January 17, 2012
PARIS - "Finally, we lift the veil," says Milanese architect Mario Bellini.
The eight-time winner of the Compasso d'Oro industrial design award, together with his French colleague Rudy Ricciotti, are the creators of the most important addition to the Louvre since I.M. Pei's pyramid opened more than two decades ago.
The work is a "veil" indeed, sinuous, wavy and very light, covering the Cour Visconti of the world's most famous museum. It will cover three floors and 4,600 square meters of new exhibition space.
All of this will hold the fabulous Islamic Art collection that until now has been confined to a few tight rooms. And for the occasion, the Islamic Art section became a department of the museum.
The project has been carried out with impressive haste. Ten years have passed since French President Jacques Chirac decided to expand the Louvre. The public competition was announced in 2004, and Bellini & Ricciotti were announced as the winners the following year.
The duo had the satisfaction of beating a star like Baghdad-born, British-based architect Zaha Hadid. "With all the affection that I have for her, because I am a friend of Zaha's, it has been very satisfying," says Bellini.
The first stone on the new wing was laid in the summer of 2008, and now construction is nearly complete. By next month, the showcases will be ready, and by later this spring some 3,000 (out of a total collection of 13,000) works of art will be permanently displayed. The inauguration is slated for this summer.
From an architectural point of view, the fundamental challenge was to find a way to have the new contemporary structure coexist with the 19th century facades of the Visconti court. Bellini's solution is this light and transparent structure that seems to be floating in the air, and allows everyone to see and to be seen from the other parts of the museum.
When Bellini talks about "his' veil he becomes almost lyrical: "You can see as if you were looking through the wing of a dragonfly." More simply put, everything has been studied at length to obtain enough light for a proper view of the artworks, but not too much to risk ruining them.
The rest of it, a second and a third floor for the facilities, is underground. And here the architects had an important technical challenge: having to lower the foundation with the banks of the Seine so close.
Still, the overall impression that you get while walking through the still very active construction site -- full of dust, noise and workers – is one of great lightness. This goes for the "foulard" that covers the garden (and weights 135 tons), and even for the glass walls.
The other half of the team, Ricciotti, has an exuberant personality, referring to the elaborate construction as "almost gastronomical", claiming that it "strikes minimalism like an axe."
For certain, the costs were not minimal: 98.5 million euros, with the French state pitching in 31 million (and the Louvre a half-million). The rest comes from 30 private patrons and from other states, 26 in total. And indeed, they are 10 million short, and Louvre director Henri Loyrette is busy searching for the remaining funds.
The list of donors is politically rather interesting. The most generous private donor (17 million euros) is the foundation of prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud, from the Saudi royal family. The states that have contributed are Morocco, Kuwait, Oman and Azerbaijan, part of the moderate face of Islam.
Inevitably this artistic operation is going to be read also as a political act, especially in this moment when the Islamic world generates both hopeful springs and looming concerns. Loyrette explains that in the new space of his museum, "the luminous face of a civilization" will be on display.
As a matter of fact, one of the most beautiful and famous works that is going to shine under the veil is the "Baptistery of Saint Louis," an Egyptian or Syrian basin from the 14th century, made of gold and silver-plated copper. Undoubtedly of Islamic origin, it was also the font that was used, since the Middle Ages, generation after generation, for the baptism of the French king's sons.
Read the original article in Italian
Photo - Musée du Louvre
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In San Diego, California, a researcher tracked how in the city's low-income neighborhoods that have traditionally lacked dining options, when interesting eateries arrive the gentrification of white, affluent and college-educated people has begun.
October 20, 2021
SAN DIEGO — Everybody, it seems, welcomes the arrival of new restaurants, cafés, food trucks and farmers markets.
What could be the downside of fresh veggies, homemade empanadas and a pop-up restaurant specializing in banh mis?
But when they appear in unexpected places – think inner-city areas populated by immigrants – they're often the first salvo in a broader effort to rebrand and remake the community. As a result, these neighborhoods can quickly become unaffordable and unrecognizable to longtime residents.
An appetite for gentrification
I live in San Diego, where I teach courses on urban and food geographies and conduct research on the relationship between food and ethnicity in urban contexts.
In recent years, I started to notice a pattern playing out in the city's low-income neighborhoods that have traditionally lacked food options. More ethnic restaurants, street vendors, community gardens and farmers markets were cropping up. These, in turn, spurred growing numbers of white, affluent and college-educated people to venture into areas they had long avoided.
This observation inspired me to write a book, titled The $16 Taco, about how food – including what's seen as "ethnic," "authentic" or "alternative" – often serves as a spearhead for gentrification.
Take City Heights, a large multi-ethnic San Diego neighborhood where successive waves of refugees from places as far away as Vietnam and Somalia have resettled. In 2016, a dusty vacant lot on the busiest boulevard was converted into an outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44. There, food vendors gather in semi-permanent stalls to sell pupusas, lechon (roasted pig), single-sourced cold-brewed coffee, cupcakes and tamarind raspado (crushed ice) to neighborhood residents, along with tourists and visitors from other parts of the city.
Informal street vendors are casualties.
A public-private partnership called the City Heights Community Development Corporation, together with several nonprofits, launched the initiative to increase "access to healthy and culturally appropriate food" and serve as "a business incubator for local micro-entrepreneurs," including immigrants and refugees who live in the neighborhood.
On paper, this all sounds great.
But just a few blocks outside the gates, informal street vendors – who have long sold goods such as fruit, tamales and ice cream to residents who can't easily access supermarkets – now face heightened harassment. They've become causalities in a citywide crackdown on sidewalk vending spurred by complaints from business owners and residents in more affluent areas.
This isn't just happening in San Diego. The same tensions have been playing out in rapidly gentrifying areas like Los Angeles' Boyle Heights neighborhood, Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood, New York's Queens borough and East Austin, Texas.
In all of these places, because "ethnic," "authentic" and "exotic" foods are seen as cultural assets, they've become magnets for development.
A call for food justice
Cities and neighborhoods have long sought to attract educated and affluent residents – people whom sociologist Richard Florida dubbed "the creative class." The thinking goes that these newcomers will spend their dollars and presumably contribute to economic growth and job creation.
Food, it seems, has become the perfect lure.
It's uncontroversial and has broad appeal. It taps into the American Dream and appeals to the multicultural values of many educated, wealthy foodies. Small food businesses, with their relatively low cost of entry, have been a cornerstone of ethnic entrepreneurship in American cities. And initiatives like farmers markets and street fairs don't require much in the way of public investment; instead, they rely on entrepreneurs and community-based organizations to do the heavy lifting.
In City Heights, the Community Development Corporation hosted its first annual City Heights Street Food Festival in 2019 to "get people together around table and food stalls to celebrate another year of community building." Other recent events have included African Restaurant Week, Dia de Los Muertos, New Year Lunar Festival, Soul Food Fest and Brazilian Carnival, all of which rely on food and drink to attract visitors and support local businesses.
Meanwhile, initiatives such as the New Roots Community Farm and the City Heights Farmers' Market have been launched by nonprofits with philanthropic support in the name of "food justice," with the goal of reducing racial disparities in access to healthy food and empowering residents – projects that are particularly appealing to highly educated people who value diversity and democracy.
Upending an existing foodscape
In media coverage of changing foodscapes in low-income neighborhoods like City Heights, you'll rarely find any complaints.
San Diego Magazine's neighborhood guide for City Heights, for example, emphasizes its "claim to authentic international eats, along with live music venues, craft beer, coffee, and outdoor fun." It recommends several ethnic restaurants and warns readers not to be fooled by appearances.
Longtime residents find themselves forced to compete against the "urban food machine"
But that doesn't mean objections don't exist.
Many longtime residents and small-business owners – mostly people of color and immigrants – have, for decades, lived, worked and struggled to feed their families in these neighborhoods. To do so, they've run convenience stores, opened ethnic restaurants, sold food in parks and alleys and created spaces to grow their own food.
All represent strategies to meet community needs in a place mostly ignored by mainstream retailers.
So what happens when new competitors come to town?
Starting at a disadvantage
As I document in my book, these ethnic food businesses, because of a lack of financial and technical support, often struggle to compete with new enterprises that feature fresh façades, celebrity chefs, flashy marketing, bogus claims of authenticity and disproportionate media attention. Furthermore, following the arrival of more-affluent residents, existing ones find it increasingly difficult to stay.
My analysis of real estate ads for properties listed in City Heights and other gentrifying San Diego neighborhoods found that access to restaurants, cafés, farmers markets and outdoor dining is a common selling point. The listings I studied from 2019 often enticed potential buyers with lines like "shop at the local farmers' market," "join food truck festivals" and "participate in community food drives!"
San Diego Magazine's home buyer guide for the same year identified City Heights as an "up-and-coming neighborhood," attributing its appeal to its diverse population and eclectic "culinary landscape," including several restaurants and Fair@44.
When I see that City Heights' home prices rose 58% over the past three years, I'm not surprised.
Going up against the urban food machine
Longtime residents find themselves forced to compete against what I call the "urban food machine," a play on sociologist Harvey Molotch's "urban growth machine" – a term he coined more than 50 years ago to explain how cities were being shaped by a loose coalition of powerful elites who sought to profit off urban growth.
I argue that investors and developers use food as a tool for achieving the same ends.
When their work is done, what's left is a rather insipid and tasteless neighborhood, where foodscapes become more of a marketable mishmash of cultures than an ethnic enclave that's evolved organically to meet the needs of residents. The distinctions of time and place start to blur: An "ethnic food district" in San Diego looks no different than one in Chicago or Austin.
Meanwhile, the routines and rhythms of everyday life have changed so much that longtime residents no longer feel like they belong. Their stories and culture reduced to a selling point, they're forced to either recede to the shadows or leave altogether.
It's hard to see how that's a form of inclusion or empowerment.
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