Transformation of cities

26.10.2011, 14:41
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Yesterday Michael Schindhelm spoke about the changes that took place in cities with a rich cultural heritage, taking Berlin and Hong Kong as two examples.

The fact that Berlin was divided in two parts after World War II has had a great impact on its diverse development. During the last 20 years, there has been a shift of influence from West Berlin to East Berlin: now the East part plays a more important international role in representing Berlin as a creative and economic centre. Old landmarks of the past are being outshined by new architecture. Besides multiple expensive development projects, there is also a trend of cultural remembrance which is manifested in renaming streets and squares and erecting new monuments. There are constant debates going on about the fate of many monuments and buildings; however, because Berlin was almost completely destroyed during the war, there’s a strange ambiguity as to how the heritage shoud be communicated nowadays.

Hong Kong is another example of cultural transformation that took place during the period of reunification with Mainland China, after the city had been a British colony for almost 90 years. Hong Kong displays one of the longest urban histories in the world. It’s not as new and booming as other cities in China, and, just as 20 years ago, it has 7 million people today, 90% of whom aren’t actually Chinese. On the one hand, Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated cities: there is an area where 140 thousand people live on 1 sq. km, and at the same time there are a lot of underpopulated areas. In the course of its history Hong Kong was redeveloped several times: there are three generations of skyscrapers in the city, the first having been constructed in the ’50s. Now, with the help of the government, another redevelopment is taking place: a large area of the city will be transformed into a cultural district aiming to attract more creative people and shift from a business hub to a more cultural one.

After this talk about the transformation of Berlin and Hong Kong the conversation switched back to Moscow, with a round table discussion on how cultural practices influenced the urban life in the last 10 years. The participants of the discussion included the literary critic Alexander Gavrilov,theatre director Eduard Boyakov, journalist Yuri Saprykin, and head of the FABRIKA project Asya Fillipova. The conversation revolved around the dramatic changes that Moscow underwent in the course of the last decade. Before now, one couldn’t imagine that a week’s schedule of concerts and events could take more than one page in a magazine. Yet nowadays Moscow is thriving with a whole range of events around town. What changed was that different neighborhoods with their own original atmosphere began to appear; different audiences that don’t intersect with each other started to form; the element of socializing became an important reason to attend various cultural events. However, the lack of a municipal cultural programme results in a rather badly stratified city.The new government gives hope for a change, and the small steps it has already taken showing support for different cultural facilities will open new doors to a wider audience.