-- Are our "eyes on the street" being blinded? That was my first question after reading this Washington Post story about the decline of shop windows:
It's easy to romanticize shop windows, which, after all, are just an extension of advertising. But they were once fundamental to cities, so much so that the idle pastime of strolling the glass arcades, for philosophers such as Walter Benjamin, all but defined modern consciousness.
Storefront windows in Washington aren't living up to this nostalgic idea. In the more urban parts of town, they still function in the old way, letting people covet goods and peer into the spectacle of shopping. But there is a new breed of window in town -- the empty, big-box, nothing-to-see-here window -- that is covered over from the moment a new retail store moves in.
-- The Big Picture features lovely photos from Buenos Aires, where Argentina is celebrating its bicentennial.
-- A fascinating story from Fast Company:
The glittering towers featured in the opening credits of Dallas -- one pair seemingly clad in gold leaf, another as black and viscous as an oil slick -- lie not in Dallas proper, but in the remnants of El Ranchito de las Colinas, the 12,000-acre "Little Ranch of the Hills." The same year DFW opened just west of it in 1973, owner Ben Carpenter unveiled his master plan for a wholly-owned-and-operated city carved from those mesquite-shrouded hills -- the largest urban development in the country. Before a single plot of land was sold, he ordered the dredging of lakes and canals, stocked them with gondolas, and ran a monorail overhead. "It is Disney World for the affluent," Texas Monthly reported in the 1980s. "In fact, when executives from Disney World visited the development a few years ago, one of them commented that it was a shame ol' Walt couldn't have lived to see the real thing."
Las Colinas is what you get when you let CEOs and their site selection committees design a city. The upside for Irving is that it also attracts a lot of CEOs -- Fluor, Kimberly Clark, Commercial Metals and the aforementioned Exxon Mobil all keep their headquarters there, and their executives live in gated communities studded throughout.
What's most interesting about Irving's plans to added density in its last undeveloped corner is the tacit admission that Las Colinas's gold-plated office parks and single-family homes are no longer enough. "The piece that has always been missing from Las Colinas is the human density that's missing on weekends and at nights," says Gast. The reason for adding that piece is an eminently practical one -- it's what those corporate tenants, their workers and developers all want. Irving is embracing transit-oriented development because it thinks it can make money doing it.
Read the whole thing.
-- Why people underestimate the pain of their commutes.
-- The City Fix explores the possibilities of cable cars.