Review of “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism”

Every once in a while, a book comes along that sets the liberals on fire. The Shock Doctrine: the Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein is one such book. This volume has been hawked by such national liberal pundits as Ed Schultz, Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow. There has been such a buzz over this book in the past two years that it behooves us to write a review of it. Overall, the writing style is quite friendly to those of us who are not political scientists. It is, so to speak, an easy read. The historical research that went into the book is respectable (for the most part). Naomi Klein’s title refers to the “shocking” ways in which unregulated free markets have been applied to many countries throughout the world, and how “disaster capitalism,” or capitalism that is a disaster for working people, has been put in power.

From the coup in Chile to the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and the “shock therapies” used in Poland, the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and even the US and UK, this book lays out quite completely the pattern used by the Friedmanite capitalists of the Chicago School from their rise in the 1970s to their mastery over the IMF and World Bank in the 1990s and their control of WTO and GATT today. Overall, the pattern is the same between these different occurences in different countries at different times. It is a form of imperialism, which as we know is the necessary expansion of capitalism to capture more resources and more markets. Unless capitalism constantly expands it is subject to collapse. Klein is correct about this. That said, there are severe flaws with the ideology expressed in the book.

The “Shock Doctrine” of “Disaster Capitalism” Applied

The Friedmanite model of capitalism requires three things: social spending cuts (or even better the absence of a social support system), deregulation and extensive tax cuts for business ventures and the wealthy. In the instance of Chile and the Latin American countries (Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Bolivia) the start was a coup of the more independent-minded capitalist governments that pursued the European social-democratic style. The first to be subjected was Chile, which had elected Allende, and it was deemed prudent by the Nixon Administration to support a coup by Pinochet and to radically alter the Chilean state. According to Klein, the only way to successfully pull this off was through extreme psychological and cultural shocks to knock down the resistance of the Chilean people to these so-called reforms.

Klein mentions many of the “shocks” of the Chilean coup, such as tanks seizing government buildings, military police arrests, disappearances, murders and torture—all of which was developed by the CIA under the MKULTRA program and resulted in the creation of the “KUBARK” manual.* Pinochet, being a general who had no schooling in economics, needed economic experts. These were provided by Chicago School of Economics graduates, both Americans and Chileans. Even before the coup, they devised an economic plan called “the Brick” which called for the destruction of the Chilean social programs, massive tax cuts, deregulation and the removal of protective tariffs. The results of these political shocks, economic shocks and later shocks to individuals through torture as Klein’s “shock” metaphor goes, were economic disasters for the Chilean workers and massive profits for the capitalists in America and the Chilean bourgeoisie.

The “Shock Doctrine” at Home

Next in line were Argentina, Brazil and Bolivia. Over the course of time, these methods were refined and redefined for use in so-called democratic countries like the US and UK. According to Klein, “Thatcher-ism,” as it was called in the UK, was pulled off by starting a war with Argentina over an archipelago in the South Atlantic called the Falkland Islands. Thatcher was able to use the war to whip up patriotic sentiment to enable her to bust unions and radically revise the social structure of the UK in the name of an “Ownership Society.” People thought that was a phrase coined by George W. Bush—the former President isn’t that smart, quite frankly.

In the United States, high rates of interest imposed by the Federal Reserve (also known as the Fed) were putting economic pressure on America. It was during this time that Ronald Reagan began his campaign of union-busting, starting with the air traffic controllers.

International Implications

During the 1980s expansion of the Freidmanite “shock treatments” in the developing world were imposed by the IMF and the World Bank. They demanded privatization, social austerity and deregulation as conditions to give loans, which were usually take out to pay debt incurred from previous loans for economic development. The end result of course, was a disaster for the working people of Africa and Asia.

In the 1990s, the “shock doctrine” was expanded to Eastern Europe in the wake of the collapse of the Warsaw Pact states. The prime examples—Poland and Russia—were exposed to so-called shock therapy almost immediately. In 1990, the Solidarity group were used by the West to call for privatization, deregulation and asset sales from the Polish state-operated infrastructure. Naomi Klein does her best to whitewash Solidarity, using frivolously high numbers for their membership and neglecting to mention their ties to the West, instead portraying them as victims. Russia followed much the same pattern as Poland, although at an accelerated rate. This netted huge profits for Western capitalists and worsening conditions for the Russian and Polish workers.

Friedman-ism also worked its way into the People’s Republic of China, which was already undergoing the construction of a capitalist society under Deng Xiaoping. Deng’s policies of course had the result of growing inequity in China, and also an increase in unemployment, as capitalism, in order to maximize profit, requires the presence of surplus labor to drive down wages. There were also severe cuts to the social programs in the PRC at the time.

This leads us to Klein’s next subject – the use of pressures for deregulation by the West to cause capital flight in the so-called “Asian Tigers,” namely South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Malaysia. These societies had extremely high tariffs, huge public infrastructure in state-capitalist companies as well as in social goods like education. By pushing for the deregulation of their capital controls, the Asia Crises was engineered by the WTO and the IMF.

Modern-Day “Shock Doctrine”

All of this leads to the final frontier for capitalist penetration, namely, the economies of the Middle East and the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea. In the Middle East these states, usually with large oil reserves, did not have loans to pay off and were mistrustful of foreign influence. To the superpowers, the only solution was invasion and occupation by an outside force. What better outside force than America, which spends more on its military than anyone else? There was only one problem—the American people did not want to start a war. In short, a “shock” to the system in the United States was necessary and the bourgeoisie was more than willing to allow the plans of Osama Bin Laden to go through, since it would open up opportunities for the military-industrial complex and the creation of a new market – “Homeland Security Solutions.” Needless to say, Bin Laden was more than willing to oblige, and the outsourcing of everything from cooking and military construction to companies like Halliburton went through unabated.

As we mentioned, there are deep flaws to this book. Naomi Klein seems to believe that a form of capitalism can be devised which is not a “disaster” for working people when capitalism by its very nature is contradictory to the interests of all those who lack capital. Throughout the book, the author repeatedly hammers home her view that Keynesian capitalist economics is some how better for working people. Such a view is patently untrue. Regulated capitalism, which is the basis of Keynesian economics, as we know, only places rules and regulations on a system imposed by and supported by the very people who have the means to destroy, subvert and work against those very regulations. Keynesian economics is at best a temporary solution to a crisis in capitalism which will be replaced eventually by the most abusive forms of capitalism precisely when the capitalists think they can get away with it.

Indeed, despite the bourgeois liberal-leaning of Naomi Klein, and despite her whitewashing of social democracy and Keynesian economics, she has managed to show that that the current War on Terror is nothing more than the latest manifestation of imperialism, which must ultimately culminate in one of two outcomes: capitalist dictatorship or socialism.

10 Must-See Buildings of the Modern Era

Every era has its giants, but when the world moved out of the Victorian age, architecture reached new heights. From soaring skyscrapers to dramatic innovations in engineering and design, 20th century modern architecture transformed the way we think about building. Architecture enthusiasts the world over have picked these top ten buildings, naming them the most beloved and revolutionary structures of the recent past. This list may not include the choices of scholars and historians — you can read expert opinions in books like the 2012 Phaidon Atlas. These are the people’s choices, important architecture from around the world that continues to awe and influence the lives of ordinary citizens.

1905 to 1910, Casa Mila Barcelona, Spain

Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi defied rigid geometry when he designed Casa Mila Barcelona. Gaudi was not the first to build “light wells” to optimize natural sunlight — Burnham & Root designed Chicago’s Rookery with a light well in 1888 and the Dakota apartments in New York City had an inner courtyard in 1884. But Gaudi’s Casa Mila Barcelona is an apartment building with a fanciful aura. Wavy walls seem to undulate, dormers spring from the roof with a comical array of chimney stacks dancing nearby. “The straight line belongs to men, the curved one to God,” Gaudi has asserted.

1913, Grand Central Terminal, New York City

Designed by architects Reed and Stem of St. Louis, Missouri and Warren and Wetmore of New York City, today’s Grand Central terminal building in New York City features lavish marble work and a domed ceiling with 2,500 twinkling stars. Not only did it become part of the infrastructure, with roadways built into the architecture, but it became a prototype for future transportation hubs, including the one at the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan.

1930, The Chrysler Building, New York City

Architect William Van Alen lavished the 77-story Chrysler Building with automotive ornaments and classic Art Deco zigzags. Soaring 319 meters / 1,046 feet into the sky, the Chrysler Building was the tallest building in the world…for a few months, until the Empire State Building was finished. And the Gothic-like gargoyles on this Art Deco skyscraper? None other than metallic eagles. Very sleek. Very modern in 1930.

1931, The Empire State Building, New York City

When it was built, the Empire State Building in New York City broke world records for building height. Reaching into the sky at 381 meters / 1,250 feet, it rose above the newly built Chrysler Building just blocks away. Even today, the height of the Empire State Building is nothing to sneeze at, ranking within the top 100 for tall buildings. The designers were architects Shreve, Lamb and Harmon, who had just finished the Reynolds Building — an Art Deco prototype in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, but about a quarter of the height of New York’s new building.

1935, Fallingwater – The Kaufmann Residence in Pennsylvania

Frank Lloyd Wright fooled gravity when he designed Fallingwater. What seems to be a loose pile of concrete slabs threatens to topple from its cliff. The cantilevered house is not really precarious, but visitors are still awed by the improbable structure in the Pennsylvania woods. It may be the most famous house in America.

1936 – 1939, Johnson Wax Building, Wisconsin

Frank Lloyd Wright redefined space with the Johnson Wax Building in Racine, Wisconsin. Inside the corporate architecture, opaque layers of glass tubes admit light and create the illusion of openness. “Interior space comes free,” Wright said of his masterpiece. Wright also designed the original furniture for the building. Some chairs had only three legs, and would tip over if a forgetful secretary did not sit with correct posture.

1946 – 1950, The Farnsworth House, Illinois

Hovering in a green landscape, the Farnsworth House by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is often celebrated as his most perfect expression of the International Style. All the exterior walls are industrial glass, making this mid-century home one of the first to meld commercial materials into residential architecture.

1957 – 1973, The Sydney Opera House, Australia

Maybe the architecture is popular because of the special lighting effects every year during the Vivid Sydney Festival. Or maybe it’s the feng shui. No, Danish architect Jorn Utzon broke the rules with his modern expressionist Sidney Opera House in Australia. Overlooking the harbor, the venue is a freestanding sculpture of spherical roofs and curved shapes. The real story behind designing the Sydney Opera House, however, is that building iconic structures is too often not a smooth and easy road. After all these years, this entertainment venue is still a model of modern architecture.

1958, The Seagram Building, New York City

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson rejected “bourgeois” ornamentation when they designed the Seagram Building in New York City. A shimmering tower of glass and bronze, the skyscraper is both classical and stark. Metallic beams emphasize the height of its 38 stories, while a base of granite pillars leads to horizontal bands of bronze plating and bronze-tinted glass. Notice that the design is not stepped like other skyscrapers in NYC. To accommodate an “international style” of modern design, the architects built the entire building away from the street, introducing the corporate plaza — the American piazza. For this innovation, the Seagram has been considered one of the 10 buildings that changed America.

1970 – 1977, The World Trade Center Twin Towers

Designed by Minoru Yamasaki, New York’s original World Trade consisted of two 110-story buildings (known as the “Twin Towers”) and five smaller buildings. Soaring above the New York skyline, the Twin Towers were among the tallest buildings in the world. When the buildings were completed in 1977, their design was often criticized. But the Twin Towers soon became a part of America’s cultural heritage, and a background for many popular movies. The buildings were destroyed in the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Local Choices

Local architecture is often the people’s choice, and so it is with San Francisco’s TransAmerican Building (or the Pyramid building). The 1972 futuristic skyscraper by architect William Pereira soars in beauty and certainly defines the local skyline. Also in San Francisco is Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1948 V. C. Morris Gift Shop. Ask the locals about its connection with the Guggenheim Museum.

Chicagoans have a lot to brag about in their city, including the Chicago Title & Trust Building. The beautiful all-white constructivist style Chicago skyscraper by David Leventhal of Kohn Pedersen Fox is not the first building visitors think of in Chicago, but the 1992 structure brought postmodernism to downtown.

The locals in Boston, Massachusetts still love the John Hancock Tower, the reflective 1976 skyscraper designed by Henry N. Cobb of I. M. Pei & Partners. It’s massive, but its parallelogram shape and blue glass exterior make it seem light as air. Also, it holds the complete reflection of the old Boston Trinity Church, reminding Bostonians that the old can live nicely next to the new. In Paris, the Louvre Pyramid designed by I.M. Pei is the modern architecture the locals love to hate.

Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas is the pride and joy of the Ozarks. Designed by E. Fay Jones, an apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright, the chapel in the woods may be the best example of modern architecture’s ability to innovate within a valued historical tradition. Built of wood, glass, and stone, the 1980 building has been described as “Ozark Gothic” and is a popular wedding venue.

In Ohio, the Cincinnati Union Terminal is most loved for its arch construction and mosaics. The 1933 Art Deco building is now the Cincinnati Museum Center, but it still takes you back to a simple time when there were big ideas.

In Canada, Toronto City Hall stands out as the citizens’ choice for moving a metropolis into the future. The public voted down a traditional neoclassical building and, instead, held an international competition. They chose the sleek, modern design by Finnish architect Viljo Revell. Two curved office towers surround a flying saucer-like Council chamber in the 1965 design. The futuristic architecture continues to be breathtaking, and the entire complex at Nathan Phillips Square remains a source of pride for Toronto.

People around the world are proud of their local architecture, even when the designs are not by locals. The 1930 Villa Tugendhat in Brno, Czech Republic is a Mies van der Rohe design filled with modern ideas for residential architecture. And who would expect modernism at the National Parliament building in Bangladesh? The Jatiyo Sangsad Bhaban in Dhaka opened in 1982, after the sudden death of architect Louis Kahn. The space Kahn had designed became not only the pride of a people, but also one of the greatest architectural monuments of the world. The people’s love of architecture should be listed at the top of any chart.

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) – Movie Review

I shall open with a claim that is non-standard, and probably a bit daft: I think that Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is the film out of all 12 Star Trek features that comes closest to the spirit of the TV show it’s based on (okay, so Star Trek: Insurrection probably comes even closer, but for a much more dubious reason. ETA: And now that there are 13 Star Trek features, I have to give some credit to Star Trek Beyond). “Are you mad? The time travel comedy with culture-shock jokes and whales? Is closest to the original series?”, I could almost imagine you sputtering, if I thought you were an insane person who challenged the sanity of a blogger by shouting at your computer screen. Or if I didn’t expect you to understand rhetorical gambits.

But yes, that’s exactly the one I’m referring to, and I think I can make it stick. Firstly: The Voyage Home is the only Star Trek movie where nobody dies (onscreen), and is the first in four tries that ends with the “hurray!” feeling that so many episodes of the show did: no dead Spocks, no exploded starships, just a big happy send-off. Secondly, comedy wasn’t as rare in the TV series as it is in the movies: there were only two outright comic episodes that I can immediately recall, but the comic byplay between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy was much more an integral part of all but the most arch, serious episodes than it is in most of the films that aren’t trying to make an active point of it; and the specific nature of the humor in this film bears quite a resemblance to the scattered moments of comedy in “The City on the Edge of Forever” (a time-travel episode that is largely not funny at all) and the overarching comedy in “A Piece of the Action” (one of the two overt comic episodes, set in a planet modeled after ’20s gangland Chicago).

Thirdly, and this is actually the most important part, The Voyage Home is a message movie unlike anything that the other eleven films even thought about touching, and that’s something that happens a lot in the TV show; it being one of the most touching elements of Gene Roddenberry’s rose-colored worldview that he could use his sci-fi adventure show not merely to comment on society (a privilege of science fiction above nearly all other genres), but to actively agitate for improving society. How many episodes of Star Trek were nothing but little morality plays in disguise! Frequently not even that much disguise; the planet of half-white, half-black people warring with the half-black, half-white people leaps to mind, what I’d refer to as an allegory about racism if the word “allegory” didn’t imply at least a surface-level attempt to hide the subtext.

So yes, The Voyage Home is the environmentalist Star Trek movie, the plea to stop and think about what we’re doing to our planet: subjecting to the wrath of an alien probe 300 years hence that will destroy us for making humpback whales go extinct. Which, in a long line of profoundly silly bits of scientific nonsense peddled by the Star Trek franchise over nearly half a century, I’m not certain if anything is quite as boldly loopy as “a race of alien whales is in communication with terrestrial whales, and that is what whalesong is for”. But the film means it so darn earnestly, and there had to be some way of getting us back to the Earth of 1986. Anyway, the film’s environmental themes are woven into the script so cleanly, and tied so tightly in with more message-neutral dramatic concerns, that even at is most overt, the film never feels like it’s giving up storytelling in order to lecture us. Take note, Stanley Kramers of the world! You can get just as much mileage and a whole lot more entertainment out of a laugh line like “Judging by the pollution content in the atmosphere, I believe we have arrived at the latter half of the 20th Century” as you can from breast-beating monologues.

Anyway, The Voyage Home: after the events of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, the crew of the late U.S.S. Enterprise merely waits on the rehabilitation of the resurrected Spock (Leonard Nimoy) to head back to Earth and face trial for their acts of insubordination and sabotage; but as they idly cool their heels on Vulcan, Earth is under a strange kind of attack from a strange alien probe, a huge black cylinder with a small blue protuberance uttering an otherworldly noise and blanking out power in every station and ship it passes. Having set up shop above Earth’s atmosphere, the probe is now vaporising the oceans, turning the planet into a cloud-locked hell. As the Enterprise crew returns on their commandeered Klingon Bird of Prey, they’re able to determine that the probe’s message is in fact identical to the songs of humpback whales, and from there it’s easy to deduce that the probe is searching for a species that has been extinct for two hundred years. Obviously, then, the best solution is to go back to the 20th Century, when such animals were reasonably plentiful and bring a mating pair back to the 23rd Century to communicate with the alien vessel; obviously. But once arrived in Starfleet’s future hometown of San Francisco in the film’s release year of 1986, just getting around in a wholly alien culture proves to be challenge enough, to say nothing of using primitive technology to repair their horribly damaged ship (trips through time aren’t a cakewalk, you know), and to build an enclosure for the whales that, at this point, haven’t yet been found.

Given its reputation as a fish-out-of-water comedy, broadly accessible to just about anybody (a reputation that made the film the highest grossing in the series, and the only one to break $100 million in box office receipts, until 2009’s Star Trek; adjusted for inflation, it’s still the series’ third-highest grosser, and likely to remain that way), it’s a little shocking to realise how long it takes until The Voyage Home finally warps to 1986, or starts to be funny. A full quarter of the movie is dedicated just to setting things up on Earth and re-introducing the characters – poorly; this might be the first Star Trek movie that baldly requires you to have seen at least the preceding two movies if not the whole show to have even vaguest idea of what’s going on with this talk of katras, and mind-melds, and large portions of the first and third-act narrative. And this at least has the benefit of moving quickly and getting the stakes escalated fast. Almost too fast, and too escalated, perhaps, for the series’ most self-consciously comic entry. But I am not one of the movie’s five credited writers (including Nimoy, and Nicholas Meyer, the latter returning the franchise’s bosom after being offended at the mere existence of The Search for Spock), and they undoubtedly would not care about my opinion.

Frankly, the 23rd Century parts of the movie are fine, nothing more, though Nimoy’s directing is a great deal more focused than it was in the last film. It’s quite apparent that what the filmmakers cared about most, and what they expect us to care about the most, was the central time-travel comedy; time-travel comedies being big business in the mid-’80s, what with the previous year’s Back to the Future and all. And to the film’s immeasurable credit, the 1986 sequences are all pretty great. Funny as heck, with its humor rooted (like nearly all great humor is) in the truth of the characters: funny to see Spock badly mangling an attempt to swear and use slang like a human, funny to see whiz-bang engineer Montgomery Scott (James Doohan, easily the best he is in any of the features) being sniffy and superior about 20th Century technology; funny to see Dr. Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley) being the same way about medicine. Some of the jokes are lost to the Cold War; the bit about Chekhov (Walter Koenig) asking in battered English, “Where are the nooklear wessels” isn’t nearly as clever when you have to remind yourself that a Russian asking about nukes in ’86 would have a much different connotation than in the 2010s.

The other, much less predictable reason that the 1986 material works is that it finally solves – for the only time in the film series – the consistent problem that Star Trek had with its ensemble: giving them all something to do. It’s still, unquestionably, driven by Kirk (William Shatner) and Spock, hunting for whales and getting entangled with a local marine biologist (Catherine Hicks) – whom Kirk, in best Kirk fashion, promptly starts to hit on (the only time that happened in the movies, really, until the younger, sexier Kirk of the reboot). But every single character has at least one small chance to shine, to get a little comic moment all their own, even if it’s just a few well-timed reaction shots in Uhura’s (Nichelle Nichols) case.

Nimoy, as director, is on much surer footing here: his instinct to let his castmates feel their way into the script rather than demanding they hew to it pays off substantially better than in The Search for Spock, and he’s infinitely better at shaping comic moments than tragic ones (the shape of the rest of his limited directorial career bears that out). The tender moments that are here still work, but they’re mostly Spock’s own moments, suggesting that Nimoy was better at acting that kind of emotion than bringing it out in others.

Anyway, there’s not much room for sincerity; The Voyage Home is consciously a lark, trivialising its world-threatening conflict, ending with the happiest conclusion of any of the movies that point, and cramming in broad laughs along the way. Happily, its also a completely effective and well-made lark, a bit flimsy to be legitimately counted as “great” Star Trek, but aware enough of its characters and their attachments to each other and the audience that it’s completely, undeniably “fun” Star Trek.

Spider-Man 3 (2007) – Cool Peter Parker Scene (5/10) | Movieclips

Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) enjoys his newfound confidence and exhibits a new spring in his step.

Your friendly neighborhood web-slinger is back, only this time his sunny outlook has become partially overcast in the third chapter of director Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man saga. Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, and James Franco return to reprise their roles from the previous two installments, with Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace, and Bryce Dallas Howard making their first appearances in the series as Flint Marko (aka Sandman), Eddie Brock (aka Venom), and Gwen Stacy, respectively. Peter Parker (Maguire) has finally leaned to walk the middle ground between being the superhero that his city needs and the man that Mary Jane (Dunst) loves. All is well in New York City until one night, as Peter and M.J. sit gazing at the stars, a falling comet streams across the sky and crashes into the ground close by. But this isn’t any ordinary shooting star, and upon impact the mysterious space rock is split open to reveal a shape-shifting symbiote with the power to overtake anything that it comes into contact with. Later, as Harry Osborn (James Franco) acquires his late father’s flying board, engineers a powerful new Goblin outfit, and takes to the sky to avenge dad’s death, the mysterious space sludge infects both Peter’s Spider-Man suit and ambitious street photographer Eddie Brock (Grace). Peter’s strange new suit gives him a newfound sense of power as it gradually overpowers his personality, and he discovers that escaped convict Flint Marko was in fact the man responsible for the death of Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson). Unfortunately for Peter, Marko has recently acquired the power to morph at will and quickly completes his transformation into the dreaded Sandman. As the Sandman gives in to his darkest criminal instincts and the slithering space symbiote transforms Eddie Brock into the nightmarish fanged villain known as Venom, the citizens of New York City must once again call on Spider-Man to fend off destructive forces that are far too powerful for the likes of mortal man.

In the West End in Vancouver. Spring of 2020.

The West End is a neighbourhood in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, located between the Coal Harbour neighbourhood and the financial and central business districts of Downtown Vancouver to the east, Stanley Park to the northwest, the English Bay to the west, and Kitsilano to the southwest across the False Creek opening.

The definition of the “official neighbourhood” of the West End, according to the city, is the area west of Burrard Street, east of Denman Street, and south of West Georgia Street. Historically the term originated and remains used by Vancouverites to refer to everything from Burrard Street to Stanley Park, including the Stanley Park Neighbourhood west of Denman Street and the Coal Harbour Neighbourhood. Coal Harbour Neighbourhood is officially designated as west of Burrard and to the north of West Georgia, although the newly built areas between West Pender Street and the waterfront are expressly “Coal Harbour” and not considered part of the West End.

Like all of Vancouver, the West End was originally a forested wilderness. The area was purchased in 1862 by John Morton, Samuel Brighouse, and William Hailstone, three men known as the “Three Greenhorn Englishmen,” or just the “Three Greenhorns,” owing to the belief that the naive men paid too much for the remote land. The men had plans to establish a brickworks on the shore of Coal Harbour, and their land claim was originally staked with the hopeful intent of mining for porcelain clays, but the grade of clay was not fine enough for that use. When those plans failed (a lack of transportation being a key factor) they sold a good portion of the area, by then known as the Brickmaker’s Claim, to Victoria investors who in turn tried to promote its development as New Liverpool. The only thing that happened with that scheme was a subdivision plan registered with the Land Titles office in New Westminster. Another name used for the property was the Brighouse Estate (Brighouse as a name came to refer to a particular part of Richmond, where “Greenhorn” J. Morton also owned property). One of the partners, observant that brick was a valuable building commodity despite the abundance of timber in the region, moved the brick-clay operations to Sumas Mountain, establishing the community of Clayburn, now a neighbourhood of Abbotsford.

Later, with the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway, with its terminus at nearby Coal Harbour, the West End became Vancouver’s first upscale neighbourhood, home to the richest railroad families. Many of these families lived along Georgia Street, known at that time as “Blue Blood Alley” for all the posh mansions built there. Later mansions (including the Davie mansion) were built in then remoter areas of the West End as the financial district’s land values displaced the high-toned residences. This role was ultimately dropped with the increasing vogue for the upscale Shaughnessy neighbourhood, and as middle-class housing of various kinds began to fill out the West End. As the city grew, the West End became a transitory place for new arrivals from elsewhere in Canada, the United Kingdom, and later for immigrants from other countries, establishing a tradition of diversity. Following World War II, a significant German commercial community emerged along Robson Street, giving birth to the nickname Robsonstrasse, a name still occasionally used in marketing despite the loss of its original meaning.

The West End is bordered by downtown on the one side, Stanley Park on the other and by water on two. The West End is home to a mixed population, old and young, of Canadians, immigrants and international transient residents. Like other downtown neighbourhoods, the West End is very densely populated. It is adjacent to the downtown core business and financial districts, with traffic calmed streets punctuated by concrete islands, sidewalk barricades, and mini-parks and many residential heritage buildings including The Manhattan, The Beaconsfield, The Beverly and The Queen Charlotte.

Close to 45,000 people of all ages, incomes, ethnicities, and sexual orientations live in the West End. The age group of 20–39 years consistently ranks the largest at 48%, followed by 40-64 at 34%, 65+ at 13% and under 19 at 6%. Containing 7.4% of the City’s population, the West End welcomed 14% of new Vancouverites between 2001 and 2006. The West End is also home to Western Canada’s largest LGBTQ community. Vancouver’s gay village, called Davie Village, is centred primarily on Davie Street between Burrard and Bute.

The share of single-parent families in the West End is about 12%, compared to 17% for the City of Vancouver. Statistics also show that the West End is home to many children — the downtown peninsula now has more children than traditional family neighbourhoods such as West Point Grey or Kerrisdale. Lord Roberts Annex offers kindergarten to grade 3. The student population of Lord Roberts Elementary School (k-grade 7) represents 43 countries and 37 languages. King George Secondary School (grades 8-12) celebrated 100 years in 2014.

West End residents have been very active in shaping their neighbourhood and maintaining its liveability. In the 1970s, residents banded together to calm traffic that was using the neighbourhood as a shortcut between downtown Vancouver and the suburbs of the North Shore, across the Lions’ Gate Bridge. They also staged a successful, yet destructive “Shame the Johns” campaign to rid the West End of the sex work that was then visible in the neighbourhood. This campaign was formed by a group of politicians called the Concerned Residents of the West End (CROWE), prominently containing cisgender white gay men, who aided in the formation of a 1984 injunction granted by then-B.C. Supreme Court Justice Allan McEachern. This injunction banned sex workers from working west of Granville Street, which forcibly displaced them away from the relative safety and community support of Davie Street. Following this, they were forced into Yaletown, then Mount Pleasant, where they were repeatedly protested by “Shame the Johns vigilantes”, down East Broadway, and eventually into the Downtown Eastside, where already vulnerable sex workers are more open to violence and abuse than ever before. These displacements were a worsened repetition of the early erasers that happened on Dupont and Alexander Street. Further, this displacement largely targeted transgender, two-spirit and First Nations women, replicated the colonial practices and dispossession of land from the Musqueam, Burrard, and Squamish First Nations. Today, groups such as the West End Citizens Action Network, the West End Residents Association and West End Neighbours continue to be actively involved in keeping the West End liveable, leaving this history largely erased.

The West End is particularly famous among visitors for Robson Street. It was historically known as the Robsonstrasse, for the postwar period when it was a hub for immigrants from Germany, and was home to owner operated boutiques, schnitzel houses and other bistro-style dining establishments until the 1980s when the transition to the current fashionable shopping and dining area stretching from Burrard Street to Jervis Street, began. Many restaurants and shops can also be found along Denman Street closer to Stanley Park, and Davie Street between Burrard and Jervis streets.

Numerous parks and beaches can be found throughout the West End including Alexandra Park, Cardero Park, Nelson Park, Stanley Park and Sunset Beach. These parks range in size from 0.22 hectares (Morton Park) to over 406 hectare (Stanley Park). A portion of the Stanley Park Seawall promenade runs along the waterfront from Burrard Bridge to Ceperly Park.

The area is also known for English Bay Beach, a large park on English Bay which is thronged during the annual Celebration of Light fireworks display each year mid-summer. St. Paul’s Hospital, one of Vancouver’s largest and oldest health facilities, sits at the neighbourhood’s eastern edge on Burrard Street.

Community Centres in the West End include the Vancouver Aquatic Centre, West End Community Centre, Coal Harbour Community Centre and Barclay Manor. Depending on the centre, they offer swimming pools, gyms, fitness centres and an ice rink, as well as many meeting and all-purpose rooms for rent.

The West End is not to be confused with the West Side (which denotes the western half of the non-downtown part of Vancouver city to the south) or West Vancouver (“West Van”), a separate municipality. (Conversely, and to the confusion of some, “East Van,” “the East End,” and “the East Side” all denote East Vancouver.)

On November 4, 2015, The Canadian Institute of Planners announced winners of its fifth annual Great Places in Canada contest. A jury of seven professional planners named the West End as the Great Neighbourhood. Juror Jaspal Marwah MCIP, RPP stated that “the West End makes it easy, safe and inviting for residents to walk and bike to work, to access thriving local businesses and to explore Vancouver’s beaches, trails and Stanley Park. Transit access, traffic calming, street furniture, treed promenades, pocket parks and public spaces reflect a thoughtful approach to place-making. Home to the city’s LGBTQ community, the West End’s density is evenly matched by its diversity of residents, and by a strong commitment to creating an inclusive community that prioritizes affordable housing.”

Brutalism and the newly independent African states, A case study: The Kenyatta International Convention Centre

The Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) is one of the greatest examples of Brutalist architecture in Africa. The building is an important reflection on the countries feelings as a newly independent country. The choice of architectural style, brutalism, is important. Brutalist architecture wanted to escape from all architectural conventions and to create truly modernist architecture that could be applied to buildings universally around the world.

So what is brutalism, let start by looking at the etymology of the word. Although many people think brutalism comes from the English word brutal the word actually comes from the French term béton-brut, meaning raw concrete. The word brutalism was coined by British architecture critic Reyner Banham. Hence raw concrete is one of the most important features of brutalism. Although concrete had been extensively used in buildings in the 20th century it was almost always covered and hidden by some other material in the facade. Brutalism wanted to show concrete as it was, the honesty of the building is an important idea in brutalist architecture. The building unapologetically showing what it is. A building must be honest and people should be able to ‘read’ the building’s structure from the outside. Brutalism was also conflated with equality and can be seen as one of the most important architectural styles of communist countries. Brutalism wanted to build a world of equality and egalitarianism, this meant doing away with historical and cultural backgrounds.

Brutalism wanted to show what concrete could do and to be bold in its use. Concrete is interesting for a number of reasons, the most important being that it takes the shape of the mould in which you place it, this makes it incredibly versatile. Furthermore, concrete can be used for structural and non-structural parts of a building. This means that concrete is just as useable to create a non-structural wall or an ornament as it is in creating the structural parts of the building. This meant that there did not need to be a distinction between materials used for structural parts of the building and materials used for ornamental or functional parts of the building, it could all be done in concrete. Brutalism can be seen at its base as an experiment in what concrete can do and how it could be used.

Brutalism became an architectural experiment in medium but also a political and social experiment. In the west, brutalism became the go-to style for large social housing projects, like Robin Hood Gardens, and large public institutions, like the Boston city hall.

Brutalism had its heyday in the 1960’s and 1970’s right around the same time as many African nations were become independent, like the DCR (1960), Kenya (1963), Nigeria (1960) and Zambia (1964). These newly independent countries needed to build new buildings for there institutions and put their countries on the world stage.

African leaders needed an architectural style that showed how modern these countries were but also shows their independence from their former European oppressors. This required an architecture style that did not follow European conventions of architecture and a style that pushed away from all that had come before, brutalism was the perfect fit.

One such building is the Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi.

The KICC is named after the first president and father of the nation, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. In the 1960’s Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and his party, KANU wanted a new party headquarters in the centre of Nairobi. The party wanted a small four-story building and asked Norwegian architect Karl Henrik Nøstvik and Kenyan Architect David Mutiso to design a building.

During the design process, the IMF/World Bank choose Nairobi to host a large conference, this required a large new convention centre to host the largest conference ever to be held in Africa. The event would take place in 1973 and the KANU headquarters was chosen to host the venue. The 4 story building turned into a 28 story building with more than 200,000 square meters of space. The building’s new design needed to not only capture the new Kenya but show what a post-colonial Africa was capable of.

The new design had three main structures, a tower, plinth and auditorium. The building’s design is supposed to reflect a closed (the auditorium) and an open flower (tower). This idea is created by the cone shape roof of the auditorium and the inverted cone at the top of the tower. The building is therefore emblematic of the country blossoming into a free independent state. Nøstvik and Mutiso wanted the building to reflect Kenyan design principle and were inspired by traditional mud huts. This is where the round shapes in the building come from and also the brown colour of the building.

The building can be seen as a brutalist structure because of its use of raw concrete, most notably in the plinth. The ramps are very reminiscent of the galleries in the Robin Hood Gardens in London. The grand monumentalism of this ramp, which acts are the main entrance to the building makes the building feel gigantic. Another brutalist feature of the building is that the construction and use of the building is visible from the outside. The auditorium is clearly visible from the outside. The building is honest in its constriction not only in the exterior but also in the interior of the building, where raw concrete is also extensively used.

The building’s three main structures (tower, plinth and auditorium) are not only a separation of functions but these three structures are also visually split, most notably between the plinth and the auditorium. The joint between these two structures is formed by a glass entrance to the auditorium. The auditorium is held up by thin ‘n’ shaped concrete arches. This leads to a very clear visually division between plinth and auditorium.

The KICC is one of the many examples of brutalist architecture in post-colonial Africa. Other notable examples are the Central Bank of Kenya also in Nairobi, La Pyramide in Abidjan, the independence Arch in Accra and Kariakoo Market in Dar es Salaam. All these buildings wanted to push away from there European colonial pasts and show what post-colonial Africa would look like. Although brutalism fell out of favour across the world in the 1980’s the style forever embodies post-colonial Africa.