It has been sucha a hectic time after the viva, visa, corrections, etc that some very good news from Venezuela did not find the space for me to write about. Last year saw the publication in Venezuela of the book CABA, Cartography of Caracas Barrios, 1966-2014. And admirable effort by private developer Maximo Sacchini, working along with the architecture firm Enlace Arquitectura. CABA has done what no local authority, government or public entity had been able to articulate into one document: a cartographic map of the growth of Caracas informal settlements in the last 50 years. It grants a denied visibility to the barrios, historically absent from conventional cartography. The information and data carried by the maps followed the guidelines of the national ‘Inventory of Barrios', proposed in the 1990s by architects Josefina Baldo and Federico Villanueva.

Unfortunately for me, the book can only be purchased in Venezuela. In the meantime, the authors have opened a blog, in Spanish, sharing their experiences, methodologies, findings, etc, which I am convinced will be a valuable resource for practitioners and scholars interested in the urban development of Caracas: https://cabaccs.wordpress.com/2016/07/21/first-blog-post/#more-4

For a review of the book in English: https://favelissues.com/2016/04/24/caba/

Enlace Arquitectura: http://www.enlacearquitectura.net/inicio/

Whilst preparing for my viva, I came across OILIGARCHY, an online game where you become the powerful boss of the global oil industry: you can explore and drill around the world, bribe and corrupt politicians, block policies for renewable energies and increase the world’s oil addiction.
I spent a good four hours playing this game two weeks ago. Besides a few chronological/historical mistakes, it is very well designed and fun to play… I decided to play it as completely pro-oil drilling for big profits business persona (Trump anyone?) and, I regret to disclose, that I led the world to nuclear annihilation by year 2050 X_x. So, for all the current research and developments on renewable energy, until we understand how deeply entangled our current economy, society, politics, and culture is with oil, we will not be able to figure out how to build a new world that is no longer dependent on fossil fuels and hydrocarbons

I PASSED MY VIVA YESTERDAY!!
Here I am with my external examiner Dr Phil Jones from University of Birmingham and internal examiner Dr Janet Merkel from City University of London. The three weeks leading up to it were intense, terrifying, and finally rewarding!!

It’s been ages since I last published anything in this journal, but I am pleased to share that I submitted my PhD dissertation last Friday!!! Since then I’ve felt exactly like the photo, head in the clouds…

phd

Save the penguins!

Time for personal things slips away when you are overwhelmed with teaching and PhD deadlines!

I want to share a brief update on Busca Tu Espacio, CollectiVoX’s project with The British Council Venezuela in Caracas. We keep going strong and growing despite the deeply challenging political and economic circumstances, attesting to the resilience, creativity and tenacity of Venezuelan young people.

Siul Rasse, a young visual artist, found through Busca Tu Espacio the space to share her art at Metro Station La Hoyada, opening TODAY for the whole city to see! Click here If you want to check Siul’s portfolio: http://siulrasse.blogspot.co.uk/

Find more fascinating events organized by young caraqueños and inspiring testimonials by visiting the website of Busca Tu Espacio: https://buscatuespacio.com.ve/

This past Thursday 1st October I had the pleasure of attending the launch of #BRANDLONDON at Heddon Kitchen. #BRANDLONDON is a “series of free reports, research and networking events dedicated to exploring key issues, challenges and new ideas that can positively inform the future of urban development and our coexistence”. This initiative is being put forward by the partnership between creative.union (http://www.creativeunion.co.uk/) and Evolve Agency (http://www.evolveagency.com/).

I admire their ability to gather in one room such a diverse city-obsessed top-quality group of professionals, although I felt the focus on London as a brand limits the scope of the conversation, many interesting issues and concerns were raised about the the future of London. In my view, this inter-disciplinary conversation is extremely necessary, but it has to reach beyond London and include other main cities in the UK. The increasing centrality of London and its financial sector will bring more inequalities and economic, social and cultural imbalances for the UK. Coming from Latin America, I am aware of the perverse effect the predominance of the capital city has on the ability to develop regional economies in-country.

London could do with strong competition from cities like Manchester, and Bristol… a more balanced spread of good jobs, housing, culture, entertainment, healthcare, and infrastructure nationwide would benefit the wider population. But there is an itching by elite decision makers to see London turn into Kuala Lumpur or Dubai. Yes, they have fascinating skylines (though I am a skyscraper-hater architect) and thriving luxury economy, but it is sustained by stark inequality, extreme poverty, exploitation and segregation.With this very smart and cutting edge group of people working together, bigger picture thinking can be brought into the mix, am looking forward for what’s going to come out of these creative exchanges.

This is my humble contribution to improve my fellow londoners sex life ;)

I want to share the latest news on Bucaral, one of the greatest communities I’ve had the pleasure to work for with Collectivox.

This week, the Gran Misión Barrio Nuevo Barrio Tricolor (http://www.barriotricolor.gob.ve/) arrived to Bucaral, to spruce up all the buildings and common spaces, walls and windows were re[aired and painted, new doors installed. As you may have noticed in my Social Enterprise portfolio, back in July 2014 we spent three intense weeks working alongside the community to install the big colourful sign that now clearly identifies Bucaral. This rather simple but meaningful intervention, requested by the community, gave greater visibility to what is a long established neighbourhood, embedded in the midst of an upper middle class neighbourhood.

I particularly love the statement made by the mural intervention, painted to look like ancient brick walls, with a large colonial style font lettering that reads “Bucaral founded in 1948”. This plaque sends the clear message that Bucaral is a consolidated and long established community, not a “slum” or a shanty town, that the establishment of Bucaral is contemporary with the urban private development of the wealthier neighbourhoods of Altamira, La Castellana and Los Palos Grandes. The other side of Venezuela’s oil modernity.

I made a new friend yesterday!!! After a long month home-bound like a hermit typing a paper for my past PhD deadline, I needed to be out and about and back to my old harmless urban mischiefs to recover my sanity (hence why I put “semi-retired " street activist on my profile!).

Off I went and bought a small set of sticky labels, got my black marker, and scribbled away a few confessions to get off my chest. I strolled around Camden to give them away, I stumbled upon this guy, he was writing poetry in the sidewalk with multicolored chalk (I was hooked!) and then I saw he had a phrase in Spanish written in his bag, "Respira Consciente”, which means breath consciously (double hooked!) so I HAD to speak to him.

Turns out he doesn’t speak Spanish, he picked that phrase from a woman in the Canary islands. He is a wanderer, his name is Hymn. We had a chat about what he was writing (I love poetry but the PhD doesn’t leave much room for leisure reading), words, poetry, art, his travels… I told him about how I missed my urban tribe of street activist and artists. He loved my stickers, picked two to put them in his hat (in both I am confessing I am a BRUJA -witch in Spanish-, the one he is holding says “Soy BRUJA, Y que?”). Fun encounter. I walked away with this fragment of his poetry stuck in my mind:

If you love the life
it will love you back
that’s the truth of it
that’s a fact

We bumped fists and said see you around!

I left a couple more stickers on my way back. The one over the Camden Fringe program says “I NEVER bathe on Sundays”, and the one over the man’s face says “I See dead people SERIOUSLY”. :)

Imagine my surprise when I checked his facebook page (everyone has a Facebook fan page these days…): there’s a documentary about him released in 2015. If you are curious, check the website and facebook page for screenings.
http://www.mosha.org/Welcome-Home-a-movie-about-him
https://www.facebook.com/welcomehomeamovieabouthim?fref=ts

Dubai on Thames? London's skyline is changing, the city will be completely different in a few years, with new sleek skyscrapers sprouting all over. Whether this change will be positive for city life on the ground remains to be seen. I must confess I am not fond of skyscrapers...
Alain de Botton offers some insights in this short video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6QcbsedsGdA

I had to see it for myself, Hackney Council installed a San Francisco inspired parklet in Pittfield Street! It's rather close to Hoxton Station. It officially opened on July 3rd. More details on the link:
http://news.hackney.gov.uk/hackney-installs-countrys-first-us-inspired-on-street-micro-park