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Weekend Reads: Understanding Reston; Life of a Holdout

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 New York developer purchased land in Virginia in 1961 with the goal of building a new community "modeled on Italian towns." That community became Reston, Virginia. Rob Walker takes us through the history and original mission of Reston, as part of a discussion on planned communities without natural pasts.

E offered the more thoughtful theory that what a place like Town Center, or maybe Reston in general, lacks, is a sense of history — or maybe more precisely, a direct connection to the deep past. You can design a space that mimics downtown Boston or Savannah. But you cannot design into existence sites of legend or nostalgia or mystery stretching back generations. Those things can only arise by accident, over time. I think there is a connection between this and the unpleasant dysfunctions I've just listed: They are both, intrinsically, unplanned. 2. This week's 99% Invisible podcast is about holdouts, people who refuse to sell their properties to private developers. Slate highlights the story of Edith Macefield, who watched a mall go up surrounding her house in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood.

Slowly, Macefield warmed to some of the construction workers on the project, especially Barry Martin, the project superintendent who would check in on her occasionally and drop off business cards, telling her to call if she needed anything. She eventually asked Martin to take her to a hair appointment. Soon thereafter, Martin began taking Macefield to all of her appointments. Spending all of this time together, Martin got to know Macefield well. He learned that she wasn't mad about the way her community was changing. She wasn't even mad about the mall they were building more or less on top of her house. On the contrary, she seemed happy to have the company. 3. Israeli architect Eyal Weizman is well-known for his work in "forensic architecture," the process of examining "the impacts of urban warfare for clues about the crimes that were perpetrated there." The Guardian examines Weizman's work:

To Weizman, buildings are weapons. When he looks out across the landscape of the occupied Palestinian West Bank, as he does in the film The Architecture of Violence, to be aired on Al Jazeera today, he sees a battlefield. "The weapons and ammunitions are very simple elements: they are trees, they are terraces, they are houses. They are barriers." 4. Architecture writer Alexandra Lange takes a lively look at strategic architecture, projects that come from "understanding past civic hopes" and adapting design to them:

The Bolling building fits a new category of what one might call strategic architecture: projects that combine the forces of community activism and historic preservation with government muscle, encourage future development through eye-catching design, and link to the parks, plazas, bike paths and libraries that give neighborhoods a center. These are hybrids, not large-scale institutions like museums but urban players, being built in places not necessarily known for design. They will open new routes through old cities and new ideas about what businesses can be successful in which locations. · Recommended Reading archive [Curbed]