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This week’s city reading: the future of Detroit, a farewell to London, and the failings of transit in the San Francisco Bay Area

Detroit Open City (Aaron Robertson, Los Angeles Review of Books) “The species of loneliness one feels in New York is not the same in Detroit. There is an overwhelming awareness that in a city this large, things should be louder. ‘Detroit is the biggest small town in America,’ I once heard someone say. The slogan rings true. It is a city in which people talk more about lonely places than lonely people. Abandonment is keenly felt not as a conclusive sense of emptiness, but as absence, the peculiar suspicion that something which should be there has been devoured or disappeared.”

Credit Where It’s Due (Christopher Hawthorne, Los Angeles Times) “Wong, who died Sept. 1 at 94, often pared down the buildings he worked on to a single memorable gesture. There’s the swooping roofline of the Union 76 gas station in Beverly Hills, among postwar L.A.’s singular landmarks. The peaked silhouette of the Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco. The glowing cube at the heart of CBS Television City. Those forms were memorable in part because they matched the spirit of the age in California. They were a visual shorthand for the future.”

Iain Sinclair’s Farewell to London (Iain Sinclair, The Guardian) “There was no longer an obligation to carry a notebook or a camera. Or to endure the madness of being overwhelmed by random voices, mendacious signage, tags and scribbles, snippets of intrusive mobile-phone babble: along with the moral imperative of shaping white noise into a coherent narrative. The rough sleepers, ranters on buses, spice zombies, station beggars I sourced as potential characters were taking their revenge by welcoming me into their survivalist sodality. Did I look like one of them now? Did my skewed, eyes-down trudge transmit a different code, a new set of pheromones?” (See also my interview with Iain Sinclair on Notebook on Cities and Culture.)

Connect the World? The Bay Area Can’t Even Connect Its Trains (Joe Mathews, Public CEO) “We didn’t know how to bridge this transportation gap. My son wasn’t up for a long walk. There is as yet no shuttle from plane to train. The public bus that would take us in the train’s direction didn’t show up on time. Uber wasn’t picking up at the airport. My Lyft app kept crashing. And the four cabbies parked outside the airport all refused to take us, saying they didn’t want to give up their place in line for such a short, cheap trip.”

Collective Dust (Yolanta Siu, Places Journal) “Today, the district’s main street, Dorim-ro, is a stage for revolving storefronts, where trendy restaurants and cafes come and go. Rents have quadrupled in a decade. Many of the new businesses borrow the “otherness” of the factories by using Mullae’s name and industrial aesthetic, but none are affordable to longtime residents. Cultural conflicts are open and pervasive. Most technicians spend their entire lives working six-day weeks, and they find it hard to understand the irregular habits of artists and the creative endeavors that sometimes disrupt factory work.” (See also my segment on Mullae-dong with Yolanta Siu on Koreascape.)

Why Can’t We Get Cities Right? (Paul Krugman, New York Times) “It’s not hard to see what we should be doing. We should have regulation that prevents clear hazards, like exploding chemical plants in the middle of residential neighborhoods, preserves a fair amount of open land, but allows housing construction. In particular, we should encourage construction that takes advantage of the most effective mass transit technology yet devised: the elevator.”