cities #37: how radical ideas turned Curitiba into Brazil's 'green capital'

In the late 1960s, Brasília cast a long shadow across Brazil. Built from scratch in just four years, the city was a symbol of modern, rational, functional planning. “President Kubitschek wanted to build a new capital,” architect Oscar Niemeyer said in a BBC interview. “He wanted a city that would …

Brazil

Story of cities #36: how Copenhagen rejected 1960s modernist 'utopia'

While concrete was being poured across Europe’s cities, Denmark’s capital found itself at a crossroads: would it follow the car-centric vision of grand boulevards and streets in the sky – or keep its citizen-focused design?<p>Read more articles in the series here<p>“In the 60s and 70s, we thought that if …

Urbanism

Story of cities #35: Arcosanti – the unfinished answer to suburban sprawl

A cluster of concrete domes and vaults rises above a rocky valley in the middle of the Arizona desert, perched on the brow of the hill like the ruins of a space-age Acropolis. Beneath one richly patterned apse sit two women, carving cosmic symbols into freshly cast ceramic bells, while a second …

Architecture

Story of cities #33: how Santiago tackled its housing crisis with 'Operation Chalk'

Castor Castro was 14 years old when his family moved to La Faena, a residential project in east Santiago, in 1967. “There was nothing here, just bare earth,” Castro recalls, sitting in the house his parents built back then. “Each family was given a plot, and they had to get on with it and build. …

Housing

Story of cities #32: Jane Jacobs v Robert Moses, battle of New York's urban titans

In 1961, Bennett Cerf, one of the founders of the publishing firm Random House, sent a copy of a new book by Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of American Cities, to the legendary city planner Robert Moses. Moses’s reply was curt:<p>Dear Bennett,I am returning the book you sent me. Aside from the fact …

Urban Design

Story of cities #31: Skopje plans for the future by fixating on its ancient past

Macedonia’s capital was rebuilt after the 1963 earthquake with a cutting-edge modernist vision. Now, critics say the hollow Doric columns and clumsy statues of ‘antiquitisation’ are transforming the city into a mini-Las Vegas<p>Read more articles in the series here<p>“Changes like this usually happen …

Architecture

Story of cities #30: how this Amsterdam inventor gave bike-sharing to the world

Take an old bicycle. Paint it white. Leave it anywhere in the city. Tell people to use it. This was the first urban bike-sharing concept in history. Launched in Amsterdam in the 1960s, it was called the <i>Witte Fietsenplan</i> (the “white bicycle plan”). And it was not a great success.<p>In fact, the plan …

Profit

Story of cities #29: Los Angeles and the 'great American streetcar scandal'

The last train on the last line of greater Los Angeles’ Pacific Electric streetcar network made its last run on 9 April 1961. You can see the final days of this once-robust public transport system for yourself in the short film Ride the Last of the Big Red Cars.<p>This footage of the remaining “red …

Transportation

Story of cities #28: how postwar Warsaw was rebuilt using 18th century paintings

When Warsaw’s Old Town was destroyed by Hitler’s troops in the second world war, the nation mobilised to rebuild the city with the rubble of its own destruction – and the work of Italian painter Bernardo Bellotto<p>Read more articles in the series here<p>It is August 1944 and the Polish resistance are in …

Warsaw

Story of cities #27: Singapore – the most meticulously planned city in the world

On 12 May 2015, a Singapore court sentenced Amos Yee, an outspoken 16-year-old video blogger who had been tried as an adult, to four weeks in jail.<p>Yee had been hauled up six weeks earlier on charges related to materials he had posted online: one for violating Section 298 of the country’s penal code …

Asia

Story of cities #26: Delhi's modernist dream proves a far-fetched fantasy

In the late hours of 14 August 1947, on the eve of Indian independence, Jawaharlal Nehru stood at the podium of the Constituent Assembly and delivered his vision for a new capital city. “We have to build a noble mansion of free India where all her children may dwell,” said the country’s inaugural …

India

Story of cities #25: Shannon – a tiny Irish town inspires China’s economic boom

When Wen Jiabao visited the small Irish town of Shannon in 2005, it was like a religious pilgrimage for the then Chinese premier and arguably the world’s second most powerful man. He was the latest in a long line of high-level Chinese dignitaries to come and pay their respects to the site on the …

Ireland

Story of cities #24: how Hiroshima rose from the ashes of nuclear destruction

In August 1945, a 16-kilotonne atomic bomb killed 140,000 people and reduced a thriving city to rubble. Hiroshima has been reborn as a place of peace and prosperity, but will memories of those dark days die with the last survivors?<p>Read more articles in the series here<p>The people of Hiroshima have …

Japan