Old Detroit, New Scale
Detroit, MI, USA
CLIENT TIME Magazine / STATUS Written & Designed 2010 / DESIGN TEAM Balmori Associates
Industrial cities reaching the end of an industry on which they were based, unable to stem the loss of jobs, the loss of capital and of people has become familiar to us since the 20th century. In the US perhaps there is no example as stark as that of Detroit, though Manchester in England, Essen in Germany are equally dire European examples.
Four points can serve as start-ups:
· To address the city’s issues not in physical layout terms of master plans.
· To address population needs in terms of developing transformations of the base industry and conserving its knowledge base at all costs.
· Any new venture which wishes to build a new urban nucleus needs to look at broader parameters e.g. not look at a map of the city, but also at its suficial geology, its position on the planet climatically, at its life history and not only of human life but of that of plants and animals, and of rivers and streams. New spots of growth will grow then from a different model of a city.
· To select the scale of the intervention, a critical element. In these circumstances, master plans for whole cities are the wrong instrument, at the wrong scale. Infrastructure set up in the nineteenth century has made us think that we must do things at the same scale e.g. whole city, all at once, which a decaying city can never afford.
Given our new technologies we can create smaller units with local control – that can eventually hook up with each other is so desired, in other words, a web of systems. It allows for modest regeneration where needed. Water systems can be treated this way, electrical, sewage, etc…