Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Dead cities

At a lunch I hosted last week at the Radisson Edwardian Free Trade Hall, a noted chronicler of urban affairs, Phil Griffin, contributed to the discussion with his usual colour and clarity. But can you guess which city he was talking about?

May I say if you take the longest possible historical view then it is that cities die.

There are examples all over the world of the corpses of dead cities.

And as we sit here in this room we are observing the death of a city in our lifetime. I think that is extraordinary. It has gone from being, when I was a child, one of the most prosperous cities on earth, to being virtually uninhabitable.

It is just horrific that it has gone from having 7 and a half million contented residents to being a dead place. However prosperous it thought it was it didn’t have a sense of its own decline.

It didn’t face the faults of its own internal mechanisms. One of which was that it was a mono economy.

Neither did it recognise when its cultural flagships were leaving town. That one of the reasons the city was as boisterous and prosperous as it was had actually just fled to the coast.

We have come to the end of the phase of post-industrial cities which began in earnest when Pascal Maragal said at the end of the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona that "we have reinvented the city as a cultural phenomena."

The gloves are now off. We can see cities dying before our very eyes. That is very cautionary.

Where was Phil talking of?


Unknown said...

I would have said Liverpool but the population is too small. Therefore, I'd guess it's either New York City or London. Though I find it hard to think of them as mono-economies. Where was it?

Michael Taylor said...

No, no, no.

I'll update at the end of today.

Unknown said...

New Orleans?

Unknown said...

Give us a clue!
Somewhere in Asia?
Maybe in China?

Michael Taylor said...

Detroit. And the culture leaving town was Tamla Motown departing for LA.