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.
"The Giant Chinese Odor Dome, and Other Sad Ideas for Surviving Our Future Cities," Alex Pasternack, Motherboard
Nothing's wrong with a giant dome, in theory. Does a dome contain a problem or keep a problem outside? When does a temporary solution create a much bigger problem? What happens when a temporary dome becomes a permanent dome? What about the people who live outside a dome habitat or near a dome container? Will domes become more common? These questions need to be addressed for the dome future that may, once again, be coming.
And another question: would a dome—be it a virtual dome made of aerosols or a geodesic dome or a giant plastic tent—actually keep out something as bad as a stinky smell? Not yet.
"Should Tourism Ask More Questions Than It Answers?" Casey N. Cep, Pacific Standard
The Lost Colony, as the settlement on Roanoke Island came to be known, is just that: all was lost; nothing remains. Yes, a few artifacts have been recovered over the years—axe heads, a well, pottery shards, gunflints, a few coins, and a signet ring scattered widely around Roanoke Island—but the geography of the Lost Colony remains as mysterious as the fate of its colonists.
And that is, of course, why I was visiting. Negative tourism is the sort I most like. The past is always mostly mysterious to us, and I love when it refuses to pretend otherwise. I drove and drove and drove down the East Coast to see a fort that we know existed though we have no idea where. I went hundreds of miles to be confronted by questions of travel for which there are no answers.
"How More Bike Parking Could Make Cities Better for Everyone," Elly Blue, Gizmodo
Bicycle parking brings all of the same benefits as car parking and has others as well. By inducing more people to ride bicycles, it contributes to better health, less poverty, safer streets, more breathable air—and perhaps of most direct financial value, it reduces congestion and frees up car parking. It does cost money to provide bike parking for free—but this cost is so low in relation to the benefits, that the city would profit even if it paid everyone five bucks a pop to park their bikes.
Converting car parking to bike parking is one of the cheapest, easiest, and most effective ways for any city to make a sizeable dent in the bad economics of our current transportation system.
"Pretty Ugly: Russia's Suburbs Lack Charm or Beauty. All the More Reason to Celebrate Them," Anastasiia Fedorova, The Calvert Journal
The new generation of photographers were the first to embrace the edgelands with their eyes wide open. To fully explain the strength this requires from a visually aware person, it’s important to appreciate how ugly the suburbs are. Not beautiful ugly like Brutalist buildings but ugly in the most tacky way. The buildings are disproportional and the materials they are built with cheap. The shop signs look like shroomy sea punk visuals, and there's always an obligatory old sofa or washing machine abandoned in a little park, not to mention cigarette butts, empty cans and plastic bags — all details which don’t do any favours to a photographer.
Yet contemporary photographers still choose to embrace the surroundings as they are, with all their dirty imperfections. Their work plays variations on a theme. It could be a study of an urban landscape carried out with the help of 18th-century pastoral compositions, like the photos of Alexander Gronsky. It could be a complete portrait of a district: personal by Egor Rogalev, architectural by Alexey Bogolepov, or surreal by Alexander Bondar. It could be part of an ambitious project of mapping and exploring unseen Russia, like Max Sher. Overcoming pictorial ugliness and boredom is rewarding: the resultant image is the snapshot of how Russia really looks and has looked all these years unseen.
"A Binational Town on the U.S.-Mexico Border?" Danielle Morton, Al Jazeera America
Until the New Mexico government stepped in to provide infrastructure, Santa Teresa was an unincorporated part of greater El Paso, an idea for a town rather than a destination, with no mayor, no city hall, no school system, just a few scattered houses and no water or electricity. But that also is about to change.
“When I was a kid in high school, this is where we’d go when we wanted to make noise,” says Captain Scott, a railroad contractor who grew up in El Paso. He and his friends would camp out and shoot, stand around a fire and drink, because they knew that “no one could hear us and no one would bother us. Now our favorite place to build a fire is crawling with federal railroad police.”
The next phase of this binational collaboration is the construction of two towns meant to eventually ignore the border altogether. Last year, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez and Chihuahua, Mexico, Governor Cesar Duarte signed a formal agreement that the two states would cooperate on a master plan to build adjacent towns: Santa Teresa in New Mexico and San Jeronimo across the border.