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Weekend Reads: Dumpster Playgrounds, Preventing Slums

Welcome to Curbed's new weekly roundup of architecture, real estate, and urban planning-related feature stories from, well, anywhere that isn't Curbed. We'll be collecting a few of our favorite longer stories of the week; please be in touch if you have a story to recommend.

1. First up is archicritic Paul Goldberger's lyrical take in Vanity Fair on Frank Gehry's new Paris building, the Fondation Louis Vuitton:

Gehry loves the form of the fish as much as he loves sailing and boats, and it is not hard to see this building as the moment when these preoccupations come together into one gargantuan and complex object. Yet another longtime theme in Gehry's work has been his desire to tear away the façades of his buildings, making the structure—what he calls "the bones"—visible as a way of celebrating the aesthetic hidden within it, and what began decades ago when he started revealing the wooden framing inside the walls of small houses has grown here into exhibiting vast and monumental curves of steel and timber, a framework that seems at once to evoke the Eiffel Tower and an ancient church.
2. In The Guardian, Ana Naomi de Sousa looks at the work of architect Santiago Cirugeda, the "maverick" behind a number of quirky projects in Spain:

In one of his first experiments, Cirugeda applied for a standard skip license. There was a house nearby undergoing works, so the permit was granted. But Cirugeda wasn't intending to actually hire a skip to dump rubbish. Instead, he built his own, complete with the standard orange and white stripes but topped with wooden boards - and a centrally mounted seesaw. He called it "a self-built and self-managed urban playground", and it proved hugely popular with the younger residents of the Alameda, the former red-light district where he lives and works. 3. The North Korean architect who designed the 1960s as a way of imagining the future talks with Metropolis about what it's like to train and work as an architect in North Korea:

The top North Korean architects work at the Paektusan Architectural Institute and have very limited access to contemporary architecture. When touring the institute you will see a small selection of works ranging from Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater to Mies Van Der Rohe's Barcelona Pavilion, as well as a smattering of contemporary skyscrapers. Limited exposure is not necessarily due to government censorship; there is also a shortage of architectural books and magazines that could (and arguably should) be sent from architectural and design institutions around the world. 4. In Hanoi, as in other developing cities, homes are often built without official permission. But where this practice has led to slums in other cities, Hanoi allowed homes built to minimum construction standards to become legal—meaning that many never fell into disrepair. The Guardian explains how Hanoi has avoided the growth of slums.

On a hot June afternoon this year, a six-man crew in plastic sandals were at work demolishing an extension to the C1 building of the Khu tập thể Bộ Quốc Phòng public housing block, to replace it with a five-storey extension. The men drill into cement, snip wires and drag windows into a wheelbarrow. It's a typical job, says one of the workers, Nam. He pauses to take a swig from a water bottle. As we talk, residents in the block peer down. They have agreed to the demolition and are willing to endure a month of it, followed by an indeterminate length of time for construction, to increase their living space by about five metres. 5. Can a building intended to solve a social problem—providing good medical care, for instance—also be good architecture? Archicritic Michael Kimmelman explores this question in a Times piece today on Princeton's two-year-old University Medical Center.

Several hundred decisions, major and minuscule, common-sensical and arcane, went into configuring the room. Many of them may sound so obvious that one can wonder, financial and real estate constraints aside, why they haven't always been standard. For starters, the rooms are singles; there are no double rooms. Research shows that patients sharing rooms provide doctors with less critical information (even less if the other patient has guests). Ample space is given to visitors because the presence of family and friends has been shown to hasten recovery.