Grenfell Tower and Diversity

While we were writing this chapter, a devastating fire overwhelmed Grenfell Tower, a 24- floor high-rise block in one of London’s most prosperous districts, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. While the borough as a whole was one of the wealthiest areas in England, the locality of the tower was in the top 10% most deprived areas in the country. The marks of inequality were starkly evident. In the fire 80 people were reported to have lost their lives, many of them apparently following fire safety advice to stay in their flats. The external cladding and insulation material on the building were reported to be not fire-resistant, survivors said there were no water sprinklers, and the building had only one exit. Whole families were said to have perished in the fire. Rage and anger quickly gathered momentum in the fire’s aftermath, as local residents expressed their fury at developers, local government councillors, and national government austerity policies.

The word ‘diversity’ was in regular use by media reporters and residents alike as they described Grenfell Tower and its immediate neighbourhood. Common phrases included: diverse community, diverse area, vibrant and diverse, ethnically diverse, religiously diverse, economically diverse, diverse people, socio-economically diverse, and linguistically diverse. Members of Parliament and lawyers for the Grenfell survivors recommended that a diverse panel be appointed to advise the inquiry into the fire (The Guardian 22.07.2017). The ideological nature of the term ‘diversity’ is evident here. Diversity becomes a superordinate term to describe the poor, gathered together discursively to include ‘migrants’ (documented and undocumented), black and minority ethnic working-class people, and white workingclass families. Religious diversity were also referenced through mention of the many churches, gurdwaras, mosques, synagogues and charities volunteering to provide assistance to those in need, often in the absence of official or professional provision. Running alongside a discourse of diversity as difference was a discourse of the unifying power of diversity. The collective, shared experiences of those affected by the disaster was readily apparent. The ‘diversity’ of Kensington and Chelsea’s poorer northern wards stood in contrast to its ‘hypersegregated’ (Flores and Lewis 2016) wealthy wards. Media discourse did not describe wealthy residents of Kensington and Chelsea as ‘diverse’. This tended to be saved for the ‘diverse poor’. This is not to say that diversity did not exist within the wealthy areas of the borough. People of many different nationalities lived in the affluent areas, just as there were people of different nationalities and ethnicities living in the tower. London’s globalized financial sector attracted highly paid workers from across the globe, and Kensington and Chelsea had the highest proportions of residents working in the financial sector, outside the City of London itself.

::: Blackledge, A. & Creese, A. (2017). Language and Superdiversity: An Interdisciplinary Perspective, LINK

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photograph via SkyScraperCity

The Challenges of Urban Ageing: Making Cities Age-Friendly in Europe

Abstract: Urban ageing is an emerging domain that deals with the population of older people living in cities. The ageing of society is a positive yet challenging phenomenon, as population ageing and urbanisation are the culmination of successful human development. One could argue whether the city environment is an ideal place for people to grow old and live at an old age compared to rural areas. This viewpoint article explores and describes the challenges that are encountered when making cities age-friendly in Europe. Such challenges include the creation of inclusive neighbourhoods and the implementation of technology for ageing-in-place. Examples from projects in two age-friendly cities in The Netherlands (The Hague) and Poland (Cracow) are shown to illustrate the potential of making cities more tuned to the needs of older people and identify important challenges for the next couple of years. Overall, the global ageing of urban populations calls for more age-friendly approaches to be implemented in our cities. It is a challenge to prepare for these developments in such a way that both current and future generations of older people can benefit from age-friendly strategies.

van Hoof, J., Kazak, J. K., Perek-Bialas, J. M. & Peek, S. T. M. (2018). The Challenges of Urban Ageing: Making Cities Age-Friendly in Europe. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15, 1-17.

::: Read the article: LINK

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photograph (New York City in the 1970s) via Vintage Everyday

"...only by looking at the full picture can you understand the beauty and balance of the image." The Different Approach of Leoluca Orlando, Mayor of Palermo

“How many migrants do you have in Palermo?” This is one of the most common questions I get asked when talking with foreigners or journalists about the migration policy of our administration.
The answer is simple and yet complex at the same time: no one single migrant lives in Palermo, because all people living or arriving in Palermo are considered to be Palermo’s citizens – or Palermitani. Of course, this answer does not consider the legal aspect of citizenship. The mayor or municipality do not, according to Italian legislation, have the power to award Italian citizenship by themselves. What we do have, however, is the possibility to promote and build a welcoming environment, reflected and supported by a welcoming policy and a welcoming set of services. This is Palermo today. Migration flows, meanwhile, have fallen drastically since 2014–16, when more than 35,000 migrants arrived, escaping from violence, poverty, disasters and war.
Five years ago, the Mayor proposed, and the City Council created, a so-called ‘council of cultures’. This is an official body comprising 21 citizens elected by and representing all those living in Palermo that hold a passport other than an Italian one. Each geographical area of the world is represented, in proportion to the presence of those communities now in Palermo.
The current president is from Côte d’Ivoire, supported by a vice-president from Sri Lanka. Past presidents have been from Palestine and Cape Verde. More than half of the members are women, many of whom are active in local civil-society organisations. The council is not only a place where the interests of different communities are represented, but is also where many intercultural initiatives are organised and proposed to the city. It’s the place where the slogan ‘all different, all equal’ becomes a daily truth.
The council of cultures represents the tip of a vibrant and diverse iceberg. In Palermo every culture and religion is considered as part of what I call ‘Palermo’s mosaic’. Each small piece of the mosaic has its own role. Everyone’s role is relevant, but only by looking at the full picture can you understand the beauty and balance of the image.
Is this just a ‘humanitarian’ approach to migration? No, it is not. We choose to refuse both humanitarian and security approaches to the migration issue.
If you use a security approach, there will always be someone who has a more secure answer to the problem. If you say: “We should not give freedom of movement in Europe to migrants”, there will be someone who will say, “We should not allow them to enter Europe at all”. And if you say: “We should not allow them in Europe”, there will be someone else who will say, “We should shoot their boats in the Mediterranean”.
If you choose a purely humanitarian approach, there will always be someone or some state that is poorer or more fragile than another, and which you feel you must prioritise, that in the end you will not recognise migrants’ rights.
We have chosen a different approach. This is summarised in the Charter of Palermo, a document approved in March 2015 by lawyers, representatives from NGOs and public officers. The simple idea behind the charter is that every single migrant is a person and, as such, owner of all human rights. This may sound obvious. But in today’s political scenario it is frankly revolutionary to say that mobility is a human right – in other words, a fundamental and basic human right for all.
In the hyper-connected world in which we live, almost everything has freedom of movement but people. You can move goods, money or data fairly easily. But you cannot freely move if you are a person from the ‘wrong’ country.
If, however, you look at migration as a natural human phenomenon, as the consequence of a desire for a better life, of a yearning to escape poverty, disasters, wars and violence of different kinds, then you can only assume that any limitations to movement are a new form of slavery. In many cases – the Mediterranean, the Balkans, the Mexican–US border, as well as others – limitations to movement can be viewed as a new form of mass death penalty.
But back to Palermo. Even if we promoted the abolition of the so-called ‘permit to stay’, we (as a municipality) have no power to change our national laws on migration or citizenship. So what practically can we do? The answer is that we can – and do – take concrete and symbolic actions every day.
The Mayor of Palermo – a Catholic – officially participates in all religious celebrations of the city’s communities: Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist and Christian Orthodox. He participates not in a private capacity, but instead wears the tricolour band that is the official symbol of his public authority and representation of the state. This makes it possible for each Muslim, Jewish, Hindu or Buddhist believer to feel and be perceived as a citizen of Palermo.
Unlike in other Italian or European cities, if a Muslim who is perceived as dangerous arrives in Palermo, the first one to alert authorities is the Imam. Why? Because the Imam feels he is part of the community and because he cares for the community.
Only in Palermo can Catholic authorities donate to the Jewish community to transform a former church building into a synagogue. Only in Palermo do Hindu and Muslim believers volunteer to be part of the team that moves the heavy chariot for the ‘Festino’, the most important Catholic festival in honour of the patron saint of the city. This same open and inclusive approach is applied in every aspect of our municipal life. (...)
In Italy and Europe, people willing to welcome refugees and migrants into their home do so without a legal framework to refer to. In Palermo, we established and promote an official list of voluntary tutors for young unaccompanied migrants. We give those tutors training, legal counselling and official status when dealing with the authorities. I could go on, but hopefully it is clear why we talk of Palermo as a model, particularly when compared with the realities migrants face elsewhere in Europe and beyond. (...)
Let me also say that welcoming migrants benefits our city as a whole. Just as some years ago when convincing people to fight against the Mafia I had to explain why legality is economically beneficial, now I assure people that opening our city is beneficial too. Thanks to our recognised policy of welcoming migrants, Palermo has become one of the most important tourist destinations in Italy over the last few years. While the entire tourist market in Italy grows between three and four per cent per year, every year Palermo welcomes some 15 to 18 per cent more tourists than the previous year. While the economic crisis continues to strangle small and medium-sized businesses throughout Italy, in Palermo our economy is showing signs of recovery, driven by the tourist boom and the city’s new cultural vitality.
(...) It is our culture of welcoming, of multiculturalism and our approach to migration that has turned Palermo into a place opportunity – for all communities.
Leoluca Orlando

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photograph via Live Sicilia


"To Ian, for sparkling with his smile, strenghtening us with his love, and conquering our heart."

“Ian” is a short, animated film inspired by the real-life Ian, a boy with a disability determined to get to the playground despite his playmates bullying him. This film sets out to show that children with disabilities can and should be included.
“Ian” started as a mother’s mission to educate her son’s bullies on the playground—one to one. When she realized that the need for inclusion was bigger than one playground, she wrote a book and founded Fundación ian to change thousands of minds and attitudes about people with disabilities. She approached MundoLoco, a top digital animation studio in Latin America, about creating “Ian,” an animated film to deliver the message of inclusion to audiences all over the world.
The real Ian is a fourth grader who, like most fourth graders, wants to play with his friends. But because some kids are not used to someone like Ian—someone who has cerebral palsy, uses a wheelchair, and a computer that works with his eye movements to communicate—they bully him and don’t include him when they play.
“The film is an opportunity for all society…to break down barriers, walls, and free us from prejudices,” Graschinsky said. The film was crafted to “guide [all children] to acquire concrete tools to be people of solidarity.”
excerpts via respect ability

Eine von Vier.

"Eine von Vier. Initiative gegen Altersarmut", die bekanntlich weiblich ist. Die Kreuzkirche in Graz hat ein Projekt gestartet, das gerne unterstützt werden darf:

"Ein Weihnachtsgeschenk für das Enkelkind oder abgetragene Winterstiefel ersetzen - solche alltäglichen Ausgaben stellen ältere Menschen immer häufiger vor eine grosse Herausforderung. Besonders stark sind allein-lebende Pensionistinnen betroffen: Jede vierte ist bereits von Armut bedroht. Teilzeitarbeit, schlechter bezahlte, klassische Frauenberufe und lange Kinderbetreuungszeiten ziehen niedrige Pensionen und somit Altersarmut nach sich. Das Projekt "Eine von Vier" - Initiative gegen Altersarmut setzt sich für diese Frauen ein. Die Betroffenen erfahren hier aber auch Wertschätzung dafür, dass sie es schaffen, mit Sparsamkeit und viel Lebenserfahrung auch mit wenig Geld auszukommen. Bei "Tannenduft und Engelshaar" kann konkrete Hilfe geleistet werden: Die beim Adventmarkt gesammelten Spenden werden an Betroffene weitergegeben."
Kreuzkirche Graz

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Foto: ML Moazedi

Living Longer and Becoming More Diverse: The Many Faces of Co-Housing

"'Co-housing' as a formal and distinct concept is broadly recognised as having originated in Denmark. (...) This semi-urban communal living arrangement - on the fringes of a rapidly intensifying urban context with limited housing supply - was novel in that it self-consciously responded to growing calls for gender equality, and focused explicitly on providing childcare through the pooling of (multiple) household resources." (p. 21)

"Sharing in general can be understood as consisting of two types: the first around tangible, practical resource sharing, such as pooling material items or services (tools, cars, storage space, energy production etc.) or providing support (e.g. caring for children, the elderly or people with special needs); the second is around the less tangible: sense of togetherness or closeness, desire for involvement in each other's lives." (p. 44)

"While some forms of co-living are emerging to cater to culturally distinct segments of society, there is a challenge of how we handle ageing together with others we don't necessarily choose, or who 'don't look like us.'" (p. 45)

::: Download "Ahn, J., Tusinski, O. & Treger, C. (2018). Living Closer. The many faces of co-housing. A Studio Weave publication in collaboration with the Royal Institute of British Architects" : LINK

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image via Campfire Bugle

Prosthetic Ballet

"I wanted to explore what would happen if you could allow a person to perform on pointe 100 per cent of the time. How would ballet change? I wanted to create a tool for someone to take and let their imagination define the capabilities of the product."
"The design of the prosthesis will change to fit the dancer, but also to match the specific movements of the newly developed choreography. However, until I meet this dancer, I will continue to develop as a designer."
Jae-Hyun An

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image via Dezeen

Apartments for Adults with Autism and Neurodiversities

First Place is housing "designed to nurture the spirit of community, independence and interdependence within a supportive and caring environment". The 55-unit apartment property is located in the centre of Phoenix and aims to promote safety, security and well-being by offering residents with autism "the comforts of home without the distractions that can make life challenging" (First Place).
Projects like this are important as half a million teenagers on the autism spectrum are expected to reach adulthood in the next ten years. The vast majority of them will continue living with their parents which can be challenging when parents age leaving institutionalisation the only possible solution (CityLab).

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image via Phoenix Business Journal

A Basic Instinct

"Jensen was fascinated by the difference between how men and women sit in public space, which led her to create a series of chairs that force the sitter to open her legs and manspread."
Fast Company

"I wanted to explore the body language of women because we seem to be more restricted than men," she said. "We seem to follow the rules/norms more tightly in contrary to men. We constantly think about how we are perceived instead of acting on an instinct, hence the title."
Anna Aagaard Jensen

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photo via Dezeen

Wheelchair Superstar

"Küschall decided to use graphene to revolutionise the performance of contemporary wheelchairs with a frame that is 30 per cent lighter and 20 per cent stronger compared to classic carbon-fibre wheelchairs. 
Our goal was to design the best wheelchair in the world for the most active wheelchair users."
André Fangueiro