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One Night in a Pod Hotel; Changing the Look of EU Buildings

Welcome to Curbed's weekly roundup of architecture, real estate, and urban planning-related feature stories. Please be in touch if you have a story to recommend.

1. Writer Aaron Gilbreath spent a night in one of Japan's most famous capsule hotels. Are the screams, sneezes, and other people's alarm clock noises worth the low price of $353.79 for 13 days?

Japanese custom dictates that guests remove their shoes in many residences. After I stored mine in a locker by the door, the clerk checked me in, moved my luggage to a secure back room and equipped me with a room key attached to a rubber wristband. The wristband helps drunks keep track of their keys. The rubber let guests carry them into the bath. To buy food from vending machines or use the spa services upstairs, you just had to wave the bracelet's barcode across a scanner and it credited your account. I thanked the clerk with a practiced "Arigatou gozaimasu," and went behind the desk to a second locker area. There, I stripped to my boxers, put on a pink robe called a yukata, and wedged my clothes in the locker. 2. The blizzard warnings earlier this week sparked a few reflections on the blizzard of 1888 that hit the east coast's major cities, killed 400 people, and sank 200 ships. The storm, as CityLab explains, sparked major changes to city infrastructure:

The blizzard demonstrated the need for more robust urban infrastructure. Boston and New York, which had contemplated building subways before, now raced to complete them. Cities also constructed new subterranean conduits, carrying electric, telephone and telegraph wires, an investment spurred by the blizzard. "What an argument it furnished for underground transit and underground wires!" exalted the Tribune. Congress soon authorized the Post Office to build networks of pneumatic tubes, shooting the mail around major cities, safely out of reach of the snow. 3. The EU is about to get two new buildings in Brussels, the designs the winners of international architecture competitions. The Guardian asks whether those buildings can help the EU's image or improve its relationship with its host city.

Whether the new Council headquarters will even be a successful building, let alone an icon of design, is another matter entirely. Hopes were high at the time of the design competition, but the long construction time (the opening has been repeatedly postponed) and ballooning costs (now more than €300m, leaving David Cameron particularly unamused) have tempered the enthusiasm. Besides, residents of Brussels won't get to see much more than an oddly shaped building. "It is a strange paradox: the building is full of windows but not transparent at all,", says Marco Schmitt, architect and activist in a neighbourhood committee. "The public won't see anything of what goes on in there. Symbolic for the Council, which decides everything behind closed doors anyway." 4. With the troubled Chicago Spire project still in limbo, Chicago Magazine asked a group of local architects to come up with ideas for the Spire site. One example: putting a filtration system into the Spire foundation to send green energy throughout the city.

5. What does gentrification mean for the survival of the laundromat? Motherboard reports that the four New York City neighborhoods with the highest incomes have fewer laundromats than other neighborhoods, and further examines whether that trend applies to other cities.

But business owners aren't the only ones losing out when gentrification forces local businesses out. In areas with high concentrations of people living in older apartments or buildings not renovated recently enough to have their own facilities, laundromats serve up something akin to a public service, although they're privately owned. Indeed, according to Brewer, they're a curious community space built around the assumption that washing machines and dryers are technologies still not widely available to a certain demographic. · Recommended Reading archive [Curbed]