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Covering the Issues

Free to all... Architectural critic Sarah Williams Goldhagen argues that a “revolution” is taking place at your community library in The New Republic (March 11, 2013). These spaces are unique in the city today: free places where anyone can work, take classes, play, hang out, or even read. No matter the fate of the printed book, the community library is busier than ever. Good library design is tricky: It must accommodate varied media, spaces, and users, while being both distinctive from and sympathetic to neighborhood context. Goldhagen discusses new examples from Seattle to China to Norway and suggests that this promising collection pulls it off.

Past is prologue?... Directly across the Mediterranean Sea from Italy and Greece sits Libya, so it stands to reason that some of the world’s best ancient Greek and Roman architectural ruins are found there as well. Libya was once an integral piece of the Roman Empire, but the Qaddafi regime deemed that history too Western and ignored it; thankfully, the structures were not destroyed. In “New Old Libya,” a National Geographic cover story (February 2013), George Steinmetz’s photographs showcase the spectacular amphitheaters, arches, and temples that are now being preserved and restored. Author Robert Draper argues that, as evidence of an internationally connected past, these glorious ruins should prompt Libya to reach outward again.

One step at a time... The late Joseph Mitchell was born in North Carolina but, block by block, made New York City his home. He walked them all. The New Yorker — where Mitchell was a staff writer for 58 years — has published the first chapter of his unfinished memoir (February 11 & 18, 2013). “Street Life” is a love letter to the urban environment and the magic of aimless wandering. In so doing, he reminds us to look around.

Well built vs. design that fits all... “We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us,” Winston Churchill said, and several new initiatives seem to take him at his word. In Athletic Business magazine’s cover story on “active design” (February 2013), Andrew Cohen outlines the basic idea: Design buildings and landscapes that prompt people to get up, move around, and interact using elements such as stairs that are more prominent than elevators. Begun by the New York City AIA chapter, “active design” proponents now seek a broader following. “WELL” design, on the other hand, seeks exclusivity. Entrepreneur Morad Fareed’s prototype, a $39 million “wellness loft” (also in New York City), is grounded on the premise that buildings can help us be healthy and that those with means will pay for it. Lynsey Santimays describes “The Business of Living Well” in Worth magazine (December–January 2013). Fareed also aspires to create a “WELL Building Standard” that does for building and health what LEED does for buildings and the environment. But there’s a catch: To adopt the WELL standard, one must hire his company. So everyone should be active, but one must be rich to be well?

You go, girls... “Massachusetts ranks 37th in the nation when it comes to wage equity,” according to a recent study by the American Association of University Women. Janelle Nanos uses this statistic as her point of departure in “Mind the Gap” in Boston Magazine (February 2013). Massachusetts women make 77 cents for every dollar paid to their male peers. The greatest disparity is in highly educated positions, as that’s where there’s the greatest regulatory flexibility. This may help explain why architecture is still such a man’s game; according to Architect magazine (September 2012), “only 16 percent of the AIA’s membership is female.” How does your payroll (or paycheck) look?