this fairy dust of cool

Grayson Perry’s third Reith lecture – ‘Nice Rebellion: Welcome In’ – contains some interesting observations on the gentrifying impact of artists on the urban ecology.

And if you think of artists, they’re like the shock troops of gentrification. We march in. We’re the first people to go we like this old warehouse, yeah we need a cheap studio. You know so that’s what happens – artists move into the cheap housing and the cheap spaces and they make them … you know they do their work and they’re quite cool and a little bit of a buzz starts up. And then maybe a little café opens up and people start saying, “Ooh, that’s kind of interesting, that area where those artists hang out. I think I’m going to go down there.” (LAUGHTER) And people start noticing, you know, and maybe some designers open up and a little boutique. You know and suddenly, before you know it, the dead hand of the developer is noticing it. And before you know it, the designers move in and that’s it. – bang goes the area. (LAUGHTER) 

And I’ve watched you know this fairy dust of cool, marketised bohemia drift down over various boroughs of London. I should think there’s a couple of dozen of them I’ve seen it happen to over the thirty years. And of course now, it’s happening to Derry. (LAUGHTER) Be careful what you wish for. 

(Grayson Perry,

You can read a transcript of the full lecture here.

Paris As Revolution: Writing The Nineteenth-Century City

Priscilla Parkhurst Ferguson’s excellent 1994 book, Paris As Revolution: Writing The Nineteenth-Century City, is available freely online thanks to the University of California’s E-Books Collection project.

The book, which you can read in its entirety here, is structured around the following chapters:

I was reminded of this book as I’ve been re-reading Zola’s La Curée [The Kill] (1871-1872), which – although arguably one of the author’s lesser known works (particularly among non-French speaking audiences) – is a compelling account both of the Haussmannisation of Paris and the speculation in land and property which accompanied it. There are some extraordinary passages in which the protagonist, Aristide Saccard, describes in breathless detail ‘the Empire’s interest in huge speculative ventures, in organising the prodigious excavations and building operations that gave the working classes no time to think.’ For Saccard, Paris is a city coated in gold; ripe for the killing. And yet, as history has taught us, the re-making of Paris was predicated on expropriation, consumerism, socio-spatial segregation and a toxic, credit-fuelled boom, the collapse of which was as inevitable as the sub-prime crisis of 2008.

Baron Haussmann’s mémoires can be accessed freely (in French) online. Volume III – Grands Travaux de Paris (in which the Préfet de la Seine describes his transformation of the city) – can be read here.

David Harvey has written brilliantly on the transformation of Paris during the Second Empire in Paris: Capital of Modernity (London: Routledge, 2003).

Harvey’s wonderful Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution (London: Verso, 2012), in which he once again turns his attention to nineteenth-century Paris, can be read here.


Screen Shot 2013-07-10 at 17.50.11