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Cities plus Language Cities Plus is a periodic publication. It presents urban issues through multiple and surprising perspectives. Each issue of Cities Plus focuses on a specific theme which is used to explore and analyse cities. Editorial Team Lia Brum Shareen Elnaschie Sahar Faruqui Lina Gast David Kostenwein Daniela SanjinĂŠs Richard W J Shepherd Cover Image Ahmed Kaleem Contact September 2014

Language noun /’lÌn.gwIdz/


A systematic means of communicating ideas or feelings by the use of conventionalized signs, sounds, gestures, or marks having understood meanings. (Definition of language noun from the Merriam Webster Dictionary)

THIS ISSUE... by Lia Brum

Dear reader, This is the first time the editorial of Cities+ is written by a nonnative English speaker; neologisms and awkwardness may be expected. More than any previous issue, Cities+language goes beyond its limits, to breaks its own myths, even when at risk of going up in smoke! We invite you to delve into a new world of urban metalanguages over the next clicks, and go on a journey far beyond any recognised lexicon. We are not here to speculate about whether urbanites’ mouths are pronouncing more or less Arabic, English, Chinese, Russian, Esperanto or any other of the hundreds (or even thousands) of communication codes already identified through human history on this planet. Instead, we are here to explore how Cities speak through bodies, books, buildings, cracked images, children’s drawings, grafitti, ground diagram sillouettes, maps, mechanical sounds, musical notes, pictures, poems, scents, sidewalks. Consider this issue as a multi-sensory dictionary, whose entries go far beyond words, and go back to them - or simply start with them. We are thrilled to present you the fourth issue of Cities+ and take a moment to acknowledge a milestone- that this mag has been striving for two years now. This would not be possible without the support of readers and sharers like you, and the work of volunteer contributors and editors. Slowly but steadily, despite waves of procrastination (whose master is the one who writes this very text), Cities+ continues to bring, above all, the diversity of foreign brains who cannot stop thinking about the endless possibilities of urban spaces, and translating them into limitless languages. Play with language we will, to carry on. Thank you for your on-going interest and welcome to:

‫ندم‬ Städte ‫ةنيدم‬ град ciutats 城市 město by stad linn kaupunki villes πoλη vil ‫ריעה‬ lub nroog város kota città 都市 veng 도시 pilsēta miesto bandar il-belt byen ‫رهش‬ miasto cidades oraș город mesto ciudades staden şehir місто ‫رہش‬ dinas + language

DISEQUILIBRIUM by Sahar U Ahmad “CROSS URBAN” by Klaus Fruchtnis & Cynthia Lawson Jaramillo





YOUR STREET IS MUSIC by David Kostenwein & Tommy Philippaerts


DEAD ATLAS by Richard W J Shepherd




COLOMBO by Shirani Rajapakse


ANECDOTES & POSITIONS by Jane Frances Dunlop & Mira Loew










THE LAST PAGE by Lina Gast







by Sahar U Ahmad

Stuck in a strange place once again. A thought immediately triggers a shift in space around me and I’m left completely disoriented. Somehow my awareness tells me that the physical laws of the universe need not apply here, so I feel myself continue to somersault through this empty space. Forcing myself to focus, I see, what looks like a cluster of stars, shiny atoms in blinking motion constructing what seems like an imitated life form. A breathing, pulsating constellation with such great verve. Almost unreal. But then, a familiar feeling starts setting in. Have I seen these patterns somewhere before? The sense of being lost is not very new to me. I’ve had this condition called “Heading Disorientation’ since I was very young, which basically means I don’t know where I’m heading most of the time. This impaired ability to navigate in the real world doesn’t really instill any fear in me - rather it drives me to discover places in my own way; setting out on foot, tracing other people’s paths, probably the only reliable method of finding my way around a city. And it all has to be at my own pace, pausing, drawing out mental photos and sometimes taking real ones to help place myself. 8

One thing I remember even as a child - I had always been resentful to not have possessed birdlike traits and when I found out what ‘gravity’ was, I hated the word just as much as its power to hold me down. I’m not sure if it was my ear-fluid illusions or the inability to see a horizon but I very vividly sensed things drift past me in constant motion; street signs, people immediately evaporating as I passed by them. Each space sprouting new identities where I could not even recognize the acquaintanced. God, Sahar! Why are you always the last one to show up? Oh ummm well, I guess there was a 90 degree shift in my position from the last time I entered this building, Oh! and I think someone moved that chair to the other side. So, yeah ...I got lost. I grew up in a city where you can’t get around much without a car. And it was sad that I could not get to explore Lahore the way it was meant to, mostly because of the lack of pedestrian culture and the absence of road signage. And so, I became accustomed to being fixed in the backseat, eyes fastened outside the window. Every quick little turn meant I would immediately forget where we started out and where it was all going to end. Not to mention the dreadful driving lessons, being forced inside a motorized box with an instructor who kept threatening me with a series of ‘lefts’ and ‘rights’ that just kept piling up. Hitting the accelerator, each time I felt like I was hurled into space with no clue which direction was the right one except which way was up; only confirming my belief that I must have been reincarnated as a spatially disoriented bird in this life. For I could never bring myself to focus on the tiny parts, the blocks of a whole; always wanting to view the entire whole all at once, taking in an entire landscape in a glance. If only the world did actually look as if it were round instead of being an endless labyrinth of walls, streets and locked doors, I would probably not feel alien all the time.


These set of circumstances eventually left me finding comfort in maps. It was the magical two- dimensional language that I understood, the animated picture with a beginning and an end, and everything in between making absolute sense. I had the freedom to experiment with it more when I had the chance to travel through Europe, purposely getting lost in streets and spaces trying to orient myself in perfectly new surroundings. It was so relieving to know that if I took a turn I could just easily also turn the map the same way. Look up. Reconfirm. Fire another head-direction-neuron inside and move ahead. Eventually, I began to picture all four orientations with the help of the location matrices drawn on my favorite piece of paper. I started making schemas in my head of new cities, towns and streets by trying to engage in the surroundings as much as possible. Being on foot meant even more contact with everything, so I took in every single detail I possibly could. When I bought myself a new map I would try to customize it to my understanding. I began by marking sub-locations within other fixed locations so everything didn’t seem like it would spin and move as soon as I started walking. This would give me smaller areas to navigate in once I visualized myself in them. This is all of what I had to train myself to do, and I am still in the process of learning what comes to others so naturally. It is actually quite enjoyable, like a game of treasure hunt, only the treasure is the discovery of one new space after the other. I was no longer afraid of the world flipping on me as soon as I turned around to walk the opposite direction. The lines so perfect, inserts of my own cryptic codes so precise; The patterns begin to speak now, telling me they are the maps, constellations for the disoriented.



by Klaus Fruchtnis & Cynthia Lawson Jaramillo


ach Monday we take turns picking a word from Merriam Webster’s “word of the day” email list. We then each interpret our understanding of the word and its definition through a photograph of the city’s public space in which we find ourselves that week. We started this project in 2008 and now have over 200 triptychs, taken in over 20 cities around the world and have self-published three volumes with our work. We never discuss the words, or our photographs, until the triptych is assembled. The following is a selection of our work, sh ared in alphabetical order. 11

Genoa, Italy / Bogotรก, Colombia disport \dih-SPORT\ verb 1: divert, amuse 2: frolic 3: display



CoveĂąas, Colombia / BogotĂĄ, Colombia echelon \ESH-uh-lahn\ noun 1: a steplike arrangement 2a: one of a series of levels or grades in an organization or field of activity b: the individuals at such a level



Shirakawa, Japan / Brooklyn, USA incoherent \in-koh-HEER-unt\ adjective 1: lacking coherence: as a: lacking cohesion: loose 2: lacking orderly continuity, arrangement, or relevance: inconsistent 3: lacking normal clarity or intelligibility in speech or thought



Moscow, Russia / Buenos Aires, Argentina inosculate \in-AWS-kyuh-layt\ verb tr., intr. to join or unite



Berlin, Germany / New York, USA la-la land \la-la land\ noun 1: a place or a state of being out of touch with reality 2: a place known for frivolous activities



Paris, France / New York, USA pejorative \pih-JOR-uh-tiv\ adjective having negative connotations; especially: tending to disparage or belittle: depreciatory



Moscow. Russia / Brooklyn, USA spatchcock \SPACH-kok\ verb to insert or interpolate, esp. in a forced or incongrous manner





ecently I read an interview by Herbert Gold with Vladimir Nabokov. Nabokov makes the extra effort to make sure you’ll read him as he intended and to the question “What have you learned from Joyce?”, he responds with “Nothing”, followed by the interviewer exclaiming “Oh come…” I don’t know much of Nabokov. I am limited to the outline of Lolita and attempts to hypnotize something from his Berlin period - like King Queen Knave and Gift - to search for the soul of Berlin and to find my own. There is not much of Berlin anyway, at least not like in A. Döblins Berlin Alexanderplatz. But maybe that is what attracted me. A voice haunted by nostalgia and struck by the bright lights. A voice from someone who wanted to be somewhere else; who was unaccustomed to German; who, due to the conspiracies of history, was forced, and chose, to ignore much around him, channeling his attention toward ordinary objects. You find pages just mirroring ubiquitous trains, posters, comic rooftop statues, ship-like buildings and the play of night-lights on wet asphalt. A world blending fairytale scenery and fascination with vulgarity; you can almost touch it, you can catch the trains.


But nothing from Joyce? Really? Even though he claimed he liked Ulysses enormously? Can you like something and not get influenced or learn anything from it? Ulysses is considered to be amazing. Some would even go as far as to claim that people could be grouped into two categories – those that have read Ulysses and those that haven’t. I have tried-three times actually; it worked as a sleeping pill - on all occasions after 10 – 15 pages. The same with Dubliners. It is sort of funny, because usually I read when I cannot sleep. So what does that say about me? But 783 pages? That is a long 16th of June. That is a lot of Dublin. I get lost in the bubble of voices; they talk past me and send me on a wild goose chase through the unknown streets that never let anyone out. So how could I escape? Should I be blamed or feel ashamed? And what if it’s just a… But Hemingway seemed to like him. They used to meet in the cafés of Paris in the early 20’s when Hemingway was only searching and shaping his voice, dressing Paris and the world around in reticent, even skeletal sentences and snapshot scenes. Was Joyce’s experimental celebration of humanity in provincial backwaters and his own courtyard really to his taste? This Kansas boy was all about Paris, mountains, sea and war, trying to grasp life and breathe it into the pages; reaching for something that is beyond attainment; always trying something that has never been done or where others have failed, sometimes harsh in his resolution. I like him much better old; I like him out there with the sea. But you know what? I have drifted too far away. At the beginning there was “space can start with words”. I read that in a book by Georges Perec, on page 7 or 8 or whatever. There are many of them around, stuffed and strewn all over the place, they change the acoustics, echoing some words and drowning others… “aha… a momen… já vou”, I call out… “I’ll”… I’ll just finish the page… 27


by David Kostenwein & Tommy Philippaerts




e don´t really know what makes us like certain streets, blocks, neighbourhoods or cities. Is it architecture, urban structure, street activity, noise or simply the weather? What are the attributes actually perceived by us, and what is their contribution to the overall well-being of pedestrians in dense urban areas? The few attempts to conduct focussed research on those attributes of, e.g. a street, have either been quantitative and descriptive (e.g. tracing the paths of pedestrians) or laboratorybased studies (using images or videos), and therefore very distant to the actual space of interest. I strongly agree with Jan Gehl’s idea that the key to these questions lies in the structure of ground floors (2006). This is the space we move in and the space we actually notice when we are walking on a sidewalk. According to Gehl, pedestrians only register spaces up to 3m above floor level. Now, I do believe that this is not a risky theory. Everyone should agree. Just imagine walking along an endless walled condominium in opposition to walking along a narrowly structured ground floor with differently coloured and designed facades, windows, portals and so on. There we go‌ 30

What if you could listen to your street? The experiment I am undertaking, together with the musician Tommy Philippaerts, translates these visual elements and attributes of a street into a musical experience. By translating the physical structure of ground floors and sidewalks into a music scape, we are trying to amplify what we already perceive unconsciously to create a new, playful level that appeals to a different sense. By doing so, we can maybe make these elements and attributes, that are defining our wellbeing on the streets, a bit more approachable and more enjoyable to analyse and compare. The project is called “street sequencer” and combines my urban nerdiness with Tommys musical genius. My job is to choose a street that to me captures the feeling of the city (now, while the question as to whether there exists “a typical street” in any city is obvious, let’s just say that we have accepted and embraced the randomness of the project) and to register and transcribe every physical element on one sidewalk of 100m length.

The author transcribes a street in Madrid


Every window, colour change in walls, lamp post, shop, piece of public furniture, sidewalk width among roughly 25 other attributes and elements in the ground floor area of that section of the street were collected and filled into an Excel sheet.

Snippet of an Excel Sheet


From here, Tommy Philippaerts takes over. He translates the information into music by using the data like a Step Sequencer. Step Sequencers are electronic musical instruments that play notes according to patterns in a grid – just like an Excel sheet. Using this method, each lamp post, shop or colour becomes a sound, a melody or an effect.

The street sequence in Ableton Live (step sequencer)

The result is a little musical piece rooted in a certain street. It is a musical image of what we are experiencing when we walk on the sidewalk that tells us the story of our urban environment in a fascinating and surprising way that only music can achieve. But enough explanation, this project is about listening. 33

For more street sequences and more infos, check out our blog: 34

Sources: GEHL, JAN; KAEFER, LOTTE JOHANSEN; REIGSTAD, SOLVEJG: Close encounters with buildings; Urban Design International, Volume 11, Number 1, April 2006, pp. 29-47(19)



by Richard W J Shepherd


am dead, and the sun catches my grave just off Boundary Street. You know the place, in Waverley Cemetery. I am dead and I have the best views in Sydney, in my tiny alley-run, amongst the rows, in my plot of earth, in the sun and the rain and the wind and the shame, as my mother used to say. The headstone weighs down my skull sometimes but it helps me remember who I am. The weight of who I was, I mean. I like to go walkabout, mostly just retracing my steps. Sometimes when the ghost is up, I’ll poke a finger up through the soil and if it feels like a winter’s night I’ll chance the streets – even better when it’s raining. After midnight or so there are never any people around, only kids drinking on shards of graves, kicking silk flowers, and they’re not looking my way. I touch the headstone pickets of my neighbours, some of them heavyheaded with lids of concrete, and watch the cold moon over the Pacific. The palm trees bend slightly and I feel the salt in the air. Take a walk up the little hill, grey in the moonlight, and past the houses, asleep now. My body doesn’t weigh as much as it used to but I am brittle, chalky. The spirit is willing though, and that means I can get just about anywhere. It’s only a short walk to the bus stop.


The bus stops for the dead or the living as long as you raise your hand. And I’m old, older than they want to know, but still; I get an odd glance or two but I look good for my age. The bus has been running to the cemetery for decades; I remember when it used to be a tram. Ghost cars used to ride the tracks, grinding around corners and clacking across intersections. But then the council cemented them over so the spirits dissolved; fairy floss in water. Sometimes I even talk to people. Oh yes. That can be a right lark. Young women on phones are my favourite, because they always look so peeved when words tumble out of my dusty throat. Then there’s a click in their eyes when they must decide I’m a harmless old soul, which I am, and indulge me in my memories. And they tell me about their lives. This is what I eat you know, memories. Other people’s. But then old people regurgitate and eat memories all the time. Oh it doesnt harm anyone. They’re getting harder to extract though. People think different now. The bus takes me up past churches and streets I recognise, and more than a few houses and shops that I don’t. There are great glittery shards of black ice that cut the cold sky. Obsidian blades through frigid flesh, they are a little impressive and hopelessly inhuman. I can see through them all now, as these dead eyes know where to look. There are broad highways, and shadowed parks, and never far from view, the ocean. I will usually jump off a bus in Liverpool Street, where the great ANZAC memorial sits. It is the ghost bacchanal here in Sydney, and there are always hundreds of us - most usually wraiths because of their age - but a few that look like me, bagmen, though without graves to call home. We touch the building, and hear it thrum with memory. It is a gathering place for the remembrance of people lost in wars, and people have long, nourishing memories for war and bloodshed. Our senses are attuned to hunt for memories, concentrated in places, as tangible to us as the warmth of the sun. 37

Time is getting on now, and there is a gentle breeze blowing against me as I stroll towards Central Station. The clocktower reminds me that the trains don’t run after midnight, so I duck through Belmore Park and down the colonnade where only the homeless - and now the dead - roam. In the distance I hear a shrill little whine and realise it must be the cemetery train bound for Rookwood. Beginning a lope, I run down Lee St, past mindless office buildings and disappointing hotels. But I must be careful on these old joints, must take my time. A car slows to look at me. Once I reach the little Mortuary Station, the lonely wallflower, I see the engine, then the full carriages - the dead bound for their homes. 1st and 2nd class. You may wonder what the dead train smells like, or what sounds I hear given I personally am not haunted by its ethereal procession through the suburbs. The notes that hit my nostrils are mostly heavy and charming, but like the other, real, trains cocooned in their stabling runs, it varies mostly owing to the occupants. We dead don’t smell too good anyway. The ghost train is a commute, not a joyride, so we sit lost in our own histories. Only once or twice, to my recollection, have we passed through a train with real living people on it, and you can sense the chilled shudders all the way through their carriages. Hearts beat faster, as if we walk on their graves. Rookwood - I cannot think of a better name for the great cemetery - slides into view and the train makes a leap of faith off the tracks and into the heart of tombs and gravestones. From here we scatter like chaff to the wind. You probably think it sounds stupid. All the dead jumping on some spooky train and heading off down memory lane. No more stupid than a real train I guess. A real train baking in midsummer, somewhere out past Granville, windows down with people fanning themselves. I sometimes miss that feeling of warm life, sweating soft drink in my lap and sticking to the vinyl seats. I miss my wife too, because she doesn’t come back. Never did, the old girl is peaceful in our dead city, it is like she is having a morning sleep-in right next to me. I keep up my wandering. 38

The cemetery here is not like mine. I don’t know many of us, but I can find my dad sometimes because he was a wanderer too. He has forgotten himself and is slowly starving as memories fade to him. Lucidity was never really his thing in life, so mostly I just look for his hunched persistent walk, fall in behind, and follow him around the great cemetery until it is time to head back. I do not have strong memories of making this trip in life. Rather a wandering spirit is in me, or maybe I am the wandering spirit. I am dead, and my motives are strange but perfectly clear to me. It is a tug in my dusty guts and so I go. The threat of the sun, though distant still, is enough to send me earthward. Graveward. The journey back is basically the same song sung in reverse, maybe sped up a little because the freshness has worn off. You might see more tradesmen, though mostly they drive open mouthed through the gradually lightening streets. You can see more people on platforms as regular trains resume, and sometimes they look like an icy wind has just passed. But just as quickly the temperature settles back to the Sydney muggy standard. We sail on, and I change to a bus again, among the warm-blooded, and try not to look too conspicuous, more like I›m just heading off to work or back home. A batty old man who got up far too early or couldn’t sleep. All the more reason to be dead here, to live as the anonymous dead here, where no-one knows me or remembers my name or can tell I don›t have a heartbeat. But I remember, because heartbeat or not, I crawl back under my tombstone as the sun breaks over the water, and I read my inscription again. There›s my name, and there›s my age when I crossed to living underground instead of over it. There are the sad flowers in sombre urns, and I don›t know how but even the reliquary manages to look wilted, fading, dead. Ruined. It is my garden, in my cold house, with the best views in Sydney. I will see the moon again soon when I need to retrace the pages of the street directory and see what the city feels like another night; chasing down memories. But for now, the sun catches my grave just off Boundary Street. You know the place, where I rest beneath a palm tree, and a headstone, and the weight of memory. 39


Figure ground diagram of Washington DC (USA) (Mayr, Markus, Mayr, Rene (2014). Schwarzplan – OpenStreetMap basierte Schwarzpläne. Berlin: Epubli. S.141)




here are a lot of ways to communicate information about cities. We can read lettering describing city phenomena. We can examine snapshots of cities like drawings, pictures or photographs. We can watch videos, which include the dimension of time. We can even use augmented reality, adding a layer of external information to the real physical environment. However, the most important source for information about a city is provided by the city itself. It is the least manipulable, the least abuseable, and the most honest. The most crucial intention of languages is to produce meaning. Language can never mean nothing, because otherwise it wouldn´t fulfil its function and would therefore not be called a language. Physical, built structure can never mean nothing, either (Bonta writes about the impossibility of meaningless architecture. Bonta, Juan Pablo (1982). Über Interpretation von Architektur. Berlin. S.26). By always meaning something, physical structures, such as cities, have value like a language. Just as a sentence is an expression for content, the built structure can be understood as only an expression of content. Calvino provides us with a simple example (Calvino, Italo (1979). Die unsichtbaren Städte. München. S.29): Isaura is an oasis-city. The city on the surface only develops as far as the underground lake reaches, as the city is dependent on vertical fountains. So, the built city on the surface is only an expression of something underneath the surface. This «something underneath the surface» is content.

Example for invisible content beneath visible expressions: Isaura (Raith, Erich (2000). Stadtmorphologie. Wien: New York. S.14)


Figure ground diagram of Jaunde (Kamerun) (Mayr, Markus, Mayr, Rene (2014). Schwarzplan – OpenStreetMap basierte Schwarzpläne. Berlin: Epubli. S.71)


Figure ground diagram of Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia) (Mayr, Markus, Mayr, Rene (2014). Schwarzplan – OpenStreetMap basierte Schwarzpläne. Berlin: Epubli. S.135)


Figure ground diagrams are one method of abstracting information about cities` expressions. It is enough to study this abstracted expression in order to find out something about the cities´ “content underneath” without even knowing the city. Using maps to find something out about a city one doesn´t know isn´t unusual. But it is truly surprising how much various information a map, simplified to just black and white areas, can contain. Overall, this simplification transfers the observer›s focus from (speaking in terms of language) analysing simple letters to analysing the content of the letters using knowledge about syntax. In terms of a city, the question of whether a flat roof is more beautiful than a slide roof is like asking if the letter “C” is more beautiful than the letter “K”. The relevant part in most city observations should be the content embedded in its syntax; respectively the meaning behind built structure within its context, (also known as “genius loci”) and not just solitary analyses. Figure ground diagrams proved to be a great method of directing one›s focus from singular expressions onto the underlying meaning of city-structures, and this kind of map turned out to be very successful over centuries, despite its very simplicity. Every city planner, architect and theorist works with them either intentionally or inadvertently, as they inevitably come across these diagrams in their professional environment. Because of the building structures resistance against changes, figure ground diagrams allow you to draw conclusions for a variety of city characteristics and the meaning behind them such as: the structural age of an area, historical power structures, socially and politically influenced building programs, historical development, principles of organising the inhabitant’s activities, density, and so on. Beyond that, figure ground diagrams convey a comprehensive picture instantaneously, whereas studying literature and pictures would take considerably more time. 45

Figure ground diagram of Yaren (Nauru) (Mayr, Markus, Mayr, Rene (2014). Schwarzplan – OpenStreetMap basierte Schwarzpläne. Berlin: Epubli. S.149)

A decade ago, creating figure ground diagrams was still time consuming handwork and therefore only created for precise tasks. Hence, there are no figure ground diagram atlases available, although they would contribute a lot to a city planner›s work, as well as being of use to every day city-travellers or to common city-walkers. But times are different now. We discovered the database of the OpenStreetMap (OSM) project as a welcome (open) source of data for figure ground diagrams. OSM was found in 2006 by Steve Coast and is best described as a Wikipedia for maps. Everybody can contribute data by either tracking a route with a GPS device or drawing features using aerial photographs as a backdrop. Constant quality control is provided by the community itself. 46

Figure ground diagram of Brasilia (Brasil) (Mayr, Markus, Mayr, Rene (2014). Schwarzplan – OpenStreetMap basierte Schwarzpläne. Berlin: Epubli. S.35)


If any data deviates from reality, it is only a matter of minutes to hours until the error is corrected. This system works so well that the «Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team» (HOT) provides corrected maps to first aid responders in regions of crisis such as Haiti (earthquake, 2010) or Guinea (ebola outbreak, 2014) within hours after the catastrophe. The original focus on recording streets is no longer true. By now, all different kinds of objects are mapped. Buildings belong to the more prominent examples. With the gaining popularity of the project, all over the world cities´ buildings receive more and more attention and are added day by day. Geographical information technology and the OSM project have allowed us to create the - as far as we know - first figure ground diagram atlas addressing capitals all over the world. Our book shows figure ground diagrams of 70 cities around the world. (available on amazon, ISBN 978-3-8442-8605-2).


Related Links:



by Shirani Rajapakse

Voices all around speak to me in a thousand and one ways, telling me things. What’s happening in town today? Someone’s grumbling about the cost of living that soars higher than the crows sitting on branches discussing their next meal lounging on trees lining roads, calling calling to the people moving in their cars rushing past below natures high rises around Town Hall. Buses roar by honking horns to get ahead of each other like it’s a race to wherever. Everyone’s moving to a place only they know of.


The conductor of the bus leans out of the window and shouts out names of towns to people waiting at the stops “Babalapitiya, Wellawatte, Dehiwela, Dehiwela, Dehiwela,” like the vegetable seller calling out her wares in the market far away - “Vambotu, Thakkali, labai, labai, labai.” Sudden screech of tyres as they all come to a stop at the lights, panting like runners waiting for the signal to get up and go. Car engines purring like cats sitting snug on compound walls, one eye open to the goings on around. An old lorry wheezes behind, trying to keep up with the young men on motor bikes revving up at the sides and then it’s back to the race as the lights change to green. Flowers nod their heads to an invisible beat inside pots on roundabouts on Thunmulla as winds whisper secrets to grass looking up at the sun overhead. A trishaw cruises along the side hopeful for passengers tired of walking. Ripples on the Beira replicated in the Diyawanna; soft music in the air. Whispers, whispers all around.


Low hum of a helicopter in the sky almost hidden behind a wall of clouds marching silently by. The city speaks to me in its myriad shades, some rough like an old engine some soft as moss on hidden stones in lakes where the water gurgles. Sitting on a bench under the shade of an old Maara tree my eyes closed shut to the colours around I listen to the conversation but I only understand some of the things it tries to tell me. The words of this place chirp of birds, roar of the engines - denied to me. Street hawkers call out from their makeshift stalls at the side of pavements near the Fort “Wadei, Wadei, Annasi, Kaala balanna� they urge. Stray dogs discuss the politics of the day while pedestrians hurry on their way to wherever their foot steps keeping time with the unstoppable beat.



by Jane Frances Dunlop and Mira Loew


uring the summer of 2013, Jane Frances Dunlop & Mira Loew traded anecdotes and instructions for positions while based in based in London, UK & New York, NY. The following are selections from that exchange.

JFD To: ml

Mon, Jul 8, 2013 at 9:01 PM

Position yourself somewhere that makes you think of here because it is so unlike here in every way.


JFD To: ml

Tue, Jul 16, 2013 at 4:42 PM

14 July 2013 (or, early hours of 15 July 2013) On the rooftop with David & Sane. Sane lets me in & when we step out on to the roof, we stand looking at the light from the projector David has positioned across from the abandoned elevator shaft. & it reacts to the sound of our conversation. & we watch our conversation moving as David plays with the positioning of projections on the elevator shaft. David tells me about Vienna & when he started making posters & VJing. 54

He mentions using your face on the first posters he did & says something like: Mira was always everywhere, running around. & everyone wanted to be friends with her but Mira has never wanted to be friends with everyone. Which people sometimes took personally. He keeps picking up my cider instead of his beer. Apparently warm cider when you are anticipating warm lager is particularly unsettling. Eventually I just move my tin to the other side of the chair. We decide I need to talk about charisma of space in front of the projection. & David sets up a camera & I do. It is amazing, thinking out loud on the roof in the warm night. All I can see is the light of the projector. So I stop thinking about anything other than thinking about charisma of space & this space & its position. The three of us sit on the roof for a few more hours. 55

ml To: JFD

Wed, Jul 17, 2013 at 10:22 PM

i always have to think about London when i walk pass warehouse spaces in brooklyn. not because the are similar to the ones in London. they are very different. the scale is probably the most obvious difference. the bricks are more saturated but smaller. the windows are not as beautiful, not as big. and the spaces are much more run down. often i think, this is an abandoned space. we could squat this. we could move in here. but then you see lights at night and realize that they are still in use. what makes me think of London, or of how London has influenced me, in my affinity for these spaces. i am not really comfortable positioning myself within these spaces (yet). i am still in the process of navigation. trying to understand. so these are attempts to maybe visualize this part of the process. 56


ml To: JFD

Sat, Jul 20, 2013 at 2:51 AM

(but mira has never wanted to be friends with everyone) 58


All photography copyright Š Mira Loew.

ml To: JFD

Sat, Jul 20, 2013 at 4:02 PM

i just ended up walking all the way down to west 4th street when really i was supposed to take a left in west 14th, thinking of our radically generous exchange.

JFD To: ml

Thu, Jul 25, 2013 at 10:42 AM

Position yourself so that the scale of Mira confuses the scale of NYC. Or the opposite.

JFD To: ml

Tue, Jul 30, 2013 at 12:03 AM

Find the trash. Position yourself in it.


JFD To: ml

Tue, Jul 30, 2013 at 11:48 AM

I think this needs further explanation. It seems to me that trash is different in North America. Perhaps because there is more trashy food & trash TV & white trash. & so knowing where the intentional trash ends & the real trash begins seems precarious. Also was thinking about trash as a verb. Trashing the house. Trashing an idea. Also was thinking about physical vs. digital trash. How I almost trashed a thread of 86 exchanges that are incredibly valuable but (alarmingly? interestingly) only exist in the internet. 61

Also was thinking about getting trashed & then feeling like trash. Also was thinking about how there is something about NYC that suggests trash. Old metal trash cans. Oscar the Grouch. Garbage collection strikes in the middle of the summer. & now I am thinking about my interest in failure & whether trash is where failure meets kitsch. ml To: JFD

Wed, Jul 31, 2013 at 1:04 AM

i think the trash positionings might have to be an ongoing one. but here are 2 initial responses. the scale one is not entirely what i had in mind, but a draft for now. 62

scale draft 63


trash 2 64

JFD Fri, Aug 2, 2013 at 2:21 PM To: ml 28th July 2013 H & me were sitting in the park early Sunday. & we started talking about was space. The charisma of spaces. This crazy idea I have that spaces are important & that some spaces are more important than others. But spaces are spaces. & no space is more important than another space. We just decide it is ours. That doesn’t make it actually special. But it makes it actually special for us. & the important thing is that we all make normal spaces into specific spaces. This need to make general spaces into specific spaces. That’s the complexity of stuff. The need for people to not find but to make their own specificities. I will try to have this conversation again & remember it better.


ml Fri, Aug 2, 2013 at 3:32 PM To: Jane Frances Dunlop <> maybe thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the difference between spaces being important and spaces being charismatic: some spaces have been invested with a universally known history, not just a personal history. places where a lot of different peopleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s stories have taken place (thinking of the chelsea hotel, which by the way, was only half as pretty on the inside- or at least the lobby was, as we were unable to make it any further. yet just as charismatic as i had anticipated). and things have happened in there that are now part of a greater shared history. so that space was becoming important as the stories became important. and maybe thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s what makes them charismatic. and maybe other places, the special spaces are special only to a few of us are merely important. and charismatic maybe only to some. (since charisma lies in the eyes of the beholder, it still means that these spaces are actually charismatic, and more important than others).



by Lizzette Soria


entrification has been described as “the process by which higher income households displace lower income residents of a neighbourhood, changing the essential character and flavour of that neighbourhood” (Kennedy; Leonard, 2001). Around Mont Pleasant, one of the most ethnically and economically diverse neighbourhoods in Washington DC, the meaning of gentrification goes beyond its literal definition, and is encoded in signs, drawings and theater (Historicmountpleasant 2014). Un-coding the meaning of gentrification through these three communication venues provides a deeper understanding of the “changing character and flavour” of the neighbourhood, as well as its economic, social and cultural implications. In this way, these communication venues represent a valuable space for different residents to voice their opinions and demands of a process that is changing their present lives and future opportunities.


The Sign At the heart of the neighbourhood, there is a 24h private business constantly supervised by the police with a clear sign in English and Spanish. Loitering is a term commonly used in some Anglophone countries, such as the United States, Canada and Australia, to describe “the act of remaining in a particular public place for a protracted time without an apparent purpose”. Under certain circumstances, loitering is illegal in various jurisdictions. “Holgazanear”, however, means solely “to be lazy”. The question is why does hanging out with neighbours in public spaces mean simply “to be lazy”? What about the enrichment of community life, the creation of social connections and the mobility opportunities for immigrants which arise from these informal encounters? 68

The Drawings A mural titled “My Place/ Mi lugar” illustrates gentrification through the eyes of second-generation immigrants. Murals are a well-known Mexican communication tool to express social and political messages. On the one hand, the mural displaces the recent demographic change, improved physical environment, and a positive impression of diversity. The drawings depict the diversity of the community, the central American traditions, and multiethnical families sharing the public space. On the other hand, the mural also portrays a clear demand for inclusion and resilience. The young residents illustrated their homes and parents’ financial stress to stay in the neighbourhood with a clear message: “This is my place. I live here”. 69

The Theatre The local theatre is a cultural reference in the neighbourhood and the city, aiming at preserving the Hispanic language. Among the actors, it is possible to identify a native Anglo-American performing in Spanish, as wells a wide variety of Hispanic accents, such as Spanish, Peruvian, Argentinian, and many others. The mix of accents reminds the audience about the potential of culture and language to reinforce the sense of belonging among old and new residents from different backgrounds. Improved â&#x20AC;&#x153;feedbak circuitsâ&#x20AC;? can help long-standing residents to feel they still belong in the neighbourhood, and newcomers to feel at home. 70

Sources: Kennedy, Maureen; Leonard, Paol (2001): Dealing with Neighbourhood Change: A Primer on Gentrification and Policy Choices, The Brookings Institution (Accessed: May 2014) 71



arachi is Pakistan’s largest city and commercial capital, home to a culturally diverse population of 21 million. One of the fastest growing cities of the world, it is often described as an increasingly fragmented and violent city. The resumption of day-to-day routines after violent events are celebrated with pride in the local media as heroic acts of resilience. Indeed, if there’s one word used to characterize the city by its inhabitants, it is “resilience” – the ability to endure suffering without breaking. Tropes of the resilient, indestructible city enable Karachi’s quotidian spaces and circulations of everyday life to be visualised as static and unchanging. The rhetorical device of invoking a Karachi untarnished by violence effectively separates the realm of violence from the “lived spaces” of the city. However, urban space should be understood as fluid, adaptive and always in the process of construction. Similarly urban experiences of the city need to be recognised as profoundly diverse, subjective and always in flux. New languages need to be discovered that take these heterogeneities into account and disrupt present notions of the resilient and static city. Children are one such group whose experiences of the city are routinely marginalised and their stories left unheard. Children are active social agents who carve out their own public spaces in Karachi’s neighbourhoods. In the absence of state assigned public spaces in Karachi, children transform ordinary places like streets, plots, grounds, rooftops and markets, into dynamic public spaces for play and recreation. 72

Children are therefore important urban actors, who produce and sustain dynamic public spaces. Their urban experiences are incredibly complex, as they negotiate precarious, vulnerable agreements with neighbours to find places for play and exploration. Despite an acute awareness of violence in the city, children are invested in their outdoor urban spaces, and in a sense of community. They see the world around them with critical eyes, and are able to express themselves freely and creatively. Bachon se Tabdili (Change Through Children) is an endeavour of five artist-educators – Shahana Rajani, Madiha Sikander, Rabeya Jalil, Sadia Jamal and Fahim Rao – who worked at eleven government schools to enable children to develop creative languages to visualise their urban experiences of the city. Through creative mediums of drawing, painting and mapmaking, children explored the ways in which they value, find meaning in and make sense of their immediate public environments. Bachon se Tabdili aims to re-envision public space in Karachi by highlighting children’s experiences. It promotes dialogue between adults and children, allowing adults to re-discover public spaces – and their potential for play, adventure, friendships and socio-cultural exchanges – through children’s imaginaries. It is supported by the Prince Claus Fund. Below are four large-scale maps made collaboratively by fifthgrade students from four different schools in different neighbourhoods of the city. In these maps, children have formulated a coherent visual language to express their perspectives on spaces, places and people in their localities. These children show us the infinite and magical potentials of public spaces and urban life. They remind us about the impossibility of totalizing or fixed representations of the city. These children’s maps allow us to confront a multitude of polyvocalities and acknowledge the stubbornly simultaneous, multi-layered geographies of the city. 73


A map of the neighbourhood of Lyari made by Fifth Grade Students of B. F. Cabral Government Boys Primary School in collaboration with artisteducator Madiha Sikander.

Names of students: Zahid Jamshed, Abdul Qadir, Muneer Abdul Latif, Haleema Babu Khan, Roshana Mohammad Nadeem, Maida Adil, Armeena Khaimji, Aisha Mohammad Arif, Umme Khadeeja, Abdul Kareem, Parmeen Gul Khan, Ali Mohammad, Usman Mohammad Aslam, Shafiullah Rahim Gul, Tayyab Siddiqui, Amjad Khan, Sana Abdul Wahid, Ghulam Haider, Deshant Krishan, Safiullah Siraj, Bilal Mohammad, Shoaib Mohammad Sadiq, Asim Sabir, Abdul Karim Aslam, Hamza Imran, Uns Ahmed Ali, Sharif Jan, Imtiaz Daad, Zaid Shakoor, Umer Farooq, Ansar Ahmed, Ghulam Mohammad, Aftab Mohammad Abid, Urmeela Khimji, Sameer Tanveer, Abdul Ghafoor.


A map of the neighbourhood of Shireen Jinnah Colony made by Fifth Grade Students of Pak Jamhooria Government Girls Primary School in collaboration with artist-educator Rabeya Jalil. 76

Names of students: Momina Wazir Khan, Malika Nasir, Kiran Izhaz Shah, Fiza Ansir Ali, Aisha Sayeen, Nosheen Ayub Khan, Kainat Dost M., Fatima M. Javed, Rahat Aslam, Mariam Abdullah, Shameem M. Nawaz, Mariam Jummah, Wajiha Shahed, Ambreen Mohammad Yousaf, Fatima Imtiaz, Kainat Zameen Khan, Sadia Fazl Akbar, Sonia Mohammad Yusuf, Rabia Fazal Akbar, Iqra Mohammad Ali. 77

A map of the neighbourhood of Shireen Jinnah Colony made by Fifth Grade Students of Government Boys Primary School Cantt No. 1 in collaboration with artist-educator Rabeya Jalil. 78

Names of students: Ahmed Meer Muhammad, Zohaib Shah, Ismail Almas Khan, Naveed Muhammad Israr, Muhammad Osiad Pervaiz, Muhammad Bilal Amjad Ali, Bilal Mehraj, Israr Ahmed, Ibrahim Shah, Asim Baghdad Shah, Abdul Rehman Silah-ud-din, Saifullah Aziz-ur-Rehman, Faraz Shafeeq Ahmed, Aqib Hussain, Sultan Shah, Noor Hakeem, Shehzad Khan, Usman Ibrahim Shah, Saeed Bahadur Ali, Junaid Khan, Aleem Muhammad, Muhammad Jawwad, Muhammad Ashraf.



A map of the neighbourhood of PECHS made by Fifth Grade Students of Dabistan Government Girls Primary School in collaboration with artist-educator Shahana Rajani.

Names of students: Aliza M. Ali, Mariyam, Nijat Ali, Eiasha M. Nasir, Niha Ilyas, Dabeer Khan, Aysha Bano, Iqra Naeem, Usama, Shaikh Haseeb, Aliza Ahsan, Khadeeja, Hifza Naz, Saira Zahid Hussain, Nazmeen, Uzair Mehtab, Saif, Iasha Nasir, Iqra Khanam, Hifza Abid, Alima Amir Khan, Hamza Khalid, Shadab Younus.




hat ifâ&#x20AC;Ś? What if we were able to speak different kinds of languages? What if machines were able to teach us? What if a compact photo camera decided to take life, to speak out loud and to interact? What if an SD-card unexpectedly started an anarchic and colourful communication in a new digital language? Well, in that case it would be our task to listen and to learn. Take and transmit, without post-processing, without interpreting. With neither transformation nor translation. This series of pictures took life from a creative SD-card, which had broken and suddenly decided to speak in an unknown digital tongue. A language made out of casual interferences with the original images. A spontaneous language that may depict what someone could imagine as a trip around a city (the city being Vienna) under the influence of LSD.


Concrete Boulevard


Bipolarit채t 84


Lassallen Strasse Dreigliederung

Playground 86


Daniela SanjinĂŠs


David Kostenwein

Shareen Elnaschie

EDITORIAL TEAM Ilustrations by Polina Koriakina

Sahar U Ahmad

Lia Brum

Richard W J Shepherd

Lina Gast


Ilustrations by Lina Gast

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Cities + Language  

This issue explores how Cities speak through bodies, books, buildings, cracked images, children’s drawings, grafitti, ground diagram silloue...

Cities + Language  

This issue explores how Cities speak through bodies, books, buildings, cracked images, children’s drawings, grafitti, ground diagram silloue...