A roundup of the best stories on cities and urbanism we've come across in the last seven days.
Tweet us your favorites with #CityReads.
“What Right Do Muralists Have to the Buildings They Paint On?” Paige Pfleger, NPR
It took artist Katherine Craig about a year to create her nine-story mural on 2937 E. Grand Blvd. in Detroit. Most people who drive around the city have seen it—one side of the Albert Kahn-designed building is covered in a blanket of electric blue, and a flowing waterfall of multicolored paint splatters descend from the roof line. It stands in stark contrast to the rest of the landscape of low buildings and muted Midwestern colors.
It's called "The Illuminated Mural" and it's become emblematic of Detroit's North End neighborhood.
This week, it was also on the auction block.
Well, the building is. But what does that mean for Craig's mural? What rights does a muralist have to the wall she painted on?
“Where the Roads Have No Name,” Geoff Manaugh, The New Yorker
Sooner or later, every road comes to an end—but not in Vermont. In other states, a road that goes unused for a reasonable period of time is legally discontinued; in Vermont, any road that was ever officially entered into a town’s record books remains legally recognized, indefinitely. It doesn’t matter if the road has not been travelled in two hundred years, or if it was never travelled at all, or if it was merely surveyed and never actually built. Any ancient road that exists on paper—unless it has been explicitly discontinued—is considered a public highway in the eye of the law.
As a result, over decades and centuries, Vermont has become filigreed with rural roads and pathways that hardly anyone but the law can see. …
“Rikers Island, Population 9,790,” Dana Goldstein, Simone Weichselbaum, Christie Thompson, Eli Hager, Beth Schwartzapfel, Maurice Chammah, Alysia Santo, and Nick Tabor, New York Magazine
As long as the City of New York has owned Rikers Island, since the 1880s, it has been a place for the unwanted. For a time, pigs were raised for slaughter there. Not long afterward, the island—conveniently but remotely located in the East River between the Bronx and Queens, not 300 feet from where La Guardia’s runways now sit—was converted to a partial landfill, full of horse manure and garbage. The odor repelled its neighbors in the boroughs, and the refuse attracted a sizable rat population, which the city tried to contain by releasing wild dogs. Instead, the dogs attacked and killed some of the pigs. It took poison gas to kill off the rodents. Next the city moved humans to Rikers.
“London: The City That Ate Itself,” Rowan Moore, The Observer
London is without question the most popular city for investors,” says Gavin Sung of the international property agents Savills. “There is a trust factor. It has a strong government, a great legal system, the currency is relatively safe. It has a really nice lifestyle, there is the West End, diversity of food, it’s multicultural.” We are in his office in a block in the centre of Singapore and he is explaining why people from that city-state are keen to buy residential property in London.
He’s right—London has all these qualities. It has parks, museums and nice houses. Its arts of hedonism are reaching unprecedented levels: its restaurants get better or at least more ambitious and its bars offer cocktails previously unknown to man (coconut seviche, for example, where, as its makers put it, “coconut gin is swizzled through crushed ice with yuzu, passion fruit and a dark chocolate liqueur, and served long with an accompanying ‘shot’ of tuna seviche with a tamarind ponzu”). In some ways, the city has never been better. It has a buzz. Its population keeps growing and investment keeps pouring in, both signs of its desirability. As its mayor likes to boast: “London is to the billionaire as the jungles of Sumatra are to the orangutans. It is their natural habitat.”
“How NYC’s Underground Park Is Piping in Real, Live Sunshine,” Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan, Gizmodo
We’re living in an age of extremely ambitious urban technology. Floating pools that filter dirty river water. Artificial eco-habitats. And even green parks that sit under cities, nourished by actual sunlight literally piped down from above.
At least, that’s the idea. The Lowline, an underground park in New York City, was first proposed in 2011—a truly exciting time in New York and other cities. The second phase of the Highline had just opened. City officials were transforming city streets and throwing their weight behind sprawling projects to improve urban life. Kickstarter and IndieGoGo were just finding a footing in our culture at large, and the cynicism many people feel about crowdfunding today had not yet emerged. Lowline became one of the first city-scale projects to launch using crowdfunded money.
In the four years since, its creators Dan Barasch and James Ramsey have grappled with design, fundraising, and government bureaucracy. Now, they’re fundraising for the next, and perhaps most important, phase of their project: the technicalities of building an underground park lit with real sunlight.