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This week’s city reading: coffee shop as gentrification battlefield, knocked-down Seoul neighborhoods, and Los Angeles’ newest skyscraper

Now I Am Become Mall, Destroyer of Cities (Silvia Killingsworth, The Awl) “The mall of the future is an amusement park of a food hall, where we can easily and deliciously follow the quickest path to setting our money on fire—converting money into immediate kilocalories consumed on the spot. It’s no accident we call it “consumerism.” Food is fuel, yes—it always has been. But where is it taking us?”

Gentrification Conflict Brews Over New Boyle Heights Coffee Shop (Jason McGahan, Los Angeles Weekly) “Standing in the cool of the shade a few steps away, Boyle Heights native José Martinez shook his head. ‘I just don’t get why you protest a small business,’ Martinez said.”

How England’s Brutalist Buildings Are Getting Second Lives (Tim Bowder-Ridger, Metropolis) “One of the most satisfying aspects of working on a fifty-year-old Brutalist building is to see how brightly the concrete sparkles once it has been cleaned, providing a clear demonstration that Brutalism is more about a bright, optimistic future than a bleak, dystopian one.”

Destruction of a “Moon Village” (Jon Dunbar, Korea Times) “Artists visited Bamgol, covering many of its bare walls with murals and paintings depicting happy villagers, pop culture characters, animals and more. Mural villages like this have popped up across the country and city, as initiatives to beautify poor areas, inject cultural value and justify their continued existence. Meanwhile, the aging residents of Bamgol Village were happy to move out without putting up a fight.” (See also my visit to Bamgol with Jon Dunbar on’s Koreascape Seoul urbanism corner.)

Corporate Gardens of the Anthropocene (Geoff Manaugh, BLDGBLOG) “This vision of botanists traipsing through rain forests on the other side of the world to find plants that might thrive in Manhattan’s rarefied indoor air is incredible, an absurdist set-up worthy of Don Delillo.”

Confirmed: Starbucks knows the next hot neighborhood before everybody else does (Spencer Rascoff and Stan Humphries, Vox) “Whatever the reasons—because they genuinely like drinking coffee, or because they see Starbucks as a proxy for gentrification—it seems pretty clear that people are paying a premium for homes near Starbucks. And furthermore, it looks like Starbucks itself is driving the increase in home values.”

Wilshire Grand Center, the new tallest building in L.A. and a schmoozer in the skyline (Christopher Hawthorne, Los Angeles Times) “We have been wary in Los Angeles of the tall building and everything it represents: a creeping Manhattanization, to borrow an evergreen term in Southern California development fights, a fear that we’ll be sealed inside glass towers, cut off from the benign climate so many of us moved here to take advantage of. L.A. first put a measure on the ballot to limit building heights more than a century ago. It has spent the intervening decades feeling ambivalent about whether skyscrapers really belong here. Though it’s happening slowly, that ambivalence is fading.”

The future of transportation is in Seoul, South Korea. Americans should pay attention (Kelly Kasulis, Mic) “In Seoul, public transit is a way of life. Everything seems to be engineered meticulously: Public bathrooms sell tampons, pads and baby wipes. Fare machines coach tourists through reloading their transportation cards in multiple languages. The same map is often visualized in different ways, so that even the most hopeless navigator can find their path. And once on the train, passengers are still able to get cell service and Wi-Fi, in addition to enjoying an air-conditioned climate in the summer, heated seats in the winter and a lively jingle that comes on to announce transfer stations.”