Archive for October, 2011

October 31, 2011

“Cities of Silence” ~ Chad Rosenbloom

In his Prison Notebooks, Italian Marxist and social theorist Antonio Gramsci offers some interesting insights on the origins of the modern capitalist enterprise and the nature of political power, attempting to explain why workers’ movements in Italy and Germany had so willingly capitulated to the rulings elites.  In the section of the book that focuses specifically on Italian history, Gramsci analyzes the complex relationship between town and country, describing how the political and socio-economic developments of the “Risorgimento” era (Unification of Italy) in the early 19th century caused an antagonistic relationship to crystallize within civic spaces between the “rural type” of person and the “self-styled urban type.”

The following is a quotation from the Quaderni:

“Does the agglomeration of the population in non-rural centers, which is almost twice as great as in France, demonstrate that Italy’s industrialization is double that of France?  Urbanism in Italy is not purely, nor ‘especially’ a phenomenon of capitalistic development or that of big industry.  Naples, which for a long time was the biggest Italian city and which continues to be one of the biggest, is not an industrial city: neither is Rome – at present the largest Italian city.  Yet in these mediaeval-type cities too, there exist strong nuclei of populations of a modern urban type; but what is their relative position?  They are submerged, oppressed, crushed by the other part, which is not of the modern type, and constitute the great majority.  Paradox of the ‘cities of silence’” (P. 91, Italics added).

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“Cities of silence” is a reference to a sequence of poems by Italian poet D’Annunzio describing the fading importance of twenty five different urban spaces in Italy during the course of the Risorgimento.  The “paradox” that Gramsci mentions concerns the shrinking significance of city-states which at one point in time were “glorious” or prosperous societies.  These spaces became mere villages of “secondary importance” to the growing industrial centers.

October 31, 2011

Bulldozing America’s Shrinking cities- Violeta Borilova

I found a New York Times article called “Bulldozing America’s Shrinking cities”  at the end of the article there is a blog in which people discuss the article. It is interesting to read the discrepancies there are on this topic, and the observations people bring up which link the topics of mobility, and urban policies, and what people think of them. I attached bellow some facts from the article:

“In 1900, every one of the 20 largest American cities was on a major waterway. All but two (San Francisco and New Orleans) were in the northeast quadrant of the country that is framed by the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. These cities grew because rivers and lakes made it possible to bring the great wealth of the American hinterland to the markets of the east, and then because manufacturing concentrated around transport hubs. Over the 20th century, a more than 90 percent decline in the cost of moving goods over space made these advantages obsolete, and Americans moved to newer Sun Belt cities built around the automobile.”

“The hallmark of declining places is an abundance of infrastructure relative to people. It is therefore particularly foolish to try to save declining places by building new infrastructure or homes. Buffalo would have done better to invest in its children than in light rail.”

“Razing abandoned buildings is the extreme acknowledgment that declining cities aren’t about to achieve former population levels. Parks are better than abandoned buildings, and Mayor Williams is right to want to right-size his city. So while the Obama administration hasn’t yet embraced the bulldozer, I’m hoping that they will embrace urban policies that put people ahead of place.”


The link is:


October 31, 2011

Preserving a City’s History – Ginny Hanusik

There was a post I came across that talked about the possible benefits of reconstructing shrinking cities in order to better serve the present community. The whole article ( got me thinking about when a city is transformed physically, who decides what remains in tact and what is demolished? Who ultimately decides what is important enough to be preserved?

Every citizen interprets a city in her or his own individual way which can easily lead to controversy when the issue of preservation arises. Thinking about cities in a historical context has primarily been used under the policy of expansion when thinking about what buildings or centers of cultural significance to keep in a times of growth. We’re now seeing, however, that historical context is important for shrinking cities as well.

Unesco’s World Heritage Centre is perhaps the most recognized organization working toward protecting cultural heritage and has a handy interactive map on their website for people to view what sites are multilaterally deemed as important. Though the list continues to grow – hopefully reaching 1,000  sites within the next year – it does not address the issue of preserving sites of cultural significance on a local scale. Only three sites are listed in the Eastern U.S. which include Independence Hall, the Statue of Liberty, and Monticello.


It then becomes the responsibility of the city, or, more specifically, the residents of the city, to decide what sites contain significance. In most cases we think of preservation as turning a building into a museum of itself, but it can also be performed as altering a site for different purposes while maintaining its historical identity. One example of the second type of preservation is the Brown Building in Manhattan that was the site of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, but is now a part of the NYU campus.


(Here’s a link to the WHC’s interactive map – it’s pretty cool. )



October 31, 2011

Suburbs, exurbs, ex-exurbs

Scarsdale, NY 19th, early 20th c suburbs

1950s suburbs

Exurbs 1990s-200s


October 31, 2011

Suburban space

October 31, 2011

Changing landscapes of consumption

Le Bon Marché, Paris

The American mega-mall (Mall of America, Minnesota)

suburban malls/ edge-city malls. e.g. Tyson’s, Virginia

Dead malls:


Place-specific outdoor malls. Urban heritage/brandng. Fanueil Hall, Boston

October 31, 2011

Park and Burgess- Chicago School model

October 31, 2011

Shrinking Cities Project- Germany

I found the site of a project that has been in effect in Eastern Germany since 2002 working address the global phenomen of shrinking cities.

It’s a collection of artists, architects, and academics who do studies of cities like Detroit, Liverpool, Ivanavo, Manchester, etc….. looking at what is causing the phenomenon and how to plan around it/for it, because contemporary urban planning can’t take it into account. They attribute the shrinking to many things: the end of the 200-year Industrial Revolution epoch, climate change, fossil-fuels shortages, and the rationalization of the service industry, and have created global future maps projecting the effects of fossil-fuels shortages on mobility, desertification and migration into and out of cities, heating and cooling changes in regions that will require different infrastructure and building types, flooding, etc.

I’m including links to pdfs of some of the maps. It’s just interesting to get a sense of what they are representing visually. They take their work, much more than just maps and do exhibits around the world to educate (apparently this is the first phase of the project).

Prog_HeizenKuehlen (Heating and cooling)

Prog_Ueberschwemmungen (Flooding and where/how many people will be affected by it)

Prog_Bevoelkerung (depiction of temporal population growth and decline around the world, including the peak in 2070, when apparently the world population is projected to reach 9 million, with 3/4 of all people living in cities)

October 31, 2011

Mohenjo-Daro-An Ancient Shrinking City (adam skinner)

Thinking about cities that are currently shrinking around the world made me think about ancient cities that ultimately shrank into nothing.  One ancient city that I came across was Mohenjo-Daro (a city located in current day Pakistan nine hundred years ago), which was discovered and excavated in the 1920’s.  Like many of the shrinking cities that we see around the world today, Mohenjo-Daro was a thriving urban settlement before its decline.  It dominated the Indus Valley civilization until a combination of economic hardship and floods prompted residents to abandon the booming city leaving a city comparable to modern day New York City or London under the desert sands for centuries.



It seems hard to imagine cities that seem to be flourishing to disappear like Mohenjo-Daro. Even though there are a clear economic and social parallels between Mohenjo-Daro and cities like New York City and London, it seems impossible to conceptualize New York City disappearing. —But perhaps it is impossible to predict the life of a city. Looking at the demise of an ancient city comparable to major cities today perhaps shows us that great and seemingly established and infinite places can come to an end.



October 31, 2011

Shrinking Cities–Bring in the New

A lot of people this week have written about Detroit.  I understand why.  I read article after article about Detroit: first, to understand the stats: Detroit’s population shrank around 25 percent in the last 10 years, and then to understand the new incentives surrounding Detroit’s (seemingly successful) mission to revamp a once depleted, dangerous, and poverty-stricken city.  So I found this article that I thought was appropriate: aptly named “Detroit Pushes Back with Young Muscles.”  Basically, the article compares Detroit to an old, pre-stroller mom, pre-double-venti-mocha-skim-late Brooklyn.  Detroit has become, seemingly, thanks to its shrinking city status, a new and hip growth. BECAUSE it was (is?) a shrinking city, it is extremely affordable, gritty, and perfect for college grads looking for something cheap.  It also offers spaces for art galleries, parties, etc.  I wonder: will Detroit change as rapidly as Brooklyn did?  Will it become so popular it loses its newfound cool?  Either way, I think its population decrease could only be called a positive; Detroit has found its way back.  I like how shrinking cities have this huge, blank slate.  Though it is difficult to rebuild, rename, re-categorize an entire city, it is definitely worth it.  Detroit’s back on track.  Its economy is slightly boosted.  It is filled with initiatives aimed at revitalizing the city, which are seemingly effective.


Look at:


October 31, 2011

Braddock, Pennsylvania- Rosemary Ferreira

I first heard of Braddock, Pennsylvania through the work of Latoya Ruby Frazier, a photographer raised in the small town, who has projected a very strong sociopolitical message about the impacts of deindustrialization on her community. Braddock, a satellite town just off of Pittsburgh, is home to Andrew Carnegie’s first steel mill, which had attracted immigrants and African Americans to the town, causing its population to swell to 20,000.  Braddock now stands at a population below 3,000 with the majority of its resident’s African American woman and with one third of the population below the poverty line. While Braddock was never truly considered a big and bustling city like Detroit or Baltimore, it is a prime example of the horrifying impacts of what can ensue once capital decides to flee, living behind decaying infrastructure as well as people. In an interview for the Huffington Post, Frazier illustrates the impacts of the steel mill on her community and how those who have lived next to the steel mill in the row houses built by Carnegie have suffered tremendously from various chronic illnesses such as lupus, which Frazier has, as well as cancer and asthma. “The mill has made the whole town toxic.”

Braddock has recently come under the spotlight not only because of Frazier whose work has caught the eye of many, but also because of a new radical “hipster” mayor, John Fetterman, who has attempted to revitalize the town through the creation of community gardens, art studios and a community center. However, Fetterman has been criticized by some community members because of his exclusionary projects such as unaffordable farmers markets or the fact that everyone in town calls the projects as work done by John rather than work done by the community. Still, Fetterman’s job as mayor has even attracted the big denim business Levi’s who had built a campaign using the town of Braddock as their backdrop for their jeans in 2010.  Frazier felt that the Levi’s company and their slogans “Go Forth” and “Everyone’s Work Is Equal” was disregarding the realities of  the town and was exploiting Braddock to sell its jeans while the community continued to suffer from neglect, chronic illnesses, poverty and unemployment.  The first video is Levi’s campaign in Braddock while the second is on Frazier and her work  as well as her performance in front of the Levi’s studio the day of the campaign release.

Frazier’s photographs reflect these harsh realities still faced by many in Braddock within the confinement of the private home she was raised in as a child. Her photos are mostly of family members who have suffered from illness, poverty and unemployment. These are the realities faced by those who live in the “shrinking cities”. While the community gardens and the farmers markets are creating a nice aesthetic for the town, there are still some crucial issues that have yet been discussed such as sources for opportunities for those living in such harsh conditions for so long. I think this quote from the New York Times piece on Braddock sums it up, “Nothing that was happening in Braddock — not the green roof on the old furniture store, not the screen printing studio run by members of a socially-conscious arts collective, not beehives, not the Shepard Fairey art installation on a nearby wall, not the Levi’s ad campaign — has changed the most essential facts of his life: he is poor and without prospects.”

NYTimes article:

October 31, 2011

Does the shrinking city present potential for improvement?

Are shrinking cities inherently a problem?  The health of the modern city is based upon the premise of expansion; a healthy city requires physical growth and technological progression.  The modern city plans for growth, but in the face of post-industrial urbanity and decreasing urban populations, what if the new norm was to plan for diminishment?  Or, to plan for the possibility of fluctuations?

Why should we be pushing towards urban planning that discards old infrastructure to be replaced with the new, when the next generation of urban planning could be a push to retrofit the infrastructure that already exists to a new population with a new economy?

Can we look at empty land and vacant lots as an opportunity and not a hindrance?  Perhaps the shrinking city presents great potential for sustainable development, urban farming and the restoration of urban ecosystems.

A great example of the retrofitting of old structures is the Rails to Trails Conservancy project in Kingston.  The project works with railways, infrastructure that was once used for mass transit and shipping  but no longer necessary for the city, to use their locations and routes to renovate into walking/biking/running trails.

This act can contain much symbolic significance as well: transforming railways, a sign of Kingston’s industrial past, into user-friendly walking trails is a sign of the city’s commitment to sustainable practices, and the ability to adapt to its citizens needs.

here’s a link to some of the rail-to-trails around the Kingston area:

October 31, 2011

Landscapes of Consumption: Las Vegas

The relevant parts for this class are 1:04-1:58 and 5:44-6:50

October 30, 2011

Cleveland, Ohio: Shrinking or Stabilizing? – Grace Diliberto

In this past decade, Cleveland, Ohio made its mark with the fastest rate of decline of any major city, aside from New Orleans, losing population at an alarming pace. At a steady rate of a 1% loss per year from 2000-2009, Cleveland lost nearly 10% of its population in the past decade as a whole. Once America’s 5th largest city, Cleveland now hovers around the 41st, with a 2009 census population of 433,748.

Having been hurt largely by the shift from mass manufacturing to specialized manufacturing, which requires fewer workers, Cleveland has become a haven for home foreclosures and vacant properties as the trend of jobs as a predominant factor in U.S. migration persists. One proposal for why Cleveland continues to struggle to pull in residents lies in the attitude of the city, more specifically the fear of foreigners. According to Mark Rosentraub, professor of urban studies and former dean of Cleveland State University’s Levin College of Urban Affairs, “there’s going to have to be a renewed commitment to immigration. No American city is growing without immigrants”. High-skill immigrants do, indeed, contribute to creating jobs, but they only flock to welcoming cities.

At the end of the last decade and in more recent years, however, Cleveland’s population began to show signs of possible stabilization. The decline lessened from the average of 1% per year to about 0.6% in 2010. At this point the decline has risen above that of Flint, Michigan. Beyond the percentages and numbers, Cleveland’s community continues to show promise. At the neighborhood level, the city has managed to hold on, at least to an extent, to social, developmental, and political capital through Community Development Corporations. 34 of Cleveland’s 36 defined neighborhoods maintain an established CDC, which encourages many positive innovations such as non-residential economic development, residential development and rehabilitation, neighborhood improvements, citizen outreach, grassroots organizing, and assistance with planning projects.

With a slow in population decline, an emphasis on a neighborhood planning approach, a greater connection between the city and its main institutions, such as the university, and a more welcoming stance toward immigrants, Cleveland can still maintain hope of a brighter future, despite the often staggering numbers.

October 30, 2011

Gabe Adels-Camden Waterfront

This post could be read in conjunction with Kathy’s article, also about Camden…

Camden, NJ, is located across the Delaware River from my home city of Philadelphia. It is notoriously the epitome of an, ugly, post-industrial, dangerous city. The crime rate is one of the worst ten in the country, even though it’s a relatively small city. Growing up, I felt like the Camden Waterfront was the one thing that made the city worth visiting. Now I realize that the Waterfront just makes the city the epitome of  the privatization of “public space” leading, basically,  to segregation, and a lack of welfare to the actual residents of the city.

Growing up, I’d occasionally frequent Camden for a a very specific set of tasks. The aquarium, the Vans Warped Tour, a really good thrift store off the highway. It always seemed like a depressed place, but I never thought too much about it, too excited to see sharks or A New Found Glory. Last summer, as a cultural experiment, I went back to the waterfront to see an enormous sold-out Phish show. We took the subway one stop past the waterfront stop, and walked from there. We walked through neighborhoods of houses that looked totally abandoned except for vendors selling glow sticks. There was an eery silence, and cop cars flashing lights in every direction. Not only had the entire economy of the city seemingly been converted from Campbell’s Soup Factory jobs to street vendors serving the wealthy stoners of Philadelphia’s suburbs, but the police force had been as well. Dutifully protecting us and our money from the criminal threat of Camden, which was left to its own devices as the festival raged on.

The waterfront, still the hub of economic activity in the area, shifted from an industrial to a recreational space. The entertainment is not targeted towards Camden residents, who don’t have as much money as Philadelphians across the river. The waterfront, and economic activity, becomes defined by non-natives of the city, and the local residents have no means to find work. Drugs, Crime, emigration. The epitome of a shrinking city.

not an interesting link, just give you a taste of the bland flavor…

October 30, 2011

Use of shrinking cities! Jose Mendez

The United States is well known to be a very industrialized country, which provide a lot of inner and outer benefits. At the same time, the industrialization period causes a lot of physical disturbance and destruction. Many cities during the 1950’s were prosper and successful on their manufactures and local businesses. However, everything is not perfect for these cities and they struggled severely due to many factors and the inflation on the economy is one of them. A vivid example of this is the city of Baltimore. This phenomenon is called “shrinking cities,” where the city becomes a haunted place, where there is no people residing the city. In a literal sense, these shrinking cities become haunted, not because there are ghost around but because there are cities outside of the legal world. The legal system does not care about the landscape of these cities anymore because they do not bring any benefit. Therefore, people like homeless use the landscape on their advantages and the city becomes a haven for drugs and illegal activities.  So do the “shrinking cities” become underground cities that provide a urban space to those who cannot explicit be free doing their illegal activities?

October 30, 2011

Urban Farming? Elyse Foladare

The Economist article “Smaller is more beautiful” proposes urban farming as a viable option for shrinking cities. Looking at Flint in Michigan City the article explains,

” In 1968, General Motors, which was founded in Flint, employed 80,000 employees there. Today, there are only 6,000. The city’s population has halved since 1960, falling from 197,000 to just over 100,000; proportionately, it has suffered nearly as badly as Michigan’s largest city, Detroit. Many unable to sell were forced to abandon their houses. Others lost their homes to foreclosure.”

With all the empty lots why not move away from the urban landscape and instead build up the farm? Today urban farmers Joanna Lehrman’s and Roxanne Adair plant fresh vegetables for the city in plots of land that have been abandoned for quite some time. They bought the land from Genesee County Land Bank, which has offered residents extremely cheap land at as low as 50 dollars. According to The Economist, “Until about a year ago the land was 16 abandoned residential lots along Beach Street, filled with rubbish, broken pieces of concrete and burnt trees.” Urban farming will not only allow for deserted, unkempt land to be cared for once again but will also provide fresh ingredients to residents who may have very little or no access to fresh produce. Although this solution will not bring back the thousands of lost residents, it will give the city a healthier, new look while providing for the community that has chosen to stay in the city.

In the video I attached, Roxanne Adair pronounces, “The city needs something different[…] [The farm] changes crime rates, it changes the way people keep their yards. I don’t see a down side to any of it.” Once people begin to take initiative and change the city, Roxanne realizes that the rest will follow. People will see change and want to continue to make change.

With innovation, other cities are rethinking their place in society and reinventing it, keeping in mind the decreasing population. Thinking about the environment, other cities like Pittsburgh are following the same path transforming abounded neighborhoods into parks with trails for hiking. As long as cities realize their fate, their are great options for the shrinking city.

For more information:

October 30, 2011

A byword for urban failure, Kathy Garzon

Camden NJ, United States poorest cities with a median household income of $18,007 the lowest of all U.S population. In fact half of its population lives below the poverty line. It also ranges at the top 10 of most dangerous., and it has been the most dangerous city in 2004,2005, and 2009. As Detroit, Camden was one a vibrant city, It was a main connector between NJ and Pennsylvania, The railroad made the population increase, commerce was booming as more people were moving in, and others travel back and forth from NYC and PN. Factories led to an increase in job opportunities, RCA, General Electric, and New York Shipbuilding Corporation, and Campbell soup were the major employers of the area. However, since the 1970s several factors lead to a decrease in population (1970 ppl was 102,551, 2010 ppl is 77,344) the sharp decline was do to an urban decay, Highway constructions, and racial tensions.  The 2010 census reveals that the two major populations in the area are Blacks or African Americans with 48.1% and 47.0% Hispanic or Latino.  Another important fact of this city was the political history since its major Milton Milan on was found to be involved in organized crime; the State took control of the city until last year where they had elections for the Major.


Redevelopments has been pass and pass through the years to different sponsors, corporations, and individuals.  Unfortunately, many still live in what is the as the Camden ghetto. Seen the pictures of this city is sad because you could see the deterioration of the place, from vacant buildings that have been burn out by the owners so they would get money to live the place, to street paths that have been forgotten and overtime grass is what most have. A article in The Nation describes Camden as “the physical refuse of postindustrial America.” The prediction is that the city would never recuperated, the police are overwhelmed, and they just lost 300 of their members due to budget cuts. Homelessness, drug trafficking, prostitution, robbery are the everyday life of the individuals in this city.

See the work of Camilo Jose Vergara, who has photograph Camden and different cities from 1970s to 2000s to show the differences and the transformations of the invisible cities.

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October 29, 2011

Shrinking cities, growing opportunity

As cities in the American midwest continue to shrink, our global population is fast approaching 7 billion humans. David Harvey would say those cities were bound to shrink because capital needs to move. Cities like Detroit and Flint, Michigan were built on capital from the auto industry, but it was cheaper to outsource jobs, so the cities were left with no industry to support the population. What are these cities to do with tons of broken down houses and vacant lots? Many are saying that this land can return to nature, through a process of tearing down the cities, which is extremely expensive. But if America needs anything right now it is jobs, and land to grow food and harness energy. Shrinking cities seem like an opportunity for Obama to have his own New Deal. Put America to work dismantling the cities and growing crops, revitalizing land, and harnessing clean energy. The land under the shrinking cities should not be used for capital, but for sustaining our country. For harvesting resources that will help combat the woes of climate change. Maybe re-appropriating the land for permaculture farms is the new American frontier. Maybe this forgotten space can be bought up really cheap by subcultures like anarchist, or the occupiers, and they can start there own colonizations in the wake of capitalism.

October 29, 2011

Making Art from Shrinking Cities

The University of California, Berkeley  began a research project on shrinking cities in 2004 and from that research they defined a shrinking city as “a densely populated urban area with a minimim population of 10, 000 residents that has faced population losses in large parts for more than two years and is undergoing economic transformations with some symptoms of a structural crisis”(from Planning Shrinking Cities by Justin B. Hollander). Shrinking cities have become a global pattern in the past 50 years as cities that were dependent on manufacturing begin to deindustrialize. Should we fight the decline in population and falling economic markets in these cities to preserve social history? Should we accept the decline and have urban planners re-organize cities to cope with the shrinking population?  Is it even possible to use modern planning tools to shrink cities? There are many social, political, and economic sides to shrinking cities but nothing substantial has happened in any shrinking city to either resist or foster the inevitable down-sizing. Instead most of this phenomenon has caught the attention of artists in different ways in reaction to this new kind of space.

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Detroit has become a hub for artists who need a cheap place to live and large studio space.  Artists in the neighborhood have started to build up the neighborhood by taking over houses, maintaining them, and thinking of innovative ways to further the area. Shrinking Cities have also brought a different art movement in Europe. The devastating shrinking cities in Europe instigated a major art project by the German Federal Cultural Foundation to further dialogue around shrinking cities.  Since 2002 photographers and researchers have concentrated globally on demolishing urban infrastructure and residential improvements.  They focused on four cities: Detroit; Halle/Leipzig, Germany; Manchester/Liverpool, England; and Ivanovo, Russia.  The result is an exhibit that circulated globally in 2007. This exhibition documents the economic, social, and cultural change that has coincided with the physical changes of shrinking cities.

Further Information:

Planning Shrinking Cities by Justin B. Hollander

More on Shrinking Cities Exhibit

New York Times Debate on Shrinking Cities

Shrinking Cities Exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Detroit