How design can help cities in decline
In the book Design After Decline, Brent D. Ryan examines two of America’s toughest cases—Detroit, which lost more than 150,000 housing units between 1950 and 2000, and North Philadelphia, which in the same period hemorrhaged more than 300,000 inhabitants. What revitalization strategies have a strong likelihood of success, he asks? Ryan preaches the virtues of a "reformed modernism, "that is not at odds with human scale, street walls, and other comforting urban elements." A prime example, he says, is Odhams Walk in Covent Garden, London—a “visually delightful,” low-rise, brick-clad complex built by the Greater London Council in 1982. A signal virtue of Ryan’s book is that it is not very theoretical. It tells, clearly and meticulously, the stories of what Detroit, Philadelphia, and to a lesser extent other cities, did in the last 30 years to try to climb back from ruin. If you want to know how cities can go about engineering their recovery, you’d do well to familiarize yourself with the history that Ryan has compiled. Better! Cities & Towns reviews this book in detail in the July-August 2012 issue.
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