The Future Of Menial Jobs

Monday, July 10, 2000

PARIS — If you’re hankering to watch a movie after midnight here, you don’t search for an all-night video store. You walk down the street to the nearest Cinebank, a machine carved into a wall that, similar to an automatic teller machine, dispenses movies instead of cash.

Slip in your credit card, scroll through some movie titles, press a button, and presto: out from a slot emerges the latest Depardieu, Schwarzenegger or Julie Roberts flic.

Such machines haven’t hit the United States yet. And with our low labor costs, they may never. In this country, it may always be cheaper to pay someone to man a late-night video store, rather than pay to set up the machine and develop the technology that makes it possible.

Beneath the Metropolis: The Secret Lives of Cities

My latest book, “Beneath the Metropolis: The Secret Lives of Cities,” was published in late 2006 by Carroll and Graf Publishers. Here’s some basic information on it below, and you can find more on Amazon.

Beneath the Metropolis: The Secret Lives of Cities By Alex Marshall
ISBN 0-7867-1864-1 EAN 978-0-7867-1864-1
$29.95 Trade Paper
240pp, 8 1/2 x 11 Carton Qty: 20
Art & Architecture/ Urban & Land Use Planning
ARC010000 Fall 2006 Rights: W Carroll & Graf

Puerto Rico builds a train in the sky

Metropolis Magazine
October 2001

The startling truth about San Juan, a metropolitan area of 1.4 million people in Puerto Rico, is that most of it looks like New Jersey. It is a landscape of ugly roadways lined with strip malls, American franchise restaurants, and glass office towers overlooking impenetrable limited-access highways. Sure, there is Old San Juan, the sixteenth-century fortified city with its tiny cobblestone streets. But that citadel of the picturesque, which sits on a point of land in the harbor, is a tiny speck in San Juan’s overall breadth. The bulk of the city was developed after World War II, when tax breaks and other incentive programs brought in industry. And in good postwar fashion, American and Puerto Rican engineers and urban planners heavily promoted the highway as the proper spine for development.

In Cairo: A Mega City Confronts its Challenges

With the Middle East’s martial concerns filling the news, it was a change of pace this month to visit the region’s biggest city, Cairo, and examine more quotidian concerns, namely its urban planning policies and problems.

With approximately 18 million people (estimates vary), Cairo can be seen as both a problem and a solution to the challenges of a developing country. Cairo is, in one analyst’s term, a “Mega-city” – a huge, expanding cloud of population, much of it poor, that by some estimates is adding 1.25 million people a year. Where all these people live, how to give them water, dispose of their waste, and allow them to travel, are the central questions. The challenges of Cairo are, in a word, infrastructure.

A Glimpse of Cuba in 1988

It was lunch hour inside the Ministry of Commerce in old Havana. In a small cafeteria, in a building that dated back to the 1800s, workers ate baked fish, rice and beans, soup, salad and cake, off white dishes on tin trays. They washed down the food and cut the sweltering heat with cold water from sweating metal pitchers placed on each of the 20 tables. Like many of the basics in contemporary Cuba, the meal was subsidized and cost each employee only a few cents.

A clerk there, a 58-year-old man with crooked teeth and thinning hair, spoke about why life was better, now that a Communist government ruled his country.

What Makes A Neighborhood Viable?

a roundtable debate – Alex Marshall and Andres Duany
May, 1995

Our article in May about the redevelopment of East Ocean View in Norfolk, Virginia (“When the New Urbanism Meets an Old Neighborhood”), has sparked discussion – verbal, written, and electronic – about similarities writer Alex Marshall sees between urban renewal programs of the 1950s and 1960s and Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater – Zyberk’s plans for the Norfolk neighborhood. At the heart of the debate is a facet of New Urbanism that is disturbing to some critics and could impede the movement in the future: The majority of projects suggest an unwillingness to accommodate existing building stock into its new neighborhoods. New Urbanists call their movement the “architecture of community” – a questionable label when architects appear willing to remove existing communities to build new ones. But for now, the issue is whether this part of East Ocean View is viable enough to save.

Teaching New Urbanism


Every July for the past few years, architect Andres Duany had taught a three-day workshop at Harvard on New Urbanism, the urban design philosophy he helped mold and promote. A group of architects, developers and other professionals were given the basics of neo-traditional design, while Duany and the New Urban movement got the imprint of Harvard’s esteemed name.

No longer. Before this summer, (1997) Duany fired off a letter saying he could “no longer associate his name with a school that is not fertile ground for urbanism,” said Alex Krieger, an architect and director of the urban designprogram at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design.

Seaside At Twenty


The tip of Florida’s panhandle hangs out over the waters of the Gulf of Mexico like ripe fruit on a low-hanging branch, easy pickings. This skinny, 100-mile strip sits directly below Alabama, almost walling it off from the sea. Located in a different time zone, an hour behind the rest of the state, the panhandle has long been popular with vacationers. Nestled in the bosom of the old Confederacy, families from Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana have flocked to the small beach towns here, giving the coast the moniker of “The Redneck Riviera.” With its aqua-green waters and pure white sand, it probably rivals the real Riviera in natural beauty, if not in movie stars.

Putting Some ‘City’ Back In the Suburbs

The Washington Post – 1996
Sunday, September 1, 1996; Page C01
By Alex Marshall

THEY ARE proliferating in former farm fields and distant suburbs all around Washington, these clusters of brick row houses that look as though they were airlifted out of Georgetown. Some are imposing, New England style Victorians with wrap-around front porches. Others are affixed with steeply angled stoops that suggest kids playing stick ball and neighbors swapping tales. so known as neo-traditionalism, New Urbanism is the architectural and town-planning movement that proposes to cure the ills of contemporary suburban life — from sterile communities to cookie-cutter architecture to disaffected politics — by refashioning subdivisions to resemble traditional small towns or big-city neighborhoods.