The People Who Pretend to Be Wolves

She puts her nose into the air as she trots into a dark parking lot in Valby, the district in Copenhagen that is home to the Carlsberg brewery. She tilts her head back and howls into the clear, dark sky, and then falls quiet, waiting.

Suddenly, a chorus of howls echoes off the concrete walls of office buildings and into her ears. She slinks toward the sound quietly, on two legs, in the hope of locating other members of her pack.

Yes, that’s on two legs, not four. She is not a wolf; she is a woman from rural Jutland, Denmark, named Dorothea Marie Bach Nielsen. Nielsen now lives in Copenhagen, where she is studying midwifery. But for one night, she and 10 other Copenhageners assumed the identity of wolves to try to think and feel more like these wild canines.

It was part of a performance art project called Wolf Safari, hosted by Finnish art collective called Toisissa Tiloissa, or “Other Spaces,” in collaboration with two Copenhagen performance spaces. Other Spaces has organized wolf safaris across Western Europe and Russia.

Other Spaces: Wolf Safari – trailer 3 min from Eskus on Vimeo.

On a chilly morning in February, I met up with Nielsen for a walk around Copenhagen’s central lakes. Passersby sent sideways glances as she explained to me, through a loud demonstration, the difference between the “woooooo!” howl that wolves use to find one another and the “arfarfarf!” yips that serves as a greeting.

“While I’m interested in all animals, wolves are particularly special,” Nielsen said. “I’m from Jutland, where there are many farmers. The farmers fear that the new population of wolves will destroy the current balance of nature and kill off their livelihoods: sheep.”

Danish scientists last year confirmed the presence of a wolf pack of two to four adults with seven to eight pups in Jutland. It’s the first wild pack to wander through Denmark in more than 200 years. The country’s last wild wolves had been killed off by hunters and disgruntled farmers by 1813. Scientists say male wolves have been present in the country since 2012, but the pack was able to form later when a young female wolf traveled more than 300 miles north from Germany into Denmark.

Denmark is just the latest country in Western Europe to see a resurgence in the wolf population. But in most countries, the hunting, trapping, and poaching of wolves are still prevalent.

Eva Handberg and Ricardo Melitón Torres, friends who separately participated in wolf safaris in Aarhus (another Danish city, in Jutland) and Copenhagen, described them over coffee days after I met with Nielsen. “We all gathered inside a small room at the Brobjerg School around nine o’clock at night, where we sat in a circle,” Handberg said. “Instructors taught us all about wolves’ natural and social lives, how they are threatened by people and how wolves communicate with sounds and body language. Then, when they thought we were wolf-y enough, they set us off on the streets.”

Torres said his wolf group had two main tasks: First, locating all the members of the pack, and second, making a kill together by finding the “elk”—a person holding a backpack of food.

“I howled and howled, and ran around exhausted, trying to find my pack, and it was completely exhilarating,” he said. “I got strange looks from people on the streets. That was challenging, because I couldn’t tell them what I was doing. I was supposed to be a wolf, after all.”

The safari organizers give the “wolves” small slips of paper explaining the performance. Participants can silently hand these to anyone they encounter—like a security guard—who appears suspicious of their wolf-like behaviors, which might include howling, yipping, sniffing, slinking against buildings, avoiding people and cars, or jumping fences.

“If only [the bystanders] could have run along with us as wolves—I bet they would have enjoyed it,” Torres said.

The project coincides with wolves’ comeback, but was not created in response to it. Other Spaces Producer Timo Jokitalo said the idea came after a long training session in 2014, when a group of artists raided the kitchen and “ate everything they could get their hands on.” Someone joked that they were acting like wolves. Other Spaces had already created a performance in which the public is invited to learn about and act like reindeer, called Reindeer Safari. So Wolf Safari was a natural offshoot.

Jokitalo said one of the artistic goals is for people to have a nonhuman experience. “We hope that the participants will, at least momentarily, feel that they actually become a wolf,” he said. “We think that this transformation is a key to a deeper understanding of the animal, and it also transforms the character of our humanity.”

Handberg said the workshop did make her feel different. “Maybe I didn’t think or feel exactly like a wolf; I don’t know if that’s possible. But I did feel more wild and free. I think it’s very valuable to look at your city from behind an animal’s eyes. It can help you understand and hopefully respect them a little more. ”

Wolves’ return to Jutland and other parts of Europe may be welcomed more by urban residents than by country farmers, who have livestock to safeguard. But wolves have ventured close to some major population centers, including Berlin. And the more that human cities encroach on natural habitats, the more humans are likely to interact with wolves. Norway, France, and Denmark are trying to come up with wolf protection measures that conserve natural biodiversity while also appealing to farmers who largely see wolves as a threat to their way of life and react to wolves’ presence by shooting them and setting traps.

Killing wolves and other large predators may actually increase their populations, worsening livestock deaths. According to scientists, the expected average number of livestock preyed on by wolves increases by 5 to 6 percent per herd for cattle, and 4 percent for sheep, after each wolf killed in a pack. This may be due to the shuffle in pack dynamics that occurs after a kill. On top of that, top predator animals like wolves are a critical part of a healthy ecosystem.

Kent Olsen, a biologist at the Natural History Museum in Aarhus who studies wolves, said he believes Wolf Safari could benefit wolf conservation in Denmark through some kind of performance-based education program. “I told my 13-year-old daughter about Wolf Safari and this immediately kick-started several thoughts where she suggested how [the safari] could be done,” Olsen wrote in an email.

Whether or not Wolf Safari participants feel a genuine wildness—or even a wolfiness—that could help further wolf conservation, there’s one thing that’s certain: Acting like a wolf in public is an experience you won’t forget.

Although it was months after his safari, Torres pantomimed his hungry wolf persona as if he had done the performance yesterday. “The prey was a mix of French fries, chocolates, carrots, biscuits, wine, dried fruit, wine. One guy brought raw meat,” he said. He looked down at his fists still clenched as paws, as if in reminiscence.

“You know, after we caught the elk and ate the food together, all I wanted to do was find a nice place to hide and sleep together with the other wolves,” Torres said. “I was kind of sad to realize we wouldn’t be doing that because the performance was over, and the organizers wanted to go home and sleep.”

Intelligent Urban Watersheds

Over the last few decades, hydraulic and hydrologic modelers have dramatically increased our understanding of urban watersheds; namely the built wastewater and stormwater infrastructure within their respective urban environments. These models have been manually tuned and calibrated using data from flow meters and other sensors, and adjusting available software knobs and levers to improve model […]

Working Partner Update: The Repair Association

An Electronics Right to Repair Act AB-2110 has been proposed in California that will require that manufacturers to make repair, diagnostic information, equipment and service parts available to consumers and repair shops. This is a long time goal of ILSR Working Partner The Repair Association,… Read More

The post Working Partner Update: The Repair Association appeared first on Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

The First Pedestrian Has Been Killed by a Self-Driving Car. Now What?

On Sunday night, a self-driving Uber vehicle struck and killed a woman in Tempe, Arizona. The incident represents a grim milestone of the age of automotive autonomy: It appears to be the “first known death of a pedestrian struck by an autonomous vehicle on public roads,” according to the New York Times.

Police reports state that the vehicle was in self-driving mode with a back-up driver present behind the wheel when it crashed into the woman around 10 p.m. on Mill Avenue just south of Curry Road. While initial media coverage suggested that the victim, identified by the Tempe Police Department as 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, was riding a bicycle, later police reports say that she was “walking just outside of the crosswalk.”

Uber has suspended all testing of its self-driving vehicles in Tempe, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto. “Our hearts go out to the victim’s family. We are fully cooperating with local authorities in their investigation of this incident,” an Uber representative said in a press statement.

As more details emerge, this incident is likely to serve as a litmus test for public’s tolerance of AV testing, particularly in the absence of robust regulations. About 40,000 Americans died in car crashes in 2016. Developers of autonomous vehicle technology have promised to dramatically reduce those fatalities by removing human error from the road; indeed, that is the prime argument AV makers have presented for their product. “This technology was developed only with that in mind,” Tekedra Mawakana, the vice president and global head of policy and government affairs for Waymo, said on a self-driving car panel hosted by Arizona State University last week.

As it is, though, auto and tech companies haven’t fully sold the public on the technology, with more Americans worried than enthused about AVs. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has called on the industry to do more to raise awareness about AVs and their benefits. Self-driving Domino’s pizza deliveries, courtesy of Ford, can be seen as one example of the industry’s campaign for greater acclimatization. This incident may set those efforts back.

For its part, the federal government has so far taken a decidedly relaxed approach to regulating AV makers. In the absence of overarching federal rules, Uber, Lyft, Waymo, Tesla, General Motors, and other companies vying to bring self-driving cars to market have pushed states to keep their regulations loose, too. While dozens of states legislatures have gone on to establish rules around safety, taxes, and insurance for AVs, Arizona has cleared a more or less regulation-free path for testing, in an effort to fashion itself as a research hub for the driverless future. Uber, Lyft, Waymo, General Motors, Intel, and other companies have set up shop there, with semi-robotic vehicles cruising the roads of Tempe, Phoenix, and other Arizona communities.

A screenshot of the police report of Sunday night’s fatality. (Tempe Police)

The state’s anything-goes approach has been good for business, but traffic safety advocates have been sounding alarm bells about the lack of safety restrictions and oversight. “It’s open season on other Arizona drivers and pedestrians,” said Rosemary Shahan, president of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, told the New York Times in a November 2017 article about the state’ s approach to AV testing. “There is a complete and utter vacuum on safety.”

That gap was revealed, to some extent, by how the state handled another AV crash in Tempe—this one non-fatal—that occurred between a self-driving Uber and a Honda CRV in March 2017. The Honda driver, Alexandra Cole, was turning left at a busy intersection as an Uber vehicle coming from the opposite direction zipped through the yellow light. The cars collided and the Uber flipped on its side. With no injuries, the incident was swiftly resolved, with Cole found to blame for failing to yield. But, the Times reported,

[W]hat happened after the accident revealed a system that was unprepared for computer-operated vehicles. Mr. Ducey, Tempe officials and state transportation regulators did not get briefed on the collision. The self-driving task force set up by the governor, which has met twice in two years, also did not review the incident.

More intensive official scrutiny of Sunday night’s fatality can be expected, given that the National Transportation Safety Board, which also investigated the in 2015, the safety benefits of these vehicles depend on the technology’s widespread adoption, which in turn depends on their cultural acceptance. With or without strengthened safety regulations, that may require the public’s willing consent to play a role as subjects involved in experimentation with a still-dangerous technology. Statistically, on a per mile basis, computer drivers do appear already to be less dangerous than human ones. That may not be enough. LaFrance quoted Andrew Moore, the dean of computer science at Carnegie Mellon: “No one is going to want to realize autonomous driving into the world until there’s proof that it’s much safer, like a factor of 100 safer, than having a human drive.”

Resilience Trutherism, Explained

D.C. city council member Trayon White, Sr. landed himself in quite a media storm after he posted a video to his Facebook page last Friday in which he explained that snowfall in March was part of a “climate control” conspiracy orchestrated by the Illuminati.

Said White, as reported by The Washington Post:

Man, it just started snowing out of nowhere this morning, man. Y’all better pay attention to this climate control, man, this climate manipulation … And D.C. keep talking about, ‘We a resilient city.’ And that’s a model based off the Rothschilds controlling the climate to create natural disasters they can pay for to own the cities, man. Be careful.

It’s not clear whether White was speaking in jest, especially since he has since deleted the video from his Facebook page. But today, he apologized for his remarks, which many people took as anti-Semitic (the wealthy Rothschild family are descendants of a Jewish banker). Aside from the alleged bigotry of his comments, there are some pretty weighty concepts tossed around in the rest of his words that are worth unpacking. Like, if there is some Behold a Pale Horse stuff going on with our cities, we need to know, right? This is bigger than snow.

We know you have questions. We attempt to provide answers below:

So, is “climate control” real?

Well, yes, and not just the kind you find in your car to change the temperature. There is experimentation currently happening with technology that can alter or simulate weather effects, and there are even scientists who are working on technology that could change the climate of a region over time, or what’s called “geo-engineering.” None of this stuff is actually on the market or employed by governments—or at least we don’t think so. There was that time when the U.S. military did a “cloud seeding” experiment during the Vietnam War, when it artificially made it rain over Vietnam and Laos to cause flooding. But other than that, the idea of weather manipulation is the stuff of spy thrillers.

Why does White think that this is happening in D.C.?

CityLab called and emailed White’s office for comments on where he picked up this idea, and whether he was even being serious to begin with. We’ve yet to hear back. Meanwhile, White’s comments can be rooted in various strands of the “climate change is a hoax” genre of conspiracy theories, which are now cozily accommodated by the White House.

What White may have been alluding to in his comments turns a new corner, though, in that it adds the element of city takeover via the Trojan horse of “resilience.” One of the chief peddlers of Resilient Trutherism is Deborah Tavares, an Alex Jones type who believes that there are forces—controlled or funded by the Rothschilds, or the Rockefellers, or Betsy DeVos, or some other super-wealthy villain figure—that are subduing cities into submission with artificially created snowstorms, rain-flooding, and other extreme weather patterns. (This should not be confused with the “Shock Doctrine” and “Disaster Capitalism” theories of Naomi Klein.) As this article from something called the Activist Post explains:

Deborah Tavares, a researcher-activist, who documents EVERYTHING she says with credible documentation, says the Rockefellers and the Rothschilds are positioning “to restructure North America.” One of the apparent ‘tools’ for their soon-to-be-realized ‘pipe dream’ is the use of man-made climate-related “challenges.” The apparent buzzword that will be used to implement their plans is “Resilience” which, according to Deborah, is false policies. She says it’s more like “Peril and Opportunity.”

We wish we could say that Tavares has no following, but her online videos are racking up tens of thousands of views and subscribers—people who are willing to indulge that cities are under resilience attack.

But wait, isn’t there really a program called Resilient Cities, and isn’t it run by the Rockefellers, and isn’t D.C. a part of it?  

Yes! Not really. And yes! There is an initiative called 100 Resilient Cities, which is “pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation”—that is, the foundation provides financial support—and yes, Washington, D.C., is part of the network.

What 100 Resilient Cities does is partner with cities across the globe to help them identify and prepare for coming “shocks”—one-time threats like a terrorist attack or tornado—and “stresses”—systemic problems like structural racism and poverty that chip away at a city’s vulnerability over time. The program helps cities develop resilience strategies, provides funding and resources for the implementation of those strategies, and in some cases pays the salary for a position called “chief resilience officer,” usually located within a mayor’s office.  

D.C. appointed its chief resilience officer, Kevin Bush, last July, to focus on the issues of economic inequality, extreme heat, rain flooding, failing infrastructure, and the lack of affordable housing. It is possible that Bush is part of the ruse, though, given that his last name is “Bush,” which happens to be the last name of the U.S. president who ushered in the “resilience” pathogen when he signed the “Agenda 21” pact, which sometimes goes by the name ”sustainable development.”

Kevin Bush kinda confessed to his role in this when he provided the following quote to The Washington Post just moments after he was installed: “Resilience is a bit of a buzzword these days — I’ll admit that. … But to me, resilience is about the immune system of a city.”

If the Resilience Truthers end up being right, we can’t say we weren’t warned.

Is this why White is suspicious about snow? How do his consituents feel about these “resilience plans”?

We’re still waiting to hear back from White. However, according to Ronda Chapman, who has worked with communities in White’s Ward 8 on building the resilience strategy and similar projects, such as the Climate Ready D.C. and Clean Energy D.C. plans, the constituents are mostly on board with the resilience agenda.

“People are responding favorably to the fact that these plans even exist, particularly when looking at flooding and vulnerability where they live,” said Chapman. “I have not, in any of my engagements, whether through Groundwork Anacostia or in partnership with D.C.’s Department of Energy and Environment … heard anyone speak of any climate-change conspiracies.”

Neither has there been much Resilience Truther pushback from other cities in the 100 Resilient Cities network, according to Otis Rolley, the network’s regional director for North America, which includes Canada.

“We work in Los Angeles, St. Louis, Miami, Dallas, and all over Chicago, and I’ve never heard this kind of anxiety about the resilience work before,” said Rolley. “There is anxiety around climate change and extreme heat and flooding, so part of our work is to create an infrastructure for cities to have the ability to survive, adapt, and grow.”

What does all of this have to do with the Rothschilds, again?

Nothing. No Rothschilds are involved in running or operating this program, said Andrew Brenner, the communications director for 100 Resilient Cities.

However! We do know that one of the first cities in the 100 Resilient Cities cohort was New Orleans, and that the rapper Jay Electronica is from New Orleans, and Jay Electronica is rumored to have dated Kate Rothschild of the mysterious Rothschild clan. So there’s that.

Here, in this video captured by The Washington Post, the University of the District of Columbia’s president, Ronald Mason, Jr. tries to explain to White that the Rothschilds and the World Bank are not secretly bankrolling infrastructure projects (not that D.C. couldn’t use the World Bank’s money). Mason also explains to White how the 100 Resilient Cities program works:

Should we still be careful, as White said?

You should always be careful about the kind of news you spread, especially if you are an elected official.

City of Doshi: The Architect Who Shaped Ahmedabad

AHMEDABAD—In 1954, Balkrishna Doshi, a young Indian architect and protege of the legendary Le Corbusier, moved to the city of Ahmedabad in the northwestern state of Gujarat, where he would soon settle down and establish his own practice.

Based on his pedigree—he had worked and studied in Bombay, London, and Paris—the move was not particularly obvious. Ahmedabad, in comparison to those global hubs of art and culture, was decidedly more provincial, and according to the first census of independent India in 1951, had a population below one million. Le Corbusier’s most significant project in India—the city of Chandigarh—was also underway, and Doshi’s initial involvement in its planning indicates he could have stayed on and played a larger role there instead.

Balkrishna Doshi at his home earlier this month (Ajit Solanki/AP)

Despite his other options, Doshi—who was born in Pune, about 400 miles south of Ahmedabad—chose a city better known as a textile than architectural hub. But he detected a spirit there that matched his own sensibilities, and soon, in large part due to Doshi himself, Ahmedabad would also become a center for modern Indian architecture.

“There’s this weird mix between pragmatism and beauty that Ahmedabad has,” said architect Riyaz Tayyibji, a former student and lecturer at CEPT University, an institution founded by Doshi in 1962. “I think Doshi realized that this was a quality of the city … It was already there in the ethos, and he knew that this was there intuitively.”

Doshi, now 90, has similar feelings about the city he calls home.

“I always liked this city because of the intimacy, the congeniality of the people here: very generous, very helpful and encouraging. And I think that’s what the essence of this city is,” he told CityLab in an interview at his iconic office, Sangath, last week.

Sangath Architect’s Studio, Ahmedabad, 1980. In Sanskrit, Sangath means “moving together.” Curved concrete vaults merge with terraces, mounds, and ponds in a dynamic, place-sensitive, and texturally rich work of architecture. (Courtesy of VSF)

Almost 65 years after moving there, Doshi’s commitment to Ahmedabad culminated this month when he won architecture’s most prestigious award, the Pritzker Architecture Prize. His selection, of course, was based on a career which boasts significant projects across India, not just in his adopted city.

But there’s nowhere else that Doshi has had as deep of an impact as Ahmedabad, which is dotted with buildings and institutions of his creation. And for those within the city’s architecture fraternity who know him most intimately, Doshi’s legacy extends far beyond the physical structures he’s built, into the relationships, community, and understanding of place he’s formed alongside them.

“He’s always been a kind of instigator”

Doshi’s first job in Ahmedabad was to supervise four Le Corbusier projects in the city. The role allowed him to begin forming relationships with some of the city’s wealthiest families—patrons of bold architecture that sought to discover what could be modern and Indian at the same time.

With the support of one of these families, he soon founded the School of Architecture—which, along with subsequently established schools (including for planning and interior design), became known as the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT), gaining university status in 2005. Through CEPT, Doshi was able to attract global thinkers and foster future generations of architects, forming lifelong personal connections while cementing Ahmedabad’s status as a center for architecture.

The School of Architecture building at CEPT, seen from the north lawn (Courtesy of VSF)
Indoor/outdoor space at the School of Architecture (Ashish Malhotra)

Though Doshi was no longer teaching when Tayyibji was getting his degree, he was still heavily involved with the school and its students, allowing for interactions that Tayyibji says left a profound impact on his generation for their authenticity. “As a person he is so approachable, it’s incredible,” Tayyibji said of Doshi.

Tayyibji recalled once working on a competition submission with other young architects when Doshi, already in his seventies, visited their makeshift studio to discuss their ideas. “He didn’t ask us to bring the drawings to his office. He came … walked up seven floors. We were all working on the floor—we had no tables—and he sat on the floor and gave us a two-hour critique without even thinking he was doing anything special.”

When you talk to Doshi, or to those deeply influenced by him, certain words are regularly repeated: partnership, dialogue, participation. Together they represent a collaborative search and journey to answer questions about time and place, a process that Tayyibji says hasn’t ended for Doshi, even after 74 years in Ahmedabad.

“He’s always been a kind of instigator,” he said, noting that Doshi will often call 10 or 12 young architects together on a whim, to press them on “what the hell they’re doing” about the present state of architecture. When this happens, “You’re completely taken aback, ” said Tayyibji. “He’ll want you to commit—that ‘We will meet every Friday and start the revolution.’”

Doshi is a man often described as more than architect: a philosopher, who like another of his mentors, Louis Kahn, speaks his own language to express his musings on the world. Many of Doshi’s sentences begin with “No, no, no” or “Na, na, na,” and that’s his initial reaction to Tayyibji’s use of the word “instigator.” Still, he concedes he does prod others to think deeply about their surroundings.

“That is my nature. I like to question, raise issues, and participate,” he said. “Why does a citizen have to be quiet all the time and only accept? Why doesn’t he become a creative person? Why doesn’t he do something?”

“We don’t own our cities … We are aliens, not even visitors. So in that place, the best thing is to tickle everybody—make them think. ‘No, no, you are not this.’ That’s what I do.”

Ideas embodied

Though Doshi’s ideas may sometimes seem to be in the clouds, they’re also grounded in the reality of his buildings—unmistakably apparent for all to see.

“You see [his philosophy] reflected in his works in some way or the other. It’s not just talk,” said Doshi’s granddaughter Khushnu Panthaki Hoof, also an architect and a partner at the family firm, Vastu Shilpa Consultants.

This is perhaps most clearly evident at CEPT, where Doshi not only fostered free-flowing ideas and thought on a conceptual level, but did so literally through his School of Architecture building.

Studio space on its top floor looks out onto the campus’ central plaza through doors that are almost never shut, while open space below the structure creates more room for students to work, discuss ideas, and socialize. There are no doors to actually enter the building, a consciously designed quirk to encourage open learning.

Natural light fills a studio at the School of Architecture. (Courtesy of VSF)

“When you walk into the building, you don’t even realize when you’ve entered it,” said Surya Kakani, the dean of CEPT’s architecture faculty. “As much as it seems like a very formal, Modernist building … you dissolve into it.”

For Kakani, the wonder of the building’s design also lies in how it has shaped the education inside it, and how it fits into its surroundings. “It has a certain robustness and frugality which connects with the larger ethos of [this place],” he said. “We’ve had a culture of making the best out of the minimum, and in some sense, this building embodies that. And that’s an ethos over which you can layer anything … but still, its core is its core.”

The past weeks have centered around celebrating Doshi, but Kakani’s reference to a core local ethos is a reminder of the controversy that has surrounded that very issue in recent years. Since at least 2015, Doshi and CEPT’s leadership have been at odds over a variety physical and philosophical changes at the institution. One of the most contentious issues is a proposed new building that would stand next to Doshi’s School of Architecture, which his closest supporters feel would take away from his original work.

Kakani said he has tried not to get too involved in the dispute, although he is a dean at CEPT. He maintained, however, that Doshi is still widely revered on campus. “If he were to walk in even now, the respect he would command is amazing.”

But Doshi hasn’t walked in for a while. And although he’s chosen to immerse himself in other projects rather than dwell on the fallout, others are more vocal about their displeasure.

Neelkanth Chhaya, a former student and close friend of Doshi, is one of those people. Chhaya generally exudes a calm and gentle vibe, and he sports a distinguished beard which rivals that of Santa Claus. But his disposition was hardly jolly when he talked about the proposed building—designed by Christopher Benninger, an American-born architect who has practiced in India for decades and founded CEPT’s planning faculty. This “academic hub” would be three stories tall and sit on part of the campus’ popular north lawn.

“It is outstandingly insensitive to the campus,” Chayya said of the design, drawing on the table where he was sitting to illustrate his point. “It cuts a landscape which was very dear to everyone who grew up on this campus … It destroys this very wonderful space.”

Other new buildings have been constructed at CEPT in recent years, and Chhaya believes they are emblematic of the institution becoming more rigid and defined, and contrary to the spirit it ought to represent. Such buildings, he said, “are containers of activity, rather than fabrics that include and allow activity to move through and out.”

An architecture rooted in place

An element of Doshi’s legacy seemingly at stake in the CEPT controversy is the extent to which he has always integrated elements of the local environment—whether of the climate, the landscape, or simply Indian ways of living—into his architecture.

Chhaya, like Kakani, believes Doshi’s work fits into a broader, historically Indian ethos of maximizing resources and living frugally. But he also says Doshi’s work reflects domestic life in India, and notes the great importance often attached to outdoor spaces in traditional Indian homes.  

“Doshi caught onto that,” he said. “Not to clean up and isolate an architectural environment into simply an architectural art, but to connect it to life forms, is something which is peculiarly Indian. The weaving in of outdoor spaces and movements across—this is something like the way an Indian house or street would work.”  

The School of Architecture building is a clear example of this. But so too are many of Doshi’s other buildings, such as Sangath and the Institute of Indology, for their interplay of space, light, nature, and water. Their designs are deeply embedded, almost rooted, into their locations, as is the man himself.

“Doshi wanted the physical structure of a building to resonate with the physical structure of the place he was building in. That can only happen when you kind of seep into a place,” said Tayyibji, who, along with Chhaya and Doshi himself, feels that such sensibilities are missing from many contemporary buildings.

Institute of Indology, Ahmedabad, 1962. On this project, the architect had to consider the appropriate lighting, temperature, and humidity levels to preserve ancient artifacts stored inside. (Ashish Malhotra)
Life Insurance Corporation Housing, Ahmedabad, 1973. In this housing scheme, Doshi reversed the typical order of a multifamily building, placing the largest residence on the bottom and the smallest on the top. He gave the upper unit a terrace that could be converted into additional living space. (Courtesy of VSF)

With its population now above 6 million, Ahmedabad is the largest city in Gujarat. In recent decades the state has followed a hard-charging model of development led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was the chief minister of Gujarat from 2001 to 2014. Chhaya is scathing in his view of ”Gujarat model” projects (such as GIFT City, a “smart city” 7 miles from Ahmedabad’s airport), calling them “clean and efficient” but “soulless.” In his eyes, such work does not fit into the spirit that characterized Ahmedabad’s architecture up until the 1980s.

Before, he said, “There was this very reticent use of wealth [which had] a value that allowed other cultural forms to show up more. This is what makes the specific model of architecture we have in Ahmedabad something that is valuable, and which should be learned from.”

Many Doshi disciples hope that his Pritzker is a sign that the world has learned from Ahmedabad. In their eyes, the announcement has come at an important moment, when trends and priorities have been moving in a very different direction.

“One was beginning to feel that genuinely, the era was over,” Tayyibji said. “There was a possibility that the legacy of Doshi would just kind of dissolve into some sort of invisibility. The Pritzker just gives that whole period a shot in the arm … Now you just feel that there’s a general acceptance that there’s value in it.”

Back at Sangath, Doshi himself also sees the power of what the Pritzker might do. He’s never been a man low on energy, but the announcement only seems to have replenished his reserves. He said he may soon call a press conference to raise questions about what can be done to make Ahmedabad a “clean,” “wonderful,” and “viable” place. It’s an idea that sounds much like the spontaneous meetings he calls within Ahmedabad’s architecture community.

“I’ll continue working,” he said. “[The Pritzker] has given me a lot of encouragement, yes. It has given me confidence, encouragement, and it has made me think again: ‘What else can I do?’ That has happened. And I feel very flattered and happy.”

CityLab Daily: The Seductive Power of a Suburban Utopia

What We’re Following

Serenity now: Just southwest of Atlanta, a suburban utopia called Serenbe seems to have spawned out of nowhere. This isn’t a cookie cutter cul-de-sac development. It’s a close-knit town with urban and rural amenities that balance city life with nature—a walkable downtown boasts a mix of architecture while having access to green space and organic farms. It’s idyllic to say the least, but in no way immune to the difficult questions of inclusion, diversity, and the perils of self-segregation.

CityLab’s Mimi Kirk toured this “wellness community” to see what’s working, what promises are still to be fulfilled, and what’s really behind the seductive power of a suburban utopia.

Andrew Small

More on CityLab

America’s Loneliest Roads, Mapped

An interactive map highlights the least traveled routes in the country—and some of the most scenic.

Linda Poon

Climate Change Will Not Make Us Nicer

A recent study found that people who grow up in places with mild weather are more agreeable and outgoing. What does that mean in a world of climate extremes?

Amanda Kolson Hurley

Can London Become a People-Centric Smart City?

“That’s no easy step—it involves investment in human beings, not just systems,” says the city’s newly-appointed chief digital officer.

Tanvi Misra

The Latest Supervillain Attacking Batgirl’s Gotham City: Gentrification

Batgirl author Hope Larson talks about the changing face of Burnside, Gotham City’s Brooklyn, where tech incubators and housing affordability are bigger threats than even the Penguin and Harley Quinn.

Kriston Capps

Minneapolis YIMBYs Go to the Mat for Zoning Changes

Activists turn to creative videography in their efforts to allow fourplexes throughout the city.

Benjamin Schneider

Map of the Day

RENTCafé has a new map and ranking of which states are the most tenant-friendly or landlord-friendly. The apartment-listing site scores states on the 10 most common aspects of tenancy including security deposits, rent increases, the warranty of habitability, and eviction notices. Best for renters: Vermont, Rhode Island, D.C., Maine, Alaska, and Hawaii. Best for landlords: Arkansas, West Virginia, Louisiana, Georgia, and North Carolina.

CityLab context: Where Americans are facing the most evictions.

What We’re Reading

New Orleans ends its Palantir predictive policing program (The Verge)

Kushner Cos. filed false NYC housing paperwork (AP)

Sons of rich black families fare no better than sons of working-class whites (New York Times)

How do you boycott a building? (Fast Company)

Hold onto your hard hats, it’s Ivanka-structure week (Des Moines Register)

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Military Rule in Rio’s Favelas: What Marielle Franco Died Fighting

“For Marielle, I say no!
I say no to intervention!”

Tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people have chanted these words in Rio de Janeiro since Marielle Franco, a first-term city councilor here, was killed last week.

Almost every day since her death on March 14, protestors have taken to the streets, shutting down highways and downtown thoroughfares, holding candlelight vigils, and covering the Chamber of City Councilors with slogans and red handprints, as well as with stenciled likenesses of Franco, a black, queer woman from the Maré complex of favelas.

Franco, a self-described “human rights defender,” was widely respected in Rio de Janeiro, and her murder has tapped a growing anger throughout the city, especially in favelas. In 2018, perhaps even more than usual, favelas and the people who live there—who, like Franco are primarily of African descent—have been under attack.

In February, just days after carnaval ended, Brazil’s federal government announced that the army would be taking over law enforcement duties throughout Rio de Janeiro state, partially in response to a supposed recent crime wave. Yet statistics show that crime actually went down compared to 2017’s carnaval, even though high-profile mass robberies in wealthy beachfront neighborhoods like Ipanema and Copacabana dominated local and national headlines. Rio’s overall murder rate is unquestionably high, though it pales in comparison to smaller Brazilian cities like Natal, Belém, and Maceió. But the rate of violence and killings by police officers in Brazil is said to be the highest in the world. Favela residents are a disproportionate number of the victims.

Everything about Franco’s killing—the targeted accuracy of the gunshots (Anderson Pedro Gomes, the car’s driver, was also killed, and an aide was wounded), the fact that neither the car nor anything in it was stolen, and the fact that it took place during busy evening hours—made it clear not only that this was an assassination, but that it was meant to be understood that way. Franco was targeted for being a human rights defender, a politically engaged favela resident, and, perhaps most of all, a successful black woman.

In recent weeks, as army soldiers have taken the place of local police, troops have instituted checkpoints in favelas throughout Rio, sometimes subjecting children as young as kindergartners to pat-downs and backpack searches, or else demanding photo ID from anyone entering or leaving a given area. In the Vila Kennedy neighborhood, a poor and working-class community in the city’s sprawling west zone, they’ve also bulldozed small businesses that were the only source of income for several local families.

For years, a growing sector of Brazil’s right wing—nostalgic for the supposed law and order of the 21-year military dictatorship that puttered out in 1985—has been calling for a complete military takeover of the government. They’ve gotten what they wanted, at least in part: Across Rio de Janeiro state, the authority of General Walter Souza Braga Netto, the army’s top general, now supersedes that of both the governor and local mayors in all matters of public security.

Almost as soon as the military intervention began, a coalition of civil society organizations formed a Truth Commission as an attempt to keep the army in check. On February 28, Marielle Franco was named its rapporteur. General Braga Netto was quick to condemn the creation of the commission, explicitly demanding “guarantees” that his soldiers be able to act unencumbered by civilian pressure or oversight.

Military intervention has been a recurring hardship in Maré, the complex of favelas where Franco was born and raised. In March 2014, on the eve of the 50th anniversary coup d’état that sparked Brazil’s dictatorship, then-president Dilma Rousseff signed an executive order that sent thousands of federal troops into Maré. The soldiers remained there for over a year, driving through the narrow streets in tanks, conducting daily drills with assault rifles and full body armor, and shooting at any cars and pedestrians deemed “suspicious.” Dozens were killed or wounded as a result.

In addition to being deadly, occupation by military intervention is not an especially innovative strategy. For the past decade, a so-called “pacification” program has aimed to create a permanent police presence in some of the city’s most prominent favelas, purportedly as a means to bring highly trained officers into communities, win local trust, and eventually stamp out the drug trade. Instead, the intervention has led to a sharp uptick in cases of police brutality, including the high-profile 2013 disappearance, torture, and murder of Amarildo Dias de Souza, a construction worker, in Rocinha, Rio’s largest favela.

Marielle Franco, who earned a master’s degree in sociology, studied police “pacification” and wrote in her 2014 thesis that “there is no ‘war’ [on drugs] in this process. What actually exists…is a policy of excluding and punishing poor people.” Of course, this punishment also extends beyond “pacification” sites: days before she was murdered, Franco called attention to recent police abuses in the un-“pacified” favela of Acari, including the murder of two young men whose bodies were thrown into an open sewer.

Punishing poor people seems to be the intent of most mechanisms of political control in Rio de Janeiro, whether is through military intervention or police “pacification.” On March 16, just two days after Franco’s murder, “pacification” police in the Alemão complex of favelas killed three people, including a 58-year-old grandmother and a toddler in a stroller. Ironically, media outlets in Rio and throughout Brazil have tried to use Franco’s murder to bolster the case for militarization. But as she herself made clear in a statement written a few hours before her death, Rio’s violence is not simply the result of generalized disorder:

Marielle Franco was killed for speaking out against this “experiment.”

In taking to the streets to protest the military intervention that has kept Rio de Janeiro under de jure martial law for nearly a month, demonstrators are not only upholding Franco’s legacy as a self-described “human rights defender,” but also pointing to the circumstances that, in all likelihood, led directly to her murder. Whether her murderers were cops, soldiers, members of a paramilitary group, or simply hired killers, her death was meant both to silence her and to send a clear warning to anyone who sought to emulate her example.

Franco’s rise to public prominence seemed to be the kind of meritocratic fairytale that Brazil’s political and media establishment utilizes to show that personal perseverance can be enough to brush aside systemic racism, poverty, and violence.

Ultimately, however, Marielle Franco’s perseverance and courage made her a target for the same racist violence that destroys thousands of lives in Rio de Janeiro every year.

America’s Loneliest Roads, Mapped

Among road-trip enthusiasts, the Alaska Highway is a favorite. It runs more than 1,300 miles, dazzling travelers with tundras and sightings of eagles, caribou, and the like.

But if you want to take the road less traveled, a study by the GPS-company Geotab suggests you should go north to the James W. Dalton Highway, Alaska’s hidden gem. It runs 414 miles from Fairbanks to Deadhorse, and sees mostly ice road truckers, with few service stations and small towns in between. You would, however, be greeted by majestic snow-covered mountains and glimpses of the Yukon River.

(Geotab/Google Street View)

In fact, it’s the quietest route in all of the United States. That’s according to the study, which crunches 2015 annual average traffic data from the Highway Performance Monitoring System to find the least traveled roads in each state, and in all of America. The results are highlighted in an interactive map. Click on a state, and you can get a virtual preview of each route via Google Street View. The site also offers the top 10 most scenic paths (starred on the map) from those listed, as ranked by the conservationist and photographer James Q. Martin, who collaborated with Geotab on the study.

Topping both lists—for the least traveled and most scenic— is Dalton Highway, which ferried an average of just 196 vehicles each day in 2015. (By comparison, the Alaska Highway saw an average of 344 vehicles per day, according to 2016 data.) Other least traveled roads include routes in Nevada, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota.  


Undoubtedly, the roads’ unforgiving terrain and remote locations are part of the reason why they don’t get many visitors. Just read this account by New York Times reporter Alan Feuer, who trekked through Dalton Highway in 2014:

Lost in a reverie about how Tolkienesque it seems, you might pass through a valley choked with blinding fog or skid across a sudden patch of washboard, that angry rutted surface that—chukka-chukka-chukka—buckets you up and down.

If you are up for the adventure, though, Martin has named it the most scenic off-the-beaten-path route. “It’s a road that reaches the top of the continent, and would literally allow you to see a polar bear in the right circumstances,” Martin said in a statement. In second place is the 335-mile stretch of U.S. 50—often dubbed ”America’s Loneliest Road”—that runs across Utah and offers scenic views of “the vast emptiness of the Great Salt Lake Desert.” That road sees a little over 1,000 cars each day. And if deserts or snow aren’t your thing, ranked third is Maine’s “Old Canada Road,” lined with lush trees that show off all shades of reds and oranges in the fall. It runs through several historic towns right up to the Quebec border.

Even as gas prices fluctuate, Americans have not given up on road trips. The latest “Portrait of American Travelers” report from the travel marketing agency MMGY Global, who interviewed 3,000 people, found that road trips represent 39 percent of vacations in 2016, up 17 percent from the year before. The sustained appeal, according to the New York Times, is the practicality of it all. There’s flexibility in when and how the trip can be organized, and what people can bring with them. It’s also less costly than flying to another destination, and it bypasses the pain of airport security.

Yet, at least for some, the urge to hit the open road must have something to do with the chance to escape the crowds and find something new. And what better way to do that than by setting out with a curious mind for the places most other people are passing by?

Can London Become a People-Centric Smart City?

In his speech at the South By Southwest festival in Austin, London Mayor Sadiq Khan cautioned the world about the perils of the ongoing tech revolution: Social media has helped proliferate fake news, popularized online hate speech, and created ideological silos. Tech companies seeking to disrupt the status quo have had negative, unintended consequences, he said.

“There’s been a dereliction of duty on the part of politicians and policymakers to ensure that the rapid growth in technology is utilized and steered in a direction that benefits us all,” he said.

He outlined his vision for a smarter, better-connected London. The city has had the Smart London plan in place since 2013, but what Khan laid out was Smart London 2.0. In this vision, the city will encourage and guide innovation and make public services more efficient, he said, but it will also guard the interests of the most vulnerable, and ensure that the benefits extend to all residents.

Four months ago, he hired the city’s first chief digital officer, Theo Blackwell charged with implementing its new vision.

At SXSW, CityLab caught up with Blackwell for a conversation, the highlights of which are below.

Mayor Khan read out some of the many hateful tweets he receives, as a way of making a statement about the dire need for digital protection. He also mentioned penalties Germany has imposed to get social media companies to remove hate speech from their forums. What role do cities play in the fight against internet hate?

The metropolitan police [in London] have invested quite a lot of resources into hate crime, but what Sadiq did … was that he showed digital leadership by saying to social media platforms that they haven’t been responsible enough. This is something Sadiq is reflecting from the parliament itself, which has looked into the issue and is clear how much it can do. We know that there are protocols with social media platforms where they take down, for example, images of breastfeeding and stuff like that or copyright infringement. So the question is: How have we drifted into a territory where it’s alright to basically threaten and intimidate people constantly and to break civil discourse without due consideration by these companies? That’s the question Sadiq was really asking.

Nations can decide laws around freedom of speech and around privacy. Cities have a special role to serve citizens in the diverse populations that we have. And so we do have a role, as those who provide services, and [London’s leaders] are under obligation to ensure good community relations. If we’re seeing something acting against that, also based out of our city, we have the moral duty to say, “Hang on just a second, you’ve got to check yourself on this.”

Are there specific plans you are excited about implementing?

In addition to the kind of traditional innovation around smart cities—things like smart mobility, sensors for air quality, which are being progressed in any case—there’s a need to link together innovation that happens to respond to things all across the city: better data sharing, better adoption of common standards across citywide services, and emphasis on service design.

We’re looking to design services around the needs of every citizen by bringing technologists in the room, using systems thinking, and agile approaches. Through that, we hope to make services that are much more respectful of the diversity of the city—in line with the themes that the mayor’s set out. His big campaign, Behind Every Great City, emphasizes the centenary of the first votes for women. Within the technology sphere, it means us working within our own public services and the tech community to ensure that the services that we design are not designed with one sort of consumer in mind, but designed around the diverse needs of our citizens. We think that’s a very important opportunity to use design principles to make our services available and responsive to everyone.

That’s no easy step—it involves investment in human beings, not just systems. We’re taking the concept of smart city away from the idea of these faceless systems designed by engineers to make dumb traffic lights smarter. We’re expanding it, and putting it into the debate about how we build the human capability for the use of data for civic benefits.

One big discussion that’s happening—certainly among American cities—is about privacy of vulnerable populations in the data revolution. How are you thinking about that?

There’s a really interesting debate going on in U.S. cities, which have a different approach to data and they have different national data laws. In Europe and the U.K., we’re about to introduce new data laws, that are going to come in on the 25th of May. They include things like the right to be forgotten, getting consent for data maintenance from companies, new rules for sharing with third parties, and new rules for privacy by design and new technologies. There’s really interesting safeguards that we’re building into the systems.

So, it’s right that we talk about privacy. But what I’m concerned about to some extent is that criticisms of smart cities that happen in one jurisdiction don’t leach into another that has a different set of laws [alluding to the differences between the U.K. and the U.S.]. And there’s an element of hypersensitivity to privacy [by smart city critics], which I think needs to be addressed by city leaders. Cities are, after all, big bundles and agglomerations of data which could be used for civic benefit. If we only adopt the approach which has the precautionary principles because we are afraid of corporate takeover or those arguments, we miss an opportunity for the full use of data to benefit the most vulnerable in our society.

As Sadiq said in his speech: If you’re a political leader and you sit on your hands during the digital and data revolution, you’re letting your citizens down. We need to have a full and active role for government—oversight, accountability, transparency and the delivery of services. It’s not just the private sector creating products for consumers, it’s us serving our citizens. So we have the role to explain the benefits of what people can do with their data.

It’s almost like: When we create something from Londoners’ data, it’s made by London. But we want to make sure that that concept is morally owned by Londoners. It’s their data; and they can see the benefits of it when we make sure the health care system is better or the transport system is better.

One aspect of Mayor Khan’s vision is an investment in digital skills and workforce development. Could you talk about that?

We can’t talk about how a city can be smart unless we first talk about investment in skills for those people who are left behind. That program, in particular, is aimed at minority groups and women. We start off with a substantial investment in digital talent. And that’s just the start. We also want to work with schools on their new computing curriculum, so that kids get immersed in an exciting curriculum from an early age. One of the main challenges, of course, is that girls in particular because of the way they were taught were turned off from computer science from the age of 10 or 11. We need to make sure that we teach the curriculum, we invest in pedagogy, we work with the tech sector to really make the way we teach subjects as inclusive as possible.

There’s also a demand from our other city leaders. They see these big companies and start-ups happening, and they think, well, ‘how can our kids get access to those jobs?’ So our deal with them is to start with investment in skills. And on that basis, we win trust and consent to talk about issues that we think are important as well: common standards, design—things that are really important business-to-business characteristics of a smart city. But we’ve got to start with something which is really important to Londoners first, which is access to jobs.

Mayor Khan talked about the role of London in the post-Brexit world as a city open to talent and innovation. How do you see your work contributing to that vision?

Look, it’s well known that during Brexit, London and Scotland voted in an outward fashion and the other areas of the country voted in an inward fashion. Other cities also voted in an outward way, and some lost only narrowly. Nevertheless, London is a source of a major amount of economic growth for the country—it needs to be open. Because smart cities for public services rely on international talent—the health service, universities, which have a large number of non-U.K. European nationals and internationals.

To maintain our status as a world hub, the traditional view would be that you can go offshore and you can have lower taxes, but with the tech community, that doesn’t quite land. Because if you want to make good products, you go, “great, I want to create a world class team.” If you can’t create a world class team, people will start voting with their feet. The number one issue is access to talent. The tech community has told us [this] and it’s something that we’ve told the government. We know they’re listening, there’s obviously a moment of negotiation to happen still. But London’s future relies on that.

I would also say to the tech companies, and this is really really important: Their investment in London is a vote for maintaining openness. They also have a role to play in our journey to make sure that London remains open. Being here, being with London, is also them exercising their own agency to basically say, “Yeah, We’re pointing outwards to the world.”

In the future, we’re going to have increasing tie-ups with what I call the great technology cities of the world: San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle, New York, London, Amsterdam, Paris, and Berlin. These cities, especially in Europe and North America, will increasingly work together. The disputes between nations that happen at conferences with prime ministers will not play out with those [city leaders] charged with the actual delivery of public services and growth. We have a different agenda, and it’s much more collaborative.

Mayor Khan emphasized the role of local regulations in the gig economy. How do you see that aspect of a city’s relationship with tech companies?

We’re the creator of new rules. When we talk about the creation of common standards, we don’t think about it in abstract terms: We’re just basically saying, the great innovations of the world happen both because they’re disruptive, but they’ve also happened because someone sat down and went, “We need to have some basis for innovation.”

Sometimes I think in the tech community, we get too carried away almost with the neoliberal idea of “regulation must be disrupted, the state is standing in my way.” No doubt, some old rules need to be changed. The alternative view is that active government and the active role of the state to create those discussions around common standards will be the fuel for future innovation and growth. So, instead of letting a thousand flowers bloom and waiting for one to grow into a massive tree and block out all the shade for everything—to use a terrible analogy—you’ve actually got a situation where you create a competitive market, with products that can compete for the customer or citizen’s attention to serve them better. So it’s not disruption to create dominance, but disruption to create competition, choice, and public service.

Cities have a really important role to play in those things by developing standards. People are talking about autonomous vehicles; those won’t happen without smart streets. And smart streets won’t happen without having sensors that can securely share information in a way that is useful. And those things will come from people thinking about rules. We have a really important role to create the framework for the digital revolution to truly be a public benefit. Increasingly, the role of the chief digital officer in cities is to talk about that agenda.