Design After Decline

Design After Decline: How America Rebuilds Shrinking Cities

Brent D. Ryan
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Design After Decline
    Book Description:

    Almost fifty years ago, America's industrial cities-Detroit, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Baltimore, and others-began shedding people and jobs. Today they are littered with tens of thousands of abandoned houses, shuttered factories, and vacant lots. With population and housing losses continuing in the wake of the 2007 financial crisis, the future of neighborhoods in these places is precarious. How we will rebuild shrinking cities and what urban design vision will guide their future remain contentious and unknown. In Design After Decline, Brent D. Ryan reveals the fraught and intermittently successful efforts of architects, planners, and city officials to rebuild shrinking cities following mid-century urban renewal. With modern architecture in disrepute, federal funds scarce, and architects and planners disengaged, politicians and developers were left to pick up the pieces. In twin narratives, Ryan describes how America's two largest shrinking cities, Detroit and Philadelphia, faced the challenge of design after decline in dramatically different ways. While Detroit allowed developers to carve up the cityscape into suburban enclaves, Philadelphia brought back 1960s-style land condemnation for benevolent social purposes. Both Detroit and Philadelphia "succeeded" in rebuilding but at the cost of innovative urban design and planning. Ryan proposes that the unprecedented crisis facing these cities today requires a revival of the visionary thinking found in the best modernist urban design, tempered with the lessons gained from post-1960s community planning. Depicting the ideal shrinking city as a shifting patchwork of open and settled areas, Ryan concludes that accepting the inevitable decline and abandonment of some neighborhoods, while rebuilding others as new neighborhoods with innovative design and planning, can reignite modernism's spirit of optimism and shape a brighter future for shrinking cities and their residents.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0658-6
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Chapter 1 “The Burden Has Passed”: Urban Design After Urban Renewal
    (pp. 1-36)

    In 1970 (Montgomery 1971, 35) the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, announced a new program to rebuild urban neighborhoods across the United States. Coming at the end of two decades in which American cities had been reconstructed, reshaped, and rethought as never before in their history, many people must have found it difficult to imagine that bolder moves were possible. What could surpass a decade in which hundreds of low-income housing projects totaling hundreds of thousands of units had been built (Thompson 2006, 6), tens of thousands of miles of interstate highways had been constructed...

  5. Chapter 2 Shrinkage or Renewal? The Fate of Older Cities, 1950–90
    (pp. 37-83)

    In 1950, few of the many passersby on Detroit’s Woodward Avenue could have predicted the ruinous condition of the street fifty years later. The street’s postwar vibrancy made Woodward’s future demise seem both improbable and impossible. How could Woodward’s passersby have known that Detroit’s central shopping street—the nexus of retailing and office trade in the great industrial state of Michigan—would be a dusty, abandoned valley of empty buildings and vacant lots in 2000? How could they have known that the mighty Hudson’s department store—the largest in the United States after Macy’s New York (“Vast Shopping Center” 1950,...

  6. Chapter 3 “People Want These Houses”: The Suburbanization of Detroit
    (pp. 84-127)

    On Detroit’s far east side, along the shore of the Detroit River, lies a neighborhood called Jefferson-Chalmers. It is much like other Detroit neighborhoods, including the source of its name, prosaically derived from two neighborhood streets (Figure 3.1). Jefferson-Chalmers’s very long city blocks that are located perpendicular to the river are legacies from French eighteenth-century arpent subdivisions, which permitted landowners access to the all-important strait, or détroit. Apart from this remnant of New France, Jefferson-Chalmers’s built environment is no older than the rest of Detroit: its houses were constructed during the city’s explosive early twentieth-century growth at the same time...

  7. Chapter 4 “Another Tradition in Planning”: The Suburbanization of North Philadelphia
    (pp. 128-173)

    On January 6, 1992, W. Wilson Goode stepped down as mayor of Philadelphia. Few, Goode not excepted, would argue that his term had been successful. In reality, the past two decades had not been good ones for the city. Polarizing mayor Frank Rizzo and Goode, the city’s first African American mayor, had seen Philadelphia suffer a host of related problems: economic decline, population loss, white flight, and political fiascos such as the 1985 MOVE bombing (Goode 1992, 207–31). Philadelphia had avoided the drastic depopulation of Coleman Young’s Detroit, but the city’s situation looked poor in comparison to New York,...

  8. Chapter 5 Toward Social Urbanism for Shrinking Cities
    (pp. 174-224)

    Far away from the shrinking cities of the United States, the rapidly growing city of Medellín, Colombia, experienced a revolution between 2003 and 2010. This was a political revolution, but not the kind that one might expect given Latin America’s twentieth-century history. Medellín’s revolution was one of architecture, political economy, and social justice—in short, a revolution of social urbanism. This was the term coined by Alejandro Echevarri, director of Empresa de Desarrollo Urbano (urban works) in Mayor Sergio Fajardo’s administration (2003–7). Medellín was a very different city from both Detroit and Philadelphia—its population increased by 620 percent...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 225-226)
  10. Works Cited
    (pp. 227-244)
  11. Index
    (pp. 245-262)
  12. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 263-263)