A roundup of the best stories on cities and urbanism we've come across in the past seven days

Tweet us your favorites with #CityReads.

What We Lose When A Neighborhood School Goes Away,” Gene Demby, NPR

A few years ago, a good friend and I were walking near downtown Philadelphia, not far from my old elementary school, Thomas C. Durham, on 16th and Lombard. The school was built on the edge of a black neighborhood in South Philly in the early 1900s, and its design earned it a spot on the National Register of Historic Places when I was in the third grade. I nudged my friend to take a quick detour with me.

Standing before the old, brown brick building, I had that vaguely bewildering feeling of considering one's elementary school through adult eyes. This place that loomed large in my memory, where I learned to love reading in Ms. Curtis' class and where I sent my first email in computer lab on a white Apple IIGS with a blue screen, seemed really damn small.

But memory was the only place that Durham—my Durham—still existed. The school had closed its doors in the late 1990s because of the city's crushing budget problems, and was later swept up in a wave of charter-ization that took over Philly after I graduated. The old Durham building now housed something called the Independence Charter School. My middle school, George C. Thomas in deeper South Philly, has undergone a similar conversion. They were part of a larger trend: In the past three years alone, Philadelphia has shuttered over 30 of its public schools. And because of the makeup of Philly's public school system, most of the students affected by all this upheaval have been less-resourced children of color.

Coming to America and Coming of Age,” Asthaa Chaturvedi and Jenny Luna, Wilson Quarterly

Nelson’s day begins at midnight. He washes, dries, and folds linen for local restaurants until 6 a.m. An hour later, the 19-year-old reports to class. He is about to enter tenth grade. He lives on his own in a boarding house in Lindenhurst, Long Island, and is one of thousands of recent immigrants who crossed the border as unaccompanied minors and settled in the New York area.

Nelson, a slim boy with his hair spiked up with gel, looks down at the floor when he talks about his journey to the border. He had grown up in Honduras, near Colón, where his parents worked on a coffee farm. Nelson began working alongside them at the age of 10. He did not go to school, even though he wanted to. And local gangs saw him as a prospective recruit, even while they extorted his family.

“They said they would kill my family,” he says. “We couldn’t live peacefully.”

In the summer of 2013, Nelson left Honduras for the United States. He was 17 years old and on his own. By the time he arrived in America in June 2014, a flood of unaccompanied minors was already following in his footsteps.

A young man walks next to the border fence between Mexico and the United States. (Reuters/Alonso Castillo)

The Insane 1920s Plan to Dam the Mediterranean and Form a Supercontinent,” Ricarda Vidal, Gizmodo

Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris recently announced plans to buy a Greek island to give refugees from the Middle East and Africa a country of their own. Though he referred to his proposal as a “crazy idea” on Twitter, Sawiris is serious.

As a radical solution to providing land for the peoples of a war-torn continent, it certainly pales in comparison to an earlier plan from the first half of the 20th century, which was seriously considered by heads of state and, at one point, even the United Nations: the plan for Atlantropa, which would have involved the partial draining of the Mediterranean Sea and the creation of a Eurafrican supercontinent.

Atlantropa was the brainchild of the German architect Herman Sörgel, who tirelessly promoted his project from 1928 until his death in 1952. His experience of World War I, the economic and political turmoil of the 1920s and the rise of Nazism in Germany convinced Sörgel that a new world war could only be avoided if a radical solution was found to European problems of unemployment, overpopulation and, with Saudi oil still a decade away, an impending energy crisis. With little faith in politics, Sörgel turned to technology.

An artist;s conception of what Atlantropa would have looked like. (Wikimedia Commons)

Fashion Week Show Moves Crowd With Police Brutality Focus,”Cara Anna, Associated Press

“Black Lives Matter” just landed on the Fashion Week runway.

Designer Kerby Jean-Raymond’s collection for the Pyer Moss label launched Thursday night Sept, 10 with gripping and now familiar videos of police violence. The choking death of Eric Garner. The teenage girl thrown to the ground outside a Texas pool party. The running down of a suspect as lights flashed. The smashing of a car window, and then cries.

Until the day before the show, Jean-Raymond said, he wasn’t so sure he would even include the clothes.

(AP Photo/Bryan R. Smith)

In Guatemala City, It's the Case of the Missing Zone,” Marisa Gerber, Los Angeles Times

Joel Castillo furrowed his bushy eyebrows for a moment and considered the question. Then he answered confidently: "Twenty-five."

Yes, he said, Guatemala City has 25 zones. But out of the corner of his eye, the 65-year-old uniform maker could see his co-worker Eduardo Juarez shaking his head.

"Zone 20 doesn't exist, remember?" Juarez said.

Castillo acknowledged that he had heard that before, but he wasn't sure why.

"Because the city planners didn't like 20," Juarez explained. "Poor little 20."

Zone 1, the most central and oldest section in Guatemala City, exists. But Zone 20 does not. (Flickr/Vaticanus)

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Design

    A History of the American Public Library

    A visual exploration of how a critical piece of social infrastructure came to be.

  2. Equity

    Berlin Builds an Arsenal of Ideas to Stage a Housing Revolution

    The proposals might seem radical—from banning huge corporate landlords to freezing rents for five years—but polls show the public is ready for something dramatic.

  3. A photo of a design maquette for the Obama Presidential Center planned for Jackson Park and designed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects with Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates.
    Design

    Why the Case Against the Obama Presidential Center Is So Important

    A judge has ruled that a lawsuit brought by Chicago preservationists can proceed, dealing a blow to Barack Obama's plans to build his library in Jackson Park.

  4. Maps

    Mapping the Growing Gap Between Job Seekers and Employers

    Mapping job openings with available employees in major U.S. cities reveals a striking spatial mismatch, according to a new Urban Institute report.

  5. Protestors hold a sign that reads "Respect Democracy Our Vote Matters"
    Equity

    The Conservative Backlash Against Progressive Ballot Measures

    In many states, ballot initiatives on expanding Medicaid, limiting gerrymandering, and raising the minimum wage swept to victory in November. Now lawmakers are doing their best to reverse them.