Also: San Jose wants to be the ultimate foil of Amazon’s HQ2 search, and what’s really happening to retail.

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What We’re Following

Stalling for time: If you’ve ever seen a sofa in a public restroom, you have the Victorians to thank. You might wonder why it was ever common for women’s restrooms to have a lounge at all. Some of it has to do with the extra layers of clothing at the time, but there’s a lot more going on with these parlor rooms: That couch is rooted in a curious combination of Victorian culture, class and race divisions, retail marketing, and what men thought women needed when they ventured out in public.

“They were designed like living rooms—like parlors—as spaces to protect virtue,”said design historian Alessandra Wood. As women became more active participants in public spaces, architects of luxury buildings such as hotels, theaters, and department stores tipped their hat to the notion of separate spheres for men and women. The evolving uses of these lounges—and their disappearance—reveals a history of societal attitudes in the United States. Today on CityLab: The Glamorous, Sexist History of the Women’s Restroom Lounge

Andrew Small


More on CityLab

Inside San Jose’s Deal to Develop a Google Campus—Sans Tax Incentives

San Jose’s mayor says he wants the deal to be the ultimate foil to Amazon’s HQ2 process. Will the community agree?

Sarah Holder

A City-Suburban Coalition Can’t Win While the System Favors Rural Voters

Gerrymandering and U.S. Senate composition diminish the power of urban voters. For Rahm Emanuel’s proposed urban-suburban coalition to succeed, this must change.

Nestor M. Davidson and Paul A. Diller

Sidewalk Labs’ Neighborhood of the Future in Toronto Is Getting Closer

The new draft plan for the “smart” waterfront development offers broad proposals for housing, transportation, and energy use. But it’s not that radical.

Laura Bliss

Nothing Says Midwest Like a Well-Dressed Porch Goose

How a concrete waterfowl in a funny outfit conquered the heartland.  

Julie Beck

What’s Really Happening to Retail?

Manhattan’s shuttered storefronts tell a larger American story: Only Amazon-proof businesses can now survive in brick and mortar.

Derek Thompson


See My Vest

A French flag is held by protesters wearing yellow vests, a symbol of a drivers' protest against higher fuel taxes. (Stephane Mahe/Reuters)

French protests over rising gas and diesel taxes escalated dramatically over the weekend, with Paris demonstrations becoming the country’s most violent urban riot in a decade, the AP reports. The so-called Yellow Vest movement features drivers wearing the neon gear they’re required to carry in case of emergency, and while the full scope of the movement’s demands aren’t entirely clear, at its core is a belief that the fuel taxes represent a political leadership that’s out of touch with the needs of the lower and middle classes across the country. We’ll have more on the latest developments soon, and here’s what CityLab’s Feargus O’Sullivan wrote previously about why the “Yellow Vest” movement has taken to the streets and highways across France.


What We’re Reading

The mayor tasked with leading other mayors on housing (Next City)

China “is the only one in the race” to make electric buses, taxis, and trucks (Wall Street Journal)

The unprecedented plan to move an Arctic city (The Guardian)

Ikea’s first city-center store in the U.S. is coming to Manhattan (Curbed)


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