He who shall not be mentioned

As some of you know, I have this weird project where I want to photograph and document all of the important buildings in Saskatoon.  Over the years I have made some significant process in doing that and today with the weather nicer and it being a Sunday, Wendy and I went into Mount Royal.

Sunday’s work well for photographing schools because it seems weird to photograph them when kids are there.  We took some shots of Mount Royal Collegiate, Howard Coad and St. Maria Giametti Schools.  We also took some of the Mount Royal Mall, Mount Royal Lutheran Church, and explored St. Paul Place.

I was editing them and some others when I stumbled across an old building that I knew nothing of and started to Google to see what I could find.  I found a City of Saskatoon report that was presented to council a couple of years ago.  As I was reading through it looking for the information that I needed, it had almost 20 photos that I recognized as being mine.  Some of them were used more than once but you get the point.  

I have had a conversation with city administration about their constant stealing of my images going back years.  The agreement was that they can use them with credit.  No money was needed to change hands, only that I was given credit for the images used.

I think this worked once or twice.  On one of the downtown reports, the photo was credited to Flickr.  I refuse to believe that it was because the report writer thought a website was the author or that you just credit, “the internet” for things you take from there, they didn’t want my name to appear on it.  That’s fine but either a) buy the rights to the image from me or b) don’t use my images.

As I was looking at this report, my initial thought was that the person writing an internal report never realized he or she had to credit anyone but then as I went through it, they credited other sources, including the City, which they really wouldn’t need to give credit to, since you know, they are the city.

My response normally would be “whatever” but I know a lot of photographers in this city that are way better than I am and need the money to pursue their craft and run their business.  In using my stuff from Flickr and Bridge City, it undermines their livelihoods.  I know it is a lot easier to “right click” and “save as” but in what other field of work is stealing someone’s work okay?

It’s not like I am that difficult to deal with.  My stuff has been published in books and magazines, is on a magazine (ok it’s a journal), was on the front page of The StarPhoenix (Barry Hotel being demolished), is on a CD of a band in Japan who does thrash metal, and yes, has been given permission to be used in city publications.  I have even had a photo used without permission by The Toronto Star (that was awkward) and I have never demanded payment.  Only that I am given credit.

Sometimes credit can’t be given and then I will take some form of renumeration.  A hotel gave Wendy and I a free weekend at their hotel.  For one report where they did not want my name to appear, I was bought off with a burger and drinks (and the great story of why they didn’t want to use my name).

I know the city administration is a big bureaucracy and for many of these reports, there is no expectation that they are read by anyone (including council) but how hard is it is to email someone and credit them correctly?  Apparently too hard for city staff.

Update: Some of you have asked why I don’t complain to City Council.  Some have brought up my frequent complaints to admin but others have also thought it isn’t a big deal that the city takes my work.  I am never that sure if they are okay with theft or they just don’t understand intellectual property.  Either way, it keeps happening and I guess it always will.

6 Places Where Cars, Bikes, and Pedestrians All Share the Road As Equals

Can you imagine some select streets in Saskatoon doing this?

If you aren’t a traffic engineer or an urban planner, the word woonerf probably looks like a typo, or maybe the Twitter handle of whoever runs marketing for Nerf (woo!). But you might want to get familiar with the term—Dutch for "living street"—because the urban design concepts it embraces are on the rise.

A woonerf is a street or square where cars, pedestrians, cyclists, and other local residents travel together without traditional safety infrastructure to guide them. Also sometimes called a "shared street," a woonerf is generally free of traffic lights, stop signs, curbs, painted lines, and the like. The basic idea is that once these controls are stripped away, everyone is forced to become more alert and ultimately more cooperative. Through less restraint comes greater focus.

The decades-old vision is not without its critics. Skeptics wonder if drivers feel too much ownership of the road to adapt their ways, or if shared streets can work fine for smaller towns but not in big urban centers, or if removing oversight is naïve at a time when people won’t even stop texting to drive. Then there’s the general critique pointed out by Traffic author Tom Vanderbilt in a 2008 article about shared streets: "people do act like idiots."

All fair points (especially the last). Butwoonerf supporters can point to the success of shared streets projects in Europe as well as their gradual adoption inother parts of the world—including major cities in the auto-centric United States. Construction of Chicago’s first shared street, for instance, is expected to begin this spring.

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I know this ship has sailed but Victoria Avenue with a pedestrian bridge would have been ideal for this.  So would parts of 20th Street.

There is no such thing as a skyscraper curse

But just in case, Saskatoon leaves Parcel Y undeveloped

Until recently, however, there had been no formal analysis of the skyscraper curse. A new paper by Mr Barr, Bruce Mizrach and Kusum Mundra (all of Rutgers) investigates Mr Lawrence’s musings in detail. They look at the building of 14 world-record-breaking skyscrapers, from New York’s Pulitzer (which opened in 1890) to the Burj Khalifa, and compare them to American GDP growth (which they see as a decent proxy for the world economy).

If, as the skyscraper curse suggests, the decision to build the biggest towers happens near the peak of the business cycle, then you could use record-breaking projects to predict the future path of GDP. However, the range of months between the announcement of the towers and the business-cycle peak is large, varying from zero to 45 months. And only seven of the 14 opened during a downward phase of the business cycle (see chart). In other words, you cannot accurately forecast a recession or financial panic by looking at either the announcement or the completion of the world’s tallest building.

With such a small sample, it is tricky to draw firm conclusions. But the paper expands the sample to 311 by looking at the tallest building completed each year in four countries (America, Canada, China and Hong Kong). The authors then compare building height to GDP per person. They find that in all countries GDP per person and skyscraper height are “cointegrated”, a fancy way of saying that the two things track each other. In other words, developers tend to be profit-maximisers, responding rationally to rising incomes (and thus increased demand for office space) by making buildings bigger. While ego and hubris afflict the skyscraper market, the authors argue, its foundations appear sound.

The Privatization of Our Cities

From The Guardian

“It may well be the case that democracy and capitalism, which at moments in their youth were allies, cannot live together once both have come of age.” So wrote the historian EH Tawney in 1938.

Tawney’s prescient quote could well apply to London today, where the “Boris Boom” is overseeing a version of extreme capitalism that is privatising vast swaths of the capital. Publicity so far has focused on the 250 planned skyscrapers, but at least as important is the fact that all this new development will be privately owned and privately controlled. Nine Elms in South London, for example, an enormous, 195-hectare private estate that will be home to the new ultra-high security American embassy, is typical of this new wave of privatisation. So is London’s Olympic Park, which is private in as much as all the new communities within it, such as the Olympic Village, are also privately owned.

But does this mean that London – boosted by the receipts of quantitative easing, a lax tax regime and foreign oligarch money – is becoming the most private city in the world?

It is notoriously difficult to quantify and map the privatisation of space and place.Dubai, which must lay claim to being one of the most privatised cities in the world, is defined by its newness – and it is this newness which is generally an indicator of how private a place is likely to be. This is because today’s dominant economic model is reflected by high-security, privatised plazas which house shopping areas, conference centres and luxury apartments in an environment less reminiscent of the public realm than an airport lounge.

How does it happen?

In general, the privatisation of public space in the west accompanied the traumatic transition from an industrial economy to one based on financial services, shopping, entertainment and “knowledge”. This model began in 1970s America, where downtown waterfront areas that were former industrial heartlands were redeveloped into entertainment complexes: Baltimore’s Inner Harbour, described by the Urban Land Institute as “the model for post-industrial waterfront redevelopment”, is the prime example.

London’s Docklands, once the hub of the UK’s shipbuilding industry, became a centre for privatised financial services districts such as Canary Wharf, gated developments and private campuses such as the Excel, the enormous conference centre where the potential to “lock down” the site ensures it is well suited to host such events as the Defence and Security Equipment International Exhibition.

War very often leads to heavily privatised areas, too. In downtown Beirut, the rebuilding of the city centre provided the opportunity for Rafik Hariri, a billionaire businessman and the former prime minister, to form Solidere, a company that has remodelled a 200-hectare area of the city centre.

Jerold S Kayden at Harvard has coined the term Pops (“privately owned public space”) for these types of places, and found that there are 503 in New York City alone. One of the highest profile is Manhattan’s latest tourist attraction, the High Line, which also appears to be the model for London’s contentious Garden Bridge – an urban “park” that bans all sorts of activities, closes for corporate events, does not allow political protest and requires groups of more than eight people to book ahead.

Indeed, the key question in determining how “private” a city might be could be about access, rather than ownership. Zucotti Park, another Pops in New York, was for many months the venue for the Occupy Wall Street protests. Contrast that with London’s Paternoster Square, home to the London Stock Exchange, where Occupy was quickly evicted when the owners took out an injunction. Political activity has been almost entirely squeezed out of London’s square mile, and Occupy had no choice but to camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral, on the only genuinely public space left in the city.

So while it may be impossible to name a city or a place as the “most private” in the world, what we can say is that societies with high levels of inequality are also those where the privatisation of the public realm and life behind gates increasingly defines the urban fabric. In Britain and North America, where democracy remains the system by which we define ourselves, the spread of this kind of city space is extremely problematic, as it suggests that Tawney was right. While our leaders preach democracy, the increasingly private architecture of our cities is telling a more honest story.

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