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Weekend Reads: Dumpster Living; The End of the Borscht Belt

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. A dean at Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, Texas, lives in a refurbished green dumpster behind some residence halls. He tells The Atlantic about his ongoing project to rehab the dumpster into a living space, and specifically, into "the most thoughtfully-designed, tiniest home ever constructed."

Perks like insulation will come, allowing the small air conditioner to keep pace with the Texas sun. The second phase of The Dumpster Project, which Wilson and collaborators call the "average American dumpster studio," will incorporate more amenities including a bed, a lamp, and a classic home-evoking pitched roof that will slide back and forth to allow ventilation, weather stripping, and locks (making this possibly the only dumpster in the world with interior locks). Eventually, the dumpster will have a dome to catch rainwater and provide shade, as well as a (tiny) sink and kitchen.
2. An exhibit about the end of the Borscht Belt, the resort area of the Catskills in upstate New York, opened this week. Newsweek talks to photographer Marisa Scheinfeld about the project.

The exhibit, which features 21 large-scale photos plus a few cases of Catskills ephemera (a Concord ski hat, Grossinger's stationery, postcards and room keys), takes you through the hotels as guests would have experienced them. We start at the entrances, all of them overgrown with lush trees and sunburnt fields, and then move into the once-ornate lobbies, pools and nightclubs, which now look more like where squatters, addicts and hipsters throwing DIY warehouse raves might congregate. A photo of Grossinger's indoor pool reveals a lone beach chair perched atop a layer of moss so thick it looks like a carpet. In another photo, small green plants push up through the sheet of ice covering the red-and-white tiled pool floor. Like soldiers at attention, they sprout from a puddle of soil and white goo. 3. Seattle is currently in the middle of an intense land-use battle, as residents of Ballard and other neighborhoods become fed up with row houses and other new developments popping up in areas formerly full of historic homes. What will the new construction mean for the city's demographics?

In the final stages of construction, it's of the duplex-in-back, single-family-house-in-front variety. The house is attractive in a modernist, geometric way, with rows of large rectangular windows. It is, however, a towering presence. Actually, it has what looks like a tower, which contains a staircase leading to a rooftop deck that at one end juts a story over the already sizable three-story dwelling. At its tallest point, it's two stories higher than the houses on either end. 4. What does a home stager really do? Pacific Standard investigates:

In the kitchen, Caldwell replaced the family's old Soup of the Day cookbook, on a plastic stand, with the French Laundry Cookbook—that totem of high cuisine—on a nicer, wooden stand. She eyed a thin layer of grease on the stove, and rubbed her palm over the book's clean white cover. "I don't want this to get all dirty," she said. "I'm gonna have to talk to them about that." She also disapproved of the orchid in the kitchen window. "Every realtor wants to put orchids in their house," Caldwell said. "I just think that looks generic." In its place, she set two lollipop-shaped topiaries, one on either side of the faucet. 5. The Guardian explores what comics tell us about our cities.

Everywhere you look, being trapped is a theme. Greg M Smith, a scholar at Georgia State University, says that for Will Eisner "comics form a catalog of how architecture can become a frame and how these frames can become prisons", so it is fitting that in Marc Antoine Mathieu's Acquefacques, the protagonist Julius Corentin escapes his "prison", and can be seen reading the comic that he is in (that is, the same one you are reading) or walking along the dividers between the panels, looking down into the boxes on either side of him as if they were office cubicles. As Mathieu plays with the grid of the comic book page, he reveals one of the reasons this art relates so well to the city, itself a multimedia grid of hoardings, billboards and shop windows that squabble for our attention – and turn our gaze into that of the wandering "flaneur". Eisner was all too aware of this, and a warning he makes in his book Comics and Sequential Art, written in 1985, has only snowballed in relevance: "The most important obstacle to surmount is the tendency of the reader's eye to wander." 6. Speaking of comics, Andy Warner considers, in illustrations, what happens to a region when its army base leaves—essentially leaving behind a deserted city.

· Recommended Reading archive [Curbed]