Design matters… “What can’t design do?” posits Bloomberg Businessweek at its second annual design conference and corresponding magazine issue (March 24–April 6, 2014). Design can provide shelter, food, clean water, genetic maps, engrossing pastimes, fashion that fits well. The editors offer 20 per-spectives on design’s ability, from the architects of the world’s tallest building to designers making government websites simple and pleasurable to use. Most interesting are those who mix approaches, like the synthetic biologist working with AutoCAD to build models of living things. This is design at its democratic best, improving the lives — and futures — of the 99 percent in ways both fashionable and profound.
A river runs through it… In the Northeast, we’re preoccupied with solutions for dealing with too much water: What happens when the next Sandy hits? In the Southwest, the consideration is the opposite. The country’s fastest-growing region depends on water from one river — the Colorado—and less and less flows every year. At current consumption levels, Lake Mead will drop below the lowest outtake level in about two decades. Christopher Ketcham floats down the Colorado with a cast of Western water professionals in Razing Arizona” for Harper’s (April 2014) and discusses the current state of water use and their varying roles in it; the history of hydraulic empires; land use, consumption, and a sense of right-to-use that’s been engrained for generations. The 19th-century adventurer/activist John Wesley Powell argued that development should be driven by the Colorado’s carrying capacity, not client demand. Perhaps it’s finally time to listen.
Urban outfits… In its April 2014 issue, The Atlantic offers variations on the theme of the built environ-ment and urban vitality. Nathaniel Rich spotlights “Hitler’s Airport” — Tempelhofer Freiheit — which, unlike most Nazi-era architecture, has been repurposed as a popular and huge (and somewhat odd) public park, with the terminal soon to be renovated. Coming from a different direction, James Fallows visits two small American cities on opposite ends of the political spectrum that both enjoy vibrant open spaces and strong redevelopment. He makes “The Case for Strong Mayors,” arguing that Greenville, South Carolina, and Burlington, Vermont, follow successful and similar redevelopment strategies, providing examples of “Why cities work even when Washington doesn’t.” The key? Cooperation.