Downtown Is for People

Jane Jacobs has a somewhat ambiguous legacy—or at least one that's contested by different factions in the present-day debate over cities and urbanism—but to me her most important idea is encapsulated in the title and spirit of this piece. It's old and, I think, utterly prescient about what successive waves of planning fads miss. The purpose of urban space is for people to use it. A great place is a place where people want to be.

-M. Yglesias

Glaciers [Excerpt]

A young woman's keen observations and imaginations of cities and unknown people.

"Isabel finds the postcard of Amsterdam on Thursday evening, at her favorite junk store, across from the food carts on Hawthorne. It is a photograph of tall houses on a canal, each painted a different color, pressed together and tilted slightly, like a line of people, arm in arm, peering tentatively into the water. The picture has a Technicolor glow, the colors hovering over the scene rather than inhabiting it."

Paved, But Still Alive

As the critic Lewis Mumford wrote half a century ago, “The right to have access to every building in the city by private motorcar in an age when everyone possesses such a vehicle is the right to destroy the city.” Yet we continue to produce parking lots, in cities as well as in suburbs, in the same way we consume all those billions of plastic bottles of water and disposable diapers.

A Country Of Warehouses

Brian Mihok, the editor of the experimental journal matchbook, examines beauty, monuments, memory, time, and warehouses.

"This is a café, she said. But everything in this café was made in a warehouse. Even me, she said. You were made? Taiga said. I was born in a hospital, but the hospital was a warehouse."

Window Shopping

Dreaming of the perfect apartment.

Should anyone ever choose to remake and bastardize Breakfast at Tiffany’s, I propose an opening sequence re-imagined to reflect more contemporary preoccupations. The revised opening scene should be filmed against the backdrop of an early evening in Brooklyn. The throngs of suits coming home from their nine to five grinds in Manhattan would be emerging from the subway stairwells like ants from an anthill, rushing off down various streets towards their various homes and families and dinners. All except for the would-be protagonist who, as the crowd rushes past her, makes her way to the closed-for-the-night real-estate storefront opposite the subway station. Somewhere, “Moon River” might still be playing, as if it had never stopped. Disheveled, lugging her purse and gym bag, she pauses for a number of minutes to read listings she has already read, and which she committed to memory weeks ago: a studio on Pineapple Street; a loft on Gold Street; a townhouse on Argyle Street; a two-bedroom coop on First Place; a one-bedroom condo on Carlton Avenue; a brownstone on Henry Street. It’s fall and the leaves blow in eddies on the sidewalk. She gets cold and turns away from the window to walk off down the street just as dusk begins to arrive in earnest. The occasional “For Sale” sign swings on its hinges, and the story of the day ends only to begin again in the morning.

Heartbreak Hotel

When Chicago’s Stevens Hotel opened in 1927, it was the biggest hotel in the world. By the time it was closed, it had bankrupted and caused the suicide of a member of the Stevens’ family (which included a seven-year-old future Justice John Paul Stevens), and changed the city forever.