From Prison’s Horrors, a Work of Art

Haunted by the suffocating horror and hopelessness he witnessed in Haiti’s national prison, this artist finds solace in his work.

Accused of arson, Paul Junior Casimir spent a year there, awaiting a trial that never was scheduled. He is one of the lucky ones; others have died waiting. Freed only because aid workers recognized his talent and a non-profit organization was willing to work on his case, upon release, Casimir began frantically building an art installation that recreates the hell he experienced.

Casimir, 35, hopes the project, a traveling installation called “Enfermé, Libéré” [Locked Up, Freed] will draw public attention and help build momentum for change.

A visitor views the exhibit at the FOKAL Art Center in Port-au-Prince in February. (Jean Marc Hervé Abelard)

The exhibition, … Read the rest

CityLab Daily: Why New York Stopped Building Subways

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What We’re Following

Illustration from 'Why New York City Stopped Building Subways'
(Madison McVeigh/CityLab)

Days of our lines: New York City’s 6 million daily subway riders face constant delays, overcrowded cars, big gaps in service, and (today) rain-drenched tunnels. Yet long-promised funds and improvements never seem to come.

That wasn’t always the case. In the early 20th century, the system grew quickly, unfurling from just a single line in 1904 to a vast network hundreds of miles long by the 1920s. After World War II, that growth came to a hard stop, and the city hasn’t opened a new full-fledged line since 1940.

Why? In a gorgeous illustrated timeline, CityLab … Read the rest

Self-Driving Cars Still Have a Lot to Learn

PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA—The question posed to Phil Koopman, a robotics professor at Carnegie Mellon University, was stark. “Where were you when you heard about Elaine Herzberg?”

He had a fitting answer: He was teaching a software safety class when one of his students raised a hand as the news showed up on their phone that a self-driving Uber vehicle had struck and killed a pedestrian. Elaine Herzberg, 49, was crossing a seven-lane road in Tempe, Arizona, when the Volvo SUV, which was operating in autonomous mode at the time, struck her.

At the Pennsylvania Automated Vehicle Summit in Pittsburgh last week, Koopman gave a talk on how to make AV testing safer for other road users. This is a question he’s been pondering for many … Read the rest

Atlanta’s Cityhood Movement Might Be Out of Control

Last November, the city of Stockbridge, a small municipality about 20 miles south of Atlanta, elected its first black mayor: Anthony Ford, a retired, decorated U.S. Army Colonel. Not only that, but several other African Americans were elected, making this the first time in its history that Stockbridge would be governed by an all-black city council and mayor.

Five months later, the state passed two bills allowing one of Stockbridge’s wealthiest communities, Eagle’s Landing, to break off to form its own city. That moving schedule might appear racist on its face, especially since it was initiated by a woman named Vikki Consiglio who happens to be white. Consiglio has pointed out, though, that the new city of Eagle’s Landing, if formed, would be a Read the rest

These Literary Vending Machines Serve Up Short Stories

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In Grenoble, France, the short story addict doesn’t have to go far to get their fix. Across the seven square miles of the central city, 14 orange-and-black machines are dotted like Easter eggs in train stations, municipal buildings, and even the local museum. At the push of a button, each one will unspool a little piece of literature, printed on a long strip of paper, like a grocery store receipt. You can select for length—one, three, or five minutes—but precisely what you’ll be served up is in the hands of the gods. These are story dispensers, built by Grenoble-based publishing company Short Edition.

When the company began producing the machines in 2015, they were hardly set on global domination. But today, they are found around … Read the rest

See Yourself As You Truly Are in This Mysterious Metal Mirror

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In Aranmula, Kerala, a heritage village on the banks of the Pamba river, a group of skilled, metal-casting artisans spend their days in hot and dusty workshops, crafting metal mirrors, a tradition that goes back 500 years.

For centuries, the craftsmen, who belong to the Vishwakarma community, have been working in the Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple. It is one of the oldest temples in South India, dedicated to Lord Krishna, an avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu. Originally, these artisans were known for creating exquisite bronze idols of deities. But around 500 years ago, they handcrafted a special mirror known as the Aranmula kannadi, which surpassed the idols as their most famous product. The mirror is made from a copper-tin alloy with trace elements. To … Read the rest

August Wilson’s Enduring Drama on Urban Renewal

By the time urban renewal arrived in Pittsburgh’s Hill District, Memphis Lee’s diner was already done for. The jukebox didn’t work. The daily meatloaf special was almost never actually available. A local hang-about named Wolf made more money running numbers at the diner than Memphis did selling beans and cornbread.

Still, Memphis refused to be pushed out. It didn’t matter that Risa hardly ever bothered to cook the chicken, since nobody ever showed up to order any. Memphis demands that the city give him what he feels is his due—though the city might say it owed him nothing.

This is the intimate scale of urban renewal captured in August Wilson’s Two Trains Running. The play, which opened in April at Washington, D.C.’s Arena Stage, is … Read the rest

Why New York City Stopped Building Subways

In the first decades of the 20th century, New York City experienced an unprecedented infrastructure boom. Iconic bridges, opulent railway terminals, and much of what was then the world’s largest underground and rapid transit network were constructed in just 20 years. Indeed, that subway system grew from a single line in 1904 to a network hundreds of miles long by the 1920s. It spread rapidly into undeveloped land across upper Manhattan and the outer boroughs, bringing a wave of apartment houses alongside.

Then it stopped. Since December 16, 1940, New York has not opened another new subway line, aside from a handful of small extensions and connections. Unlike most other great cities, New York’s rapid transit system remains frozen in time: Commuters on their iPhones are … Read the rest