Linda Poon is a staff writer at CityLab covering science and urban technology, including smart cities and climate change. She previously covered global health and development for NPR’s Goats and Soda blog.
A roundup of the best stories on cities and urbanism we've come across in the past seven days.
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“My City Was Gone. (Or Was It?)” Ada Calhoun, The New York Times
With depressing regularity, I hear about closings in the East Village of my childhood — the Odessa bar, De Robertis pastry shop, St. Marks Sounds. When my parents moved onto the neighborhood’s main street, St. Marks Place, in 1973, their rent was $225 a month. Today, the same apartment would most likely be $5,000. People who remember the good old days often say that today’s real estate prices mean that boho corners of New York like the East Village are finally — really and truly — dead. How can music, art or beauty survive when the only entity that can afford a corner lot is Chase Bank, and when young artists have to live five to an apartment on the Morgan stop of the L train? Just give up on New York, people like Patti Smith advise young artists, and move to Detroit.
I can sympathize. But I think there’s more to these “the city is dead now” complaints than money. People have pronounced St. Marks Place dead many times over the past centuries — when it became poor, and then again when it became rich, and then again when it returned to being poor, and so on. My theory is that the neighborhood hasn’t stopped being cool because it’s too expensive now; it stops being cool for each generation the second we stop feeling cool there. Any claim to objectivity is clouded by one’s former glory.
“In Search of Istanbul's Ghost Malls,” Kaya Genc, Pacific Standard
On September 22, a few minutes after 5 p.m., the man who built Europe's second-biggest shopping mall at the center of Istanbul died of a heart attack in a hotel that he owned. The top brass of Turkey's government, as well as leading figures from the business world, attended Ibrahim Cevahir's funeral three days later. Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was there, as were Istanbul's mayor, the leader of the opposition party, the coach of Beşiktaş football team, and the president of Macedonia.
Cevahir had long served as the chairman of the board of directors and president of Cevahir Holding, a company whose chief focus is managing shopping centers. At his funeral, a former Turkish statesman described him as "the Atom Ant of Turkey's business world."
News of Cevahir's death came a month after it was announced that Turkey's first shopping mall, Galleria, would be destroyed in 2016. The aim is to clear the field for a new complex of hotels, residences, and office buildings; projected completion in five years, with a budget of $1.5 billion. Since I spent an awful lot of my childhood in Istanbul's shopping malls, the death of Turkey's biggest mall mogul and the prospective destruction of its first mall put me in a melancholy mood. It felt as if an era in my own life was coming to an end.
“An Architecture School Rises in Tijuana's Red Light Zone,” Carolina A. Miranda, Los Angeles Times
La Coahuila is not the sort of neighborhood anyone would mistake for an architecture and design district. But here in Tijuana's red light zone, a place better known for its tumble-down bars, by-the-hour hotels and risque floor shows than anything to do with Modernism, a new architecture school is turning the design field on its head.
Within view of the U.S.-Mexico border, inside a bland, three-story office building that once housed a medical clinic for sex workers, the Escuela Libre de Arquitectura (Architecture Free School) was founded by Tijuana architect Jorge Gracia with its surroundings very much in mind.
"I didn't want to be off in the suburbs somewhere, off in some neighborhood full of towers," Gracia says. "I wanted to be right in the middle of things."
Indeed, from his sunny corner office, it is possible to take in not only panoramic views of the monumental steel arch that greets visitors to the city but a working girl in hot pants on the street below, cellphone tucked protectively in her cleavage.
”Paralyzed,” The Economist
Traffic is a way of life in Lagos, Africa’s most populous city. Home by some counts to over 20m people, it is among the most notoriously congested places in the world. The “go-slow” piles up long before dawn as businessmen in SUVs and traders in battered buses hit the overburdened roads. It lasts until well after dark. Often the queues can be unfathomable: a rainstorm, a breakdown or a public holiday can condemn a driver to hours in horn-honking hell. Tardy workers proffer one irrefutable excuse: “Traffic is bad.”
Yet the gridlock that Lagosians have suffered in recent weeks is noteworthy even by the city’s horrendous standards. Rush hours have lengthened, and vehicles back up at unusual hours along the bridges linking the mainland with an island business district. Safety concerns are mounting as armed robbers pillage stuck cars while police are far away. Security experts reckon this is symptomatic of a broader increase in organised crime under a new and less competent state government.
“The U.K. Has a Serious Curry Problem,” Allison Jackson, Global Post
Britain is facing a curry crisis.
Sourcing the right ingredients to make spicy dishes like chicken tikka masala or jalfrezi, two of the most popular curries in the country, isn’t the problem.
Rather, it’s finding the skilled chefs to cook them.
Immigration restrictions have created a severe shortage of chefs from South Asia. It’s become an acute problem in recent years as the first generation of mostly Bangladeshi chefs who opened curry houses (as they are known in the UK) in the 1950s and 1960s retire from the kitchen.
Britain only accepts a certain number of skilled migrants from non-European Union countries every year and requires they be paid at least 29,570 pounds (more than $45,000) a year. Pay that high is hard to offer at family-owned curry houses, which often employ as many as two chefs and eight kitchen and wait staff.