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Covering the Issues

Leaning in… From Sheryl Sandberg's best-seller to the Harvard Graduate School of Design student petition that went viral, 2013 brought new life to the ongoing discussion of gender, profession, and parity. Despite 18,000 online supporters, the Pritzker Prize powers that be still refuse to recognize Denise Scott Brown's essential creative partnership with her husband and revise his 1991 Pritzker Prize to include her. Architect and author Esther Sperber uses this controversy as her point of departure in "Gender and Genius," Lilith's cover story (Fall 2013). Sperber argues that creative work is a collaborative pursuit, and that ideas come from people and situations all around us. Architecture requires collaboration—between designer, builder, and client as well as among the design team. It's time for the Pritzker and the other top design prizes to reconsider their focus on the lone genius.

Looking down… Streets are the most essential public spaces, writes Justin Davidson in "Pavement as Lab" for New York magazine (December 23–30, 2013). In this ode to the design details of the street­—crosswalk stripes, curb cuts, bollards, benches­—Davidson lauds then-mayor Bloomberg's Department of Transportation for infusing the normal work of street repair with social agency. The past 12 years offer an array of terrific experiments, like the placement of a ramp or paint on the roadbed, which influence our ability to cross the street. "Making New York's public spaces safe, civilized, and navigable is a deeply democratic issue," argues Davidson. This is a challenge to the new administration in New York to keep up the good work.

Rethink… Good magazine's first (Re)design Issue (Fall 2013) celebrates the ways our daily experiences are designed and encourages readers to take part in that. One of the most inspiring offerings is "If These Walls Could Talk," Casey Caplowe's interview with Good's first crop of global fellows: designers and activists from Ghana, South Africa, New Zealand, Mexico, and Brazil who are transforming neighborhoods and engaging kids in design. They participated in a weeklong exchange in Los Angeles that brought their perspectives to bear on local challenges, explored the intersection of physical environment and social behavior, and helped envision an improved future.

Refuel… The city famous for giving life to the suburbs is experiencing great growth along its urban frontier: downtown. "America's Next Great City Is Inside LA," proclaims Brett Martin for GQ (January 2014). Driven by new bars and restaurants, rather than art studios and galleries, Martin reports that Los Angeles' early-20th-century majestic civic architecture­—replete with marble lobbies, grand ballrooms, bank vaults­—ignored for decades, is now getting renovated and reinhabited by entrepreneurs, residents, and suburbanites seeking a fun evening and who are enjoying walking from place to place. Part restaurant tour, part booster session, part urbanity lesson, Martin offers a strong voice for urban experience. No matter how extraordinary suburbs may be, great cities still need a vibrant downtown and the intoxicating mix of people that physical proximity brings.

Finding links… The Believer's Art Issue (November/December 2013) debuts "Pillow of Air," a "monthly amble through the visual world." The name comes from that moment of silence when one stands agape, marveling at a striking new thought without taking a breath. Lawrence Weschler traces curious connections of architectural symbolism between the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca and the ritual stoning of the pillars, the Twin Towers, the events of 9/11, the new memorial, and its pilgrimages. Weschler ends his journey back in Mecca, noting perhaps one of our era's greatest iconic ironies: the Las Vegas–like Royal Mecca Clock Tower apartment building and commercial complex now towers over the holiest of Muslim sites, developed by the Bin Laden family.