The Private Homes of Moscow

The vast majority of Muscovite’s live in apartment buildings.  In the Soviet era private property was sacrilegious. It was a communal society from top to bottom.  Under the later Soviet regimes people could apply to live in the Dachas – country houses just outside the city.  To get into a Dacha one had to be extremely pro-regime and wait on a very long list. It was a type of reward.

Almost a 100 percent of Moscow residents live in high-rise apartment buildings.

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Because there are so many tall apartment buildings, Moscow has more elevator lifts than any other city in the world.

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How about living in the suburbs? Some people do indeed live at their dachas (and in that case these are more like country houses), but there is no such thing as suburbia in the “American way of thinking”. People do not move to suburbs when they start families and want to raise kids. People want to have an apartment in the city as the permanent home and dacha as a summer-house for weekends. And those people, who do live outside of the city, but work in the center are heavily penalized for the opportunity to have fresh air by sitting in traffic jams on their way to and from work for many hours every day.

So, 99% of Russians, living in the city do live in apartments. To have a private house within the city limits is super rare. There are just several townhouse communities in Moscow and all of them were established in the recent decade or two.*

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They all have big fences surrounding the houses.

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This looks like a 4 car garage.

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The Dachas are not really lined on streets, in the North American sense, but narrow back lanes.

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Some have really impressive fences and gates.

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Back in the city, strange parking arrangement. Going over a curb.

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Source: Google maps, *understandrussia.com

 

Las Vegas in the early days

The Mighty Vegas Strip today.

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The Beginnings…

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Las Vegas started as a stopover on the pioneer trails to the west, and became a popular railroad town in the early 20th century. It was a staging point for mines in the surrounding area, especially those around the town of Bullfrog, that shipped goods to the rest of the country.

With the proliferation of the railroads, Las Vegas became less important, but the completion of the nearby Hoover Dam in 1935 resulted in growth in the number of residents and increased tourism.The dam, located 30 mi (48 km) southeast of the city, formed Lake Mead, the largest man-made lake and reservoir in the United States.

The legalization of gambling in 1931 led to the advent of the casino hotels for which Las Vegas is famous. Major development occurred in the 1940s, “due almost entirely” to the influx of scientists and staff from the Manhattan Project, an atomic bomb research project of World War II.

American organized crime figures such as Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel and Meyer Lansky managed or funded most of the original large casinos. The rapid growth of Las Vegas is credited with dooming the gambling industry development of Galveston, Texas; Hot Springs, Arkansas; and other major gambling centers in the 1950s.

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Two Central Parks

Central Park is a public park at the center of Manhattan in New York City. The park initially opened in 1857, on 778 acres (315 ha) of city-owned land (it is 840 acres today).

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Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada also has a Central Park.  Comparing Winnipeg’s park to the park in New York is like comparing a shot glass to a beer keg. The park in Winnipeg is maybe 4-5 acres.  But in its own right it is charming. There is a crime problem near the park.  It is not recommended to walk near the park after dark.

The area is bound by Notre Dame Ave. to the north, Ellice Ave. to the south, Donald St. to the east and Balmoral St. to the west. Everything within the neighbourhood’s one-kilometre loop can be reached within eight minutes on foot.  It’s one of Winnipeg’s most densely populated neighbourhoods with around 13,755 people per square km according to Statistics Canada’s 2001 Census.

Central Park is home to many different ethnicities including Vietnamese, Arabs, Chinese, First Nations, Filipinos, with a majority from Africa. Because of the growing African population, the area has been transforming in recent years, giving it a new sense of community and culture. Its Central Market for Global Families is a summer outdoor market that sells handmade and imported African clothing, beadwork, handicrafts, weavings, art, as well as organic produce [including some African/tropical greens raised by local residents on a community garden at University of Manitoba].

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The Distinctive Architecture of Barcelona, Spain

Eixample is a district of the Spanish city of Barcelona, that lies between the old city and the surrounding small towns. The district was built as an extension (hence the name “Eixample”) when Barcelona started to grow during the middle of the 19th century. The 7.5 square km district is characterized by long straight streets, a strict grid pattern crossed by wide avenues, and octagonal city blocks – rectangular blocks with the corners cut off, which are distinctive for Barcelona. This was the visionary, pioneering design by Spanish urban planner Ildefons Cerdà, who considered traffic and transport along with sunlight and ventilation in coming up with his characteristic octagonal blocks.

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Cerdà’s central aim was to overcome social problems by using quadrangular blocks of a standard size, with strict building controls to ensure that they were built up on only two sides, to a limited height, leaving a shady square or garden in between. This recreational open space with open sides to the blocks was to guarantee the houses the maximum amount of sun, light and ventilation. The angled corners allowed the streets to broaden at every intersection making for greater visibility, and fluid traffic in all directions. Cerdà had steam trams in mind, and it was its long turning radius which determined the angle of the corners of the buildings. Trams were never installed, and the city planners unfortunately ignored many of his other provisions.

Cerda wanted housing blocks to be orientated NW-SE to ensure all apartments received sunshine during the day. Each district would be of twenty blocks, containing all the community shops and services, and each block were to have at least 800 square meters of gardens. Cerda’s idealized use of urban space was scarcely achieved. The blocks went up to much more than the planned heights, and in practice all the blocks have been enclosed, with very few inner gardens surviving. Most of the inner courtyards today are occupied by car parks, workshops and shopping centers. The streets were narrower – only one of the two diagonal avenues was carried out – the inhabitants were of a higher class than the mixed composition dreamed of by Cerdà. The grid pattern with its distinctive octagonal blocks, however, remains as a hallmark of Barcelona’s Eixample.

Over the past few years the city has begun trying to implement Cerdà’s idea for green public spaces behind the buildings. When a block is vacated because of the relocation of a business, the city takes up the block and redesigns it with parks and open spaces. The ultimate goal is to create one patio-garden for every nine blocks, but its unlikely that so many will become available in the near future.

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