The Atlantic Cities


Phil Campbells and the Recovery of Phil Campbell, Ala.

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January 4, 2012
A guy named Phil Campbell comes to the rescue of a town named Phil Campbell. And he brings a bunch of other Phil Campbells along to help.

It’s pretty safe to say that Phil Campbell loves Phil Campbell. And vice versa.

They're an unlikely couple who’d have to try pretty hard to be much more different. One’s a novelist from Brooklyn. The other is a small town in northwest Alabama, about 90 miles from Birmingham, that’s home to roughly 1,100 people. What Phil Campbell the man and Phil Campbell the town do have in common is obvious, and yet something as simple as a relatively ordinary name has become the basis of a deep connection between the two.

To Add Public Spaces to Brazil's Favelas, First You Have to Find Space

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October 14, 2011
Building a community center in a crowded, flood-prone Brazilian favela.

In the compact and crowded slums of Brazil, public space is a relative term. Children play in and out of front rooms and walkways, entrances to apartments often require trips through the homes of others, and parks are practically non-existent. Where there’s space to use, it’s used for housing, even in unsafe places. But when landslides wipe these homes out, or floods destroy them, an opportunity arises.

The Model City

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October 12, 2011
The history of city models and their role in city making.

San Francisco sat there for years, broken up and packaged into 17 wooden crates, hardly labeled and nearly forgotten. But when the warehouse that held those crates was sold in 2009, the city was rediscovered. All of its streets and neighborhoods and homes were there, delicately and intricately replicated in a relief model of the entire city measuring 37 by 41 feet and dating back to the New Deal era.

Photos: What Running Out of Power in a Tesla on the Side of a Highway Taught Me About the Road Trip of Tomorrow

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April 29, 2014
Charging fast and breaking down in the early days of the electric roadtrip.

Tesla charging

Tesla being towed

Tesla recharging
© Nate Berg

Why Can't We Just Host the Olympics in the Same Place Every Year?

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September 6, 2013
Economists agree: the Olympics are bad for cities. There's an obvious solution.

On Saturday, the International Olympic Committee will change the destiny of one city forever. Yes, tomorrow's the big day when committee members will decide whether Istanbul, Madrid, or Tokyo will host the 2020 Summer Olympic Games. For the chosen city, it's a decision that could catalyze transformative infrastructure projects and long-term investment.

Of course, more likely, it will shackle the host city with cost overruns, underused venues and displaced and disaffected citizens.

Beijing's Bomb Shelter-Dwellers May Be Making a Rational Choice About Their Commute

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April 16, 2013
An estimated 2 million Beijingers live in underground bomb shelters. But for many it's better than the 'burbs.

The numbers are undeniably mind-boggling: An estimated two million people in Beijing are said to be living below the earth's surface, in thousands of 100-square-foot spaces located just one or two stories below street level. These figures have been making headlines (and trending upwards) for a couple of years now. Assuming they're accurate, that would mean 10 percent of the city's 20 million people sleep in windowless, subterranean residences.

Anatomy of an L.A. Police Pursuit

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September 20, 2012
How police and media helicopters navigate the crowded airspace of L.A. when a suspect's on the run.

It's the sort of escapade Los Angeles has long been known for: a man in a stolen car with an AK-47 drives dangerously through the streets of rush-hour L.A. with a tail of about 8 police cars directly behind, and even more following a short ways back. The driver had allegedly carjacked the vehicle from its owner earlier that day – a slightly less concerning crime than the homicide he allegedly committed in July. The car's electronic tracking system had alerted police to its location and a chase ensued for more than an hour – at relatively low speed – through the city.

In Search of a Uniform Way to Define the City

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September 5, 2012
To understand and compare modern metropolises, city borders just don't cut it.

The edges of a city's defined borders don't really mean all that much when they bleed into yet more urbanity. The stereotype of sprawling Greater Los Angeles, for example, shows hardly any discernible distinction when crossing over the border from Los Angeles proper to neighboring Inglewood or El Segundo or Long Beach.

Sarajevo: Post-Olympic City and Post-War City

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July 27, 2012
A photo project reveals long legacies of the Olympics and the war in Sarajevo.

After taking second place in the giant slalom race on February 14, 1984, 21-year-old Jure Franko stood on this concrete podium as the first and only member of the home team to receive an Olympic medal when the city of Sarajevo, then of Yugoslavia, hosted the Winter Olympics. Eight years later, this same podium would be the site of a more grisly event, the executions of countless victims of the Bosnian War and Siege of Sarajevo.

These two separate and wildly different events still have a strong presence in this city, now the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

An Atlas of Suburbanisms

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June 4, 2012
Understanding the urban and suburban parts of metropolitan areas.

Suburbia is a place you probably associate with certain images: Lawns, bike-riding kids, big houses, two-car garages. The city, similarly, is a place we can easily visualize: dense, busy, and full of a wide variety of people. It's easy to think of cities and suburbs as distinct places with distinct lifestyles. But when elements of those places and lifestyles cross the borderline between city and suburb, these comfortable ideas about what's what begin to erode.