California’s High Speed Rail Should Look Like Germany’s

Stations Can Be Vital Public Spaces That Provide Space for People to Gather, Shop, and Be Entertained

Will California’s high-speed rail system be German enough?

That question is not a joke, as I learned last month while riding Germany’s popular high-speed rail. In fact, it’s a more important question than the ones Californians have been myopically asking for years about the costs, funding, and construction deadlines of the state’s controversial project.

The value of high-speed rail does not lie in the cost or speed of trains, but rather in the ability of such projects to anchor deep connections—between transportation hubs, between cultural attractions, between cities, between job sites. And …

Will the Laptop Destroy the Coffee Shop?

Yes, We’re Using Our Beach Umbrellas to Charge Our Smartphones. No, It Doesn’t Mean the End of Public Space.

In an age when you can purchase a beach umbrella with solar panels to charge your smartphone, defining a public space—and differentiating it from the digital realm—is complicated. A Zócalo/Getty …

Public Space, Meet Cyberspace

The Rise of Digital Technology Has Changed the Way We Use Public Squares, Parks, and the Streets

Public squares and parks are the sites of some of history’s most memorable moments: the beheading of Marie Antoinette during the French Revolution at the Place de la Concorde (then …

Does America Need a Tahrir Square?

The U.S. Has Let the Public Square Become a Metaphor. That Can’t Be Good for Our Democracy.

Maidan Square in Kiev. Taksim Square in Istanbul. Tahrir Square in Cairo. Recent democratic movements around the globe have risen, or crashed and burned, on the hard pavement of vast …

Your Library Wants You to Make Some Noise!

From Hushed Sanctuary to Lively Community Space, the Library Is Changing (and Going Online)

“Does anyone go to libraries anymore?” A mayor, the president of a major foundation, a corporate executive, and several newspaper reporters have asked me that question. I’ve been asked it, …