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.
"How the Public Library Is a Refuge for the Restless Mind," Nancy Scola, Next City
“There was something there worth going to,” said ‘Nathan,’ mid-50s. And yet, as important a place as it was, there was little of the pressure that other high-value spaces might demand. That libraries have regulars and regular librarians was important. It was nice to be known, said Brewster’s subjects, and it was comforting to know that many library staff were aware, and accepting, of their mental challenges. Moreover, talking, an activity that can be fraught with anxiety, is discouraged in your traditional library. Call it the reassurance of the expected “shsssush!”
"The Minimum Wage Worker Strikes Back," Sarah Kendzior, Medium
Over the past year, Patrick, Krystal and Jenina have joined Show Me 15, a local advocacy group that is part of the national movement to unionize workers and raise the minimum wage to fifteen dollars an hour. Show Me 15 started recruiting at restaurants in early 2013, but most workers told me they heard about the group through a relative in the industry. Low-wage jobs are a family affair, a pattern many seek to break.
“My family is very proud and supportive,” Jenina says of her participation in Show Me 15. “They’re like, ‘Stand up for what you believe in, Jenina. Because you gonna make it good for the next generation that’s coming up.’ Like my niece, when she come up, she’s not going to have to worry about the struggle. Or my little cousins. They’ll have a decent pay.”
Minimum wage work in the United States is no longer a job. It is a social position, passed on from generation to generation. The idea that their own relatives, their own children, would end up in the same fast food jobs they loathed was viewed as so inevitable that workers never remarked upon it directly. But it emerged over and over in casual conversation.
"Sowing Wildflowers Across Los Angeles as Hyperlocal Public Art," Allison Meier, Hyperallergic
So while Wildflowering L.A. is an act of urban beautification, it’s also meant to be an experience of art intervention that is immediately accessible and incredibly local. “It really has to do with making work where people live,” Haeg said. Even the source of the work as an art project is invisible in way, with just the official-looking wooden signs proclaiming “WILDFLOWERING LA” with the site number, seed mix, and website indicating it is on an artistic platform.
Los Angeles can seem like a city without seasons, especially with much of its non-local landscaping heavily watered year-round (the drought did call for some wildflower watering, but it was incredibly minimal). Haeg said that “a big part of the project is just paying attention to the unique cycles in seasons that we have in Los Angeles.” The wildflowers grow gradually with the winter rains, flourish in spring, and then become dormant in summer. Wildflowering L.A. also highlighted the radically different microclimates of the city, from its beaches to hills, inspired by Reyner Banham’s 1971 book Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies.
"The Fifth Pillar: A Case for Hip-Hop Architecture," Sekou Cooke, Harvard Journal of African American Public Policy
Each major cultural shift in Western society—Renaissance, Baroque, Modernism—has had its register in a plurality of creative outlets: theater, music, dance, fine art, and architecture. The first four art forms find their counterparts in the “four pillars of hip-hop”: deejaying, emceeing, b-boying, and graffiti writing. Architecture is lost. Hip-hop would not exist if not for architecture, urbanism, and city planning. So why does hip-hop architecture not exist? If it does, who are its practitioners? If it is yet to exist, how will it come to be? And, if we do eventually reconcile hip-hop’s recondite relationship with architecture, how will communities, spaces, and lives transform?
"Behind the Grand Pour: Building L.A.'s New Tallest Tower," Thomas Curwen, Los Angeles Times
Nothing this size had ever been recorded. In 1999, construction of the Venetian in Las Vegas included a continuous pour that made the Guinness Book of World Records. If the Grand Pour succeeded, it would be bigger.
Marchesano and his team had begun preparing nearly a year earlier: filing permits for street closures, having bus lines rerouted, ordering back-up equipment and calculating drive times.
More than 350 workers would be on site, and 227 trucks on the road, looping from batch plants to downtown and back. Any glitch, injury, accident or freeway snarl would jeopardize the plan, and that wasn't even taking into account the weather. Rain or a heat wave could force delays. God would weigh in on that.