Straight outta Boulogne-Billancourt

posted by on 25.01.2011, under Architecture, Creativity, Hip hop, Urban planning

Game Over (2009) is a music video by Booba, a Moroccan-Senegalese rapper from the Parisian banlieue of Boulogne-Billancourt. I tried to find out who the director of the video is, but to no avail. Despite a slow start, this video is worth the watch. The art direction and photography are excellent. The gloomy atmosphere is incisive. You almost sense the roaches on the wall of the claustrophobic apartment in which part of the video is set. This stuff is really fine-tuned to deliver Booba’s message and music.


I’m fascinated by the banlieues that surround Paris. The often monolithic building blocks, called grands ensembles, were built in the 50s and 60 to accommodate large streams of immigrants from Algeria and other (ex-)colonies. From an urban planning point of view, it was a great solution – if you didn’t think about the consequences ten, twenty years down the line. Unemployment, violence and alienation festered inside the grands ensembles, creating a sort of externalized Bastille – stagnant social pools, just outside the Périférique, Paris’ ring road.

Fortunately, also good things like hip hop have come from those massive concrete zones. The ever-expanding library of French hip hop videos provides a great insight into functional architecture and its consequences.

Please note that videos, such as the one mentioned above, could never spring from the suburbs of the City of a Thousand Suns, Hipcescu, because social harmony and cleanliness would make such transgressions impossible. Thank you.

Le Corbusier – Plan Voisin

posted by on 15.01.2011, under Architecture, Ideas, Politics, Urban planning

Le Corbusier is an architect that has inspired me greatly. If I wouldn’t have dedicated Hipcescu Tower to myself, he would have been a likely candidate. Here is one of my favorite quotes from his book Towards a New Architecture (1924).

“We must create a mass-production state of mind:
A state of mind for building mass-production housing.
A state of mind for living in mass-production housing.
A state of mind for conceiving mass-production housing.”

Le Corbusier didn’t just talk the talk, he was ready to walk the walk. And so, in 1925, he presented his Plan Voisin.

It entailed bulldozing most of central Paris north of the Seine, and replacing it with sixty-story cruciform towers, the shape of which derived from radiator elements. In the end, the plan was never carried out.

“We must find and apply new methods, clear methods allowing us to work out useful plans for the home, lending themselves naturally to standardization, industrialization, Taylorization”, he wrote. “The plan must rule. . . . The street must disappear.” Clearly, this is highly efficient thinking.

In this video, we see the master explaining his Plan Voisin.

At one point in the video, Le Corbusier’s envisioned towers are inserted into contemporary Paris. And then you realize just how beautiful it could have been…

Astana, glorious capital of Kazakhstan

posted by on 09.01.2011, under Architecture, Ideas, Politics, Urban planning

Nursultan A. Nazarbayev is the Supremo of Kazakhstan and an esteemed colleague. He was elected president of the glorious Kazakh nation on 1 December 1991. Under the auspice of this great man, who firmly guides his country towards a brighter future, the capital was transferred from Almaty to Astana in 1997, a city constructed from scratch in the midst of Kazakhstan’s windy steppes. Winter temperatures in Astana can drop to -40 Celsius. No place for pussies and all the more so a cradle of panoramic ideological vistas and Great Deeds. During one of my low-profile visits to Astana I was impressed by the beautiful, modern architecture and the powerful melange of capitalism and state-guided enterprise. Astana is not some pitiful provincial backwater. On the contrary, it is a thriving 21st century Metropolis, where my good friend, the world-renowned architect Sir Norman Foster, has planted a marvel of modern engineering, the epic Khan Shatyr Entertainment Center.

Make no mistake, Astana is a place for happy, hard-working people. This video slideshow, adorned with stunning visual effects and a spirited folkloric sound-track, will give you a good impression of Astana, where cleanliness and visionary urban planning go hand in hand.