How World War II Revolutionized Maps: Best #CityReads of the Week

A round-up of the best stories on cities and urbanism we've come across in the last seven days.

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A round-up of the best stories on cities and urbanism we've come across in the last seven days. Tweet us your favorites with #CityReads.

"World War II Led to a Revolution in Cartography. These Amazing Maps Are Its Legacy," Susan Schulten, The New Republic

War has perennially driven interest in geography, but World War II was different. The urgency of the war, coupled with the advent of aviation, fueled the demand not just for more but different maps, particularly ones that could explain why President Roosevelt was stationing troops in Iceland, or sending fleets to the Indian Ocean. Americans had been reared on the Mercator map of the world, a sixteenth-century projection designed for navigation but which created immense distortions at the far northern and southern latitudes.

Indeed, Americans had become so used to seeing the world mapped on the Mercator projection that any other method met with resistance, both in classrooms and living rooms. But as aviation displaced sea navigation in the twentieth century, Americans were sorely in need of maps that conveyed the new realities of distance and direction in the air age.

"How Do You Build a City in Space?" Jessa Gamble, Guardian Cities

The space age proved to be a false dawn, of course. After a sobering interlude, children who had sat rapt at the sight of the moon landings grew up, and accepted that terraforming space – once briefly assumed to be easy – was actually really, really hard. Intense cold war motivation flagged, and the Challenger and Columbia disasters taught us humility. Nasa budgets sagged from 5% of the US federal budget to less than 0.5%. People even began to doubt that we'd ever set foot on the moon: in a 2006 poll, more than one in four Americans between 18 and 25 said they suspected the moon landing was a hoax.

But now a countercurrent has surfaced. The children of Apollo, educated and entrepreneurial, are making real headway on some of the biggest difficulties. Large-scale settlement, as opposed to drab old scientific exploration, is back on the menu.

"Schooled: A Test for School Reform in Newark," Dale Russakoff, The New Yorker

Zuckerberg and Sandberg were increasingly concerned. Six months after the announcement on “Oprah,” Booker and Christie had no superintendent, no comprehensive reform plan, and no progress toward a new teachers’ contract. On Saturday, April 2, 2011, they met with Booker at Facebook’s headquarters, in Palo Alto. If these are the wrong metrics for measuring progress, they asked, what are the right ones? They were holding Booker accountable for performance, just as he intended to hold teachers and principals accountable. Booker was contrite. “Guilty as charged,” he replied.

"A Soviet Ghost Town in the Arctic Circle, Pyramiden Stands Alone," Rachel Nuwer, Smithsonian Magazine

In the 1980s—the town’s height—more than 1,000 people lived in Pyramiden. Residents were assigned to different residential halls, which soon acquired their own nicknames. There was London for single men, and Paris for the few unmarried women who came to Pyramiden (there was also a pub on the ground floor of the ladies’ building). The Crazy House—for families—earned its name for the children who would constantly play in the hallways. Finally, Gostinka (Russian for “hotel,” although it was not a hotel) housed short-term workers. Over the years, Pyramiden also established permanent resting places for residents who met with an unfortunate end, building cemeteries for both humans and cats.

Russian colleagues told Coulson that the Soviets considered a contract in Pyramiden to be something of a promotion and privilege. In Pyramiden—much more so than some places on the mainland—quality of life mattered.

"How the Alternate Side Lives," Alex Dworkowitz, The Awl

The idea that a parking space is a thing with an economic value has recently motivated a trove of scholarship critical of municipal parking policies, especially in New York City. “I don’t know of any other big city that throws up its hands and says there is nothing we can do about parking,” Donald Shoup, a professor of urban planning at UCLA, told me. Shoup, who authored the book “The High Cost of Free Parking,” views free parking in New York and other cities as a classic “tragedy of the commons” problem, in which a resource is free to the public and, as a result, becomes overused. Free parking causes an overuse of cars, Shoup contends: A block may have fifty parking spots, but sixty people want them. The end result is that ten people are keep circling the block, looking for another place to leave their car.

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