Selected Press comments on the project in newspapers, magazines, radio and television. (Status: May 2007)
“Disneyland in the Lagoon” by Gerhard Mack, Neue Zürcher Zeitung Oct. 15, 2006
Venice is only one of 350 big cities around the world that have experienced a massive decline in population since 1950. This process of shrinking has become one of the currently most important urbanistic projects, under the management of Philipp Oswalt.
“Venice, Shrinking City” by Benedikt Hotze, baunetz.de Sept. 28, 2006
On our biennial excursion, we initially take a boat past several deserted islands. Sonorous names like La Grazia Sacca Séssola and San Giorgio in Alga cannot conceal that here buildings stand empty and unused. No one lives here anymore and there is no public transportation here. [...] Venice, shrinking city: This is true not only on the lagoon, but also on the mainland. For us, the Shrinking Cities excursion by Philipp Oswalt is among the most impressive program points of this biennial.
“The Disappearance of a City” by Anne Isopp, Profil – Das Nachrichtenmagazin (Austria) Aug. 21, 2006
Eisenerz is a city that was conceived for 13,000 people but currently has only 5,700 residents. “If we are not to turn into a ghost town, we have to do something,” says Mayor Gerhard Freiinger, thinking aloud about demolishing some buildings to consolidate. [...] But hopes for truly comprehensive suggestions are being placed in the Eisenerz 2021 idea competition. The organizers expect it to provide a model for other regions and cities in Austria – after all, Eisenerz is only one example of the trend toward shrinking cities. The exhibition “Aufbruch – Umbruch” (Setting off – Changing), which will be shown in the Eisenerz Municipal Museum beginning in September, focuses on this situation. The exhibition will also show the numerous studies that have already been made of Eisenerz, along with part of the Berlin exhibition “Shrinking Cities”.
“Ruse Among the Shrinking Cities” by Lilya Racheva, Sedmitsa – Cultural Guide to Ruse and its Region (Bulgaria) Aug. 22, 2006
As paradoxical as it may sound, the exhibition “Shrinking Cities” in the art gallery Ruse addresses a fact that involves and even threatens us residents of Ruse. The initiators put together the unusual exhibition of video material, maps, photographs, and pictures on the basis of research and statistical data. The extent of global shrinkage is revealed on a huge map of the world that confronts the visitor as soon as he enters the gallery.
“As older cities shrink, some reinvent themselves” von Haya El Nasser, USA Today 27.12.2006
Slowly, old American cities that have been in a downward population spiral for a half-century or more are reinventing themselves as, well, smaller cities. They’re starting to adopt tenets of the burgeoning, European-born “Shrinking Cities” movement. The idea: If cities can grow in a smart way, they can also shrink smartly. […] What occurred in U.S. Cities over a half-century happened almost overnight in Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Eastern Germany suffered a net loss of almost 1 million people to western Germany from 1991 to 2004. […] The rapid decline inspired Germany’s Federal Cultural Foundation to launch the Shrinking Cities project. The goal was to develop strategies for eastern Germany, but it unleashed broad interest throughout Europe and parts of Asia, where fertility rates are dropping and populations aging. The discussion went global. A Shrinking Cities exhibition shown in Europe now is on display in New York. It will head to Detroit in February.
“Quiet, Please? Not for this Art!” von James Freed, New York Times 28.03.2007
At the Shrinking Cities Opening, nearly 1,000 people funnelled through the exhibitions and performances by Odu Afrobeat Orchestra and the art-rock band Human Eye with an energy that made the event feel more like a happening than an opening. The flowing crowd made the space – which retains the gritty charms of its former existence as a Dodge dealership – seems less like a drafty warehouse and more like an organism.
„Urban Retreat“ von Philip Kennicott, Washington Post 17.02.2007
A dazzling and provocative new international exhibition, “Shrinking Cities”, which is so big it occupies two of Detroit’s premier museums, the fledgling but edgy MOCAD and the established and respected Cranbrook Art Museum in the suburbs. […] It’s rare for an exhibition to feel so dense and elemental and important all at once. But “Shrinking Cities”, which originated in Germany, explodes the notion of an art and architecture show by expanding it into sociology, history, city planning and demographics alongside video, photography, conceptual art, poetry, music and just about every other kind of currently fashionable artistic production. In one gallery you find charts and maps and animated graphs that show how many cities have expanded and imploded over the past century. In another, there’s a video about how people in the areas outside Detroit are exhuming their dead relatives from urban cemeteries for reburial, closer to home, in the vastly expanding suburbs.
“Patchwork Urbanism” by Hubertus Adam, Neue Zürcher Zeitung Oct. 7, 2006
The topic of shrinking has drawn public attention in recent years, especially against the background of economic structural change. The research project “Shrinking Cities”, which has spanned several years and is funded by Germany’s Kulturstiftung des Bundes, has resulted in two exhibitions flanked by large accompanying publications and recently an informative “Atlas of Shrinking Cities”.
„Inner-City Blues“ by Shumon Basar, Tank Magazine 4/2007
While Mega-Cities and urban obesity hit the headlines with increasing frequency, the Shrinking Cities research team has doggedly focused on the demographic equivalent of chronic metropolitan anorexia. Its beautiful illustrated book, with a large format that evokes the authority of an atlas, intelligently and lucidly translates lots of alarming facts and figures into a series of charts, graphs and diagrams. It was hard to pick just one.
“Cartographed Shrinking” by Florian Heilmeyer, Werk, Bauen+Wohnen, 1/2007
With the “Atlas of Shrinking Cities”, the last (for now) of three impressively extensive publications by the project has been released. It presents the analyses and results. [...] In the brief but precise depiction of the extremely various forms of shrinking, the Atlas develops the persuasive power of a bulldozer. The interest of the project’s authors and of the Atlas is not to present final, generalizable solutions, but to think profoundly about the complex problematic. The aim is to set off on a long, arduous journey, to enliven the empty spaces with developmental scenarios, societal designs, and participation, and to integrate “soft tools” in planning.
”Growth and Decline of the Cities” by Caspar Schäfer, Tages-Anzeiger (Switzerland) Nov. 20, 2006
The “Atlas of Shrinking Cities” can be termed a standard work of documentation of a development that already shapes European reality in particular and that will appear even more clearly in the near future.
”The Survival of the Cities” by Stéphane Saillargeon, Le Devoir (Canada) Dec. 11, 2006
The website (shrinkingcities.com) provides information in three languages (German, English, Russian). The project’s activities comprise exhibitions, including a much-respected contribution to this year’s 10th Architecture Biennial in Venice. When will a presentation of the works be shown in the Canadian Centre for Architecture? [...] Quebec could take inspiration and find new solutions for the cities of Bécancour, Scotstown, Huntingdon, and Lebel-sur-Quévillon.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung /// "Please Enter the Deconstruction Site" / Arnold Bartetzky / Januar 7, 2006
Leipzig's Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst is presenting itself as a construction site this winter. The exhibition pavilion, completed only a year ago, is again concealed behind tarpaulins and encased in boards; a construction fence blocks the entry area between the new building and the original building in the Villa Herfurth, and a container serves as a provisional ticket sales booth. Only the posters pasted to the fence, with their grotesque slogans like "Cut Eastern Germany in Half", "Cultivate Regression", and "Accelerate Standstill", indicate that the seeming construction site is an art installation. The simulation of a construction site - more precisely, a deconstruction site - aims to set the mood for the current exhibition. Titled "Shrinking Cities - Interventions", it shows about three dozen specially commissioned art projects, along with a few older works, that center on topics like de-industrialization and dwindling population, as well as the resulting remodeling and decline of cities. The exhibition conceived by Philipp Oswalt and his co-curators is part of a large-scale project sponsored by the Federal Cultural Foundation and is devoted to the cultural aspects of urban shrinking. It is the complementary counterpart of the first exhibition, shown in Berlin in 2004 under the title "Shrinking Cities - International Investigation" and currently on view in a further-developed form in Halle-Neustadt.
If the first showing focused on an analysis of processes of shrinking based on selected cities on various continents, the second exhibition aims to present "Concepts for Action" for dealing with the deterioration of shrinking cities, primarily in eastern Germany. But what is intended is not so much prescriptions that can be realized in concrete, urban-planning, or socio-political terms as it is sometimes utopian visions, intellectual speculations, and performative actions that aim to open up new glimpses of the changes in the city and landscape through a provocative gesture undermining traditional expectations placed on urbanity and regional planning.
Deutsches Architektenblatt ///Leipzig: Exhibition "Shrinking Cities" / Olaf Bartels / January 2006
The project "Shrinking Cities" has entered its second round. After the presentation of internationally conceived investigations of the phenomenon of shrinking cities in the Kunst Werken KW Berlin in 2004, now concepts for action are being presented in the Galerie für zeitgenössische Kunst Leipzig. [...] The contributions are sorted into five fields of activity: "Negotiating Inequality" means nothing less than abandoning the principle of equality in Germany's federal regional development policy and replacing it with a targeted regional promotion of differences, as well. "Self Government" aims to support the self-organization of residents. "Making Images" means planning reduction when it is necessary, rather than unsuccessfully resisting a development that is unavoidable. These maxims sound quite reasonable, but some of the presented projects are spectacular: For example, the group "anschlaege.de" suggests cultivating mushrooms in the moist areas of empty apartment buildings. With the project "Cow - the udder way", architects and choreographers from London have tried to accustom Liverpool residents to the everyday presence of cows in the city. Fidler.tornquist, architects from Graz, Austria, suggest setting up a People's Republic of China Special Economic Zone in the Halle an der Saale region. The projects aim to spur people to rethink the principle of the city and to tread new paths of urban construction or reconstruction. To this end, the exhibition teaches us to take up new viewpoints.
Frankfurter Rundschau /// "Walling In and Taking a Breath" / Elke Buhr / January 4, 2006
For three years, under this catch phrase, a Federal Cultural Foundation project headed by the Berlin architect Philipp Oswalt has focused on the urban problem in which first industry and jobs and then the qualified segment of the population disappear and finally the infrastructure erodes in various ways - a scenario equally observable in the former motor city of Detroit in the USA, in Manchester and Liverpool, England, and in the cities of eastern Germany.
The first part of the project, whose results were summarized last year as the exhibition Shrinking Cities 1, was primarily an inventory: How and to what extent do cities shrink all over the world? What happens to the texture of urbanity when it gets holes? And what effects does this have on the residents' quality of life and psyches? While this showing can currently be viewed in updated form in Halle an der Saale, the Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst in Leipzig is now presenting the second part of the project. The focus here is on "Interventions", on concepts for action, suggestions, and perspectives for the future for the risky remodeling of cities. Architects, sociologists, and artists took part in a corresponding contest staged by the architecture magazine archplus. Now the documentation of these works comprises a sometimes rather unsurveyable, but fascinating exhibition route in the Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst in Leipzig, which was decoratively encased in plywood for this purpose. Life is a construction site, especially where it is in the process of being torn down. [...] But what is truly fascinating about the Leipzig exhibition - and about the extensive volume of essays that accompanies it and goes far beyond it - is its radical visions.
Die Welt /// "Before the Fusion" /Uta Baier /December 22, 2005
In recent years, no other institution has understood as well as the Federal Cultural Foundation how to support and initiate significant and cultural-historically relevant projects. One can say that this its task and that it has lots of money for it, 38 million Euros. But one also has to say that it keeps getting better at fulfilling its task of supporting what is big and fostering the small and local. "Shrinking Cities", the research and exhibition project now to be seen in Halle an der Saale, has shown this in particular. Since the project has existed, not only has what is empty been torn down; people have also thought about what that means for the cities.
Bauwelt /// "Shrinking Cities - Interventions" /Brigitte Schultz / 48/2005
The new building of the Galerie für zeitgenössische Kunst is covered with boards and tarps. A rough construction fence protects the building from intruders. Behind it, one hears the voices of a few curious people - and the mooing of cows. The latter emanates from loudspeakers mounted on the roof: an initial sign that this image of emptiness is not another regrettable bankruptcy, but a composed scene. It aims to set the mood for the exhibition inside, which promises "Concepts for Action and Interventions" for shrinking cities. [...] The exhibition offers a wealth of varied approaches developed by international architects, scientists, entrepreneurs, and artists. About half of them were realized in the framework of the Shrinking Cities Project of the Federal Cultural Foundation, some on commission from the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation, some for the archplus context "Shrinking Cities", and some as work stipends awarded by the gallery.
Leipziger Volkszeitung /// "Cows in the Empty Space" / Jürgen Kleindienst / November 25, 2005
The exhibition [in the Galerie für Zeitgenössiche Kunst Leipzig] is part of a federal initiative project planned for four years. [...] Now possible conclusions are presented for debate in the GfZK. 34 newly developed projects present opportunities in five fields of action: "Negotiating Inequality", "Making Images", "Organizing Retreat", "Occupying Spaces". [...] The exhibition in the GfZK's new and old buildings thinks ahead and has become a labyrinthine market of possibilities. [...] Art in tune with the pulse of the age. And as a pacemaker.
ICON MAGAZINE/// "Shrinking Cities"/ By Kieran Long/ November 2004
Between 1981 and 2001 Liverpool lost 11.6% of its population. Manchester lost 9.1 % in the same period. Despite the vaunted urban renaissance now happening in both cities, the legacy of these times lingers. The gap between rich and poor is wide, and the top-down masterplanning approach is unable to offer more than a token consideration of the rich and complex cultures of these cities.
A new exhibition that has just opened in Berlin is the first serious an in-depth survey of this phenomenon. Shrinking Cities, a programme funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation, is the beginning of a debate about how to deal with shrinking populations in urban areas. It also examines how the social fracturing and physical deterioration that occcur in these areas can breed new movements in music and art, giving new identity and pride to cities.
THE SPECTATOR /// "Urban Decay" / By Selina Mills / October 9, 2004
What the Shrinking Cities teams confirmed, after three years of research, was that, contrary to the prevailing myth that cities are ever-expanding and overcrowded with masses of people out of control, more than 450 cities worldwide have lost 10 per cent of their population since 1950, 59 of these in the US alone. Many urban centres are, in fact, diminishing every year. By studying places such as Detroit, Liverpool, Leipzig and Ivanovo (just north of Moscow), the show investigates what has become a general theme internationally: ghost towns which seemingly have no future.
So what to do? In the past, planners simply bulldozed buildings and started from scratch or hoped that, if enough money for development was invested in infrastructure, private investment would follow. Unfortunately, this has not proved to be the case, and in cities such as Leipzig, which has lost over 30 per cent of its population – despite new roads, lights and sewage lines, not to mention municipal money to help the unemployed – development seems to have been counter-productive. Unemployment now runs at 20 per cent, and untenanted buildings lie empty in stunning mediaeval and baroque city centres.Many in this increasingly multidisciplinary field of urban regeneration have pointed to the reinvention of places such as Newcastle and Manchester, which have managed to rebrand themselves and could offer a way ahead. Ideas have moved beyond simply using warehouses as trendy offices and apartments; instead, abandoned buildings are being converted into places of cultural interest and use. The curators of "Shrinking Cities" hope that the show will provide a platform for ideas.
THE ARCHITECTS JOURNAL /// "Shrinking ideals" /Thibeaut de Ruyter / September 30, 2004
The exhibition "Shrinking Cities" presents, without doubt, a fascinating issue. Fascinating because it probably tells more about what is in the mind of architects today than about the reality of everyday life in the struggling cities.
Newsweek International / "The Shrinking Cities - Urban Blight: What Used to be a Regional Problem is Sweeping the World" / By Stefan Theil / September 27, 2004
Today, while hundreds of millions of Asians and Africans are just starting to move to cities, one quarter of the world's urban centers are declining in population-twice the number a decade ago. Wouldn't less-crowded cities be a good thing? Definitely not, according to "Shrinking Cities," a new exhibit in Berlin that compares city shrinkage across the world. In places like Detroit and Liverpool, shuttered stores and abandoned houses have led to increased violence. A 50 percent drop in the birthrate has killed entire sectors of the economy in east German cities like Leipzig and Magdeburg. Decline begets decline, as the young and educated move away while the old and unemployed tend to stay behind.
If shrinkage is inevitable, can it be managed? Today's planners and politicians have not even begun to face the facts, argues the curator of "Shrinking Cities," architect Philipp Oswalt. "Urban planning is all still in terms of new growth and construction," he says. Inner-city wastelands are usually left to themselves, a unique subculture growing in the morbid remains. In Detroit, goats and sheep share abandoned neighborhoods with the alternative-music scene that gave the world techno. Refuse blows through parts of Liverpool like tumbleweeds. What may be the world's first urban "shrinkage policy" is now being tested in eastern Germany, where the government is spending €2.7 billion to tear down thousands of suburban communist-era apartment blocks and let grass grow back. Whether mass demolitions will help stabilize places like Leipzig is not clear. But these are the kinds of policies municipal governments will have to consider. The era of big cities may not be over, but that of smaller cities is coming.
Berliner Morgenpost / "Emptiness on the Inside" / By Dankwart Guratzsch / September 9, 2004
In terms of sheer information and visual power, the exhibition "Schrumpfende Städte / Shrinking Cities" eclipses everything which has been said up to now about the epochal change from growth to shrinkage. Spread out over five stories of the KW building on Auguststraße, there are aisles bursting with video equipment and diagrams, with figures, illustrations, photos and historical documents. Pictures of the decline of civilization, of urban and social decay, flicker on the walls. Interactive video installations invite one to duplicate the process of shrinkage in time-lapse. The exhibition describes those forces which drive the process: de-industrialization, lower birth rates, suburbanization and post-socialist societal restructuring. Using cities such as Detroit in the US, British sister-cities Manchester and Liverpool, the former Russian Manchester, Ivanovo and Halle and Leipzig in Germany, the eerie results are graphically illustrated: entire cityscapes break apart; social commitments and structures dissolve. A cast of 60 people compiled information for the exhibition and hundreds of people worked on the compendium-like, 730-page-long catalog.
Der Tagesspiegel / "Concentrated Emptiness" / By Bernhard Schulz / September 3, 2004
It is first and foremost a documentational exhibition. The condensed form of the research, however, is to be found in the 736-page-long catalog, which, as "Volume 1," heralds the continuation of the research. It impresses with an enormous amount of essays, case studies and snapshots. At the center of the exhibition itself is the large hall for works of art, where an eight-piece framework shows prevailing population statistics in three dimensions and at the same time serves as a carrier for the history of events within a particular area. The back wall of the hall is covered by the "World Map of Shrinking Cities," which presents approximately 400 cities, all of which have at least 100,000 inhabitants, which share this fate; visually arranged according to their present size as well as the severity of population loss, which, for instance in Detroit, is over 50 percent. Well-known cities are included, where the loss of population is attributable to suburbanization, but also relatively little-known communities, where the cause is due to the decline of a particular industry. Also included are seaports where freight handling is declining, or faltering outposts of civilization, such as Norilsk in Siberia.
Berliner Zeitung / "Sunflowers in the City" / By Nikolaus Bernau / September 6, 2004
Berlin architect Rochus Wiedemer photographed infrastructure-laden office parks in Saxony-Anhalt which were nothing more than well-lit meadows. No businesses anywhere in sight. A tremendous amount can be learned about the decline of society, and about how this decline is dealt with by those who experience it. As in Ivanovo, which already had a well-developed subsistence economy during socialist times, where small potato gardens and mushroom and berry pickers help to survive. Or in Halle-Leipzig, where, thanks to the German social welfare system, it's possible to go fishing during a lunch break. And how a rotten trailer became a club and a kiosk was turned into a bar.
Der Standard / "The Heart is Where the Outskirts Are" / By Bert Rebhandl / September 4, 2004
In shrinking cities a separate economy of cannibalization is created, which in Germany is probably less well-developed because the standard of living is still relatively high. Even the "avantgard of shrinkage," which the organizers of the exhibition, under the direction of architect and publisher Phillip Oswalt, write about in an extensive catalog, is somewhat underdeveloped in Germany. But, they do indeed exist, the "urban-pioneers," (Ulf Matthiesen) who, like the club scene, move to places that others are leaving behind.
Süddeutsche Zeitung / "The Wind Will Remain" / By Jens Bisky / September 4, 2004
The Berlin Exhibit does without the great scale, the drama and epic dimensions of shrinking cities. Because nothing is more individual or isolated than misfortune, it relays on small stories, out-takes, the recording of everyday life. In spite of its limitations of view, despite an excess of detail, no exhibition in Berlin in the past few years has so directly taken visitors to the heart of the present. In its weaknesses, it is the faithful mirror of a rather helpless "in between" time.
Frankfurter Rundschau / "Urban Extremism" / By Marcus Woeller / September 6, 2004
According to the organizers of the exhibition, unease is the predominant feeling in shrinking cities. Many regions prove to be nothing more than places of anxiety. The photographs of a project from Manchester entitled "Home Guard: Domestic Defense" make clear the growing paranoia single family home owners have concerning crime, as they transform their cottages into high-security areas. In Detroit, residents don't just defend themselves electronically or with firearms, they also use classical elements such as walls and fences.
The only apparent relief from anxiety is a retreat into the private sphere. In the economic misery of post-soviet Ivanovo this has lead to a rejuvenation of the dacha culture and of pre-economic forms of life - hunting and gathering is common once again. The daily question in Russia of how to survive in a city without a regular income has been answered in a survival manual put together by the residents of Yuzha. Improvised tools and innovative recycling methods are presented by Vladimir Archipov as items of current practical design, which help surviving everyday life. That it's even possible to live within the private sphere in half-empty, demolition-threatened prefabricated concrete residential complexes in the Halle-Leipzig region, is described by the residents of Wolfen in a video documentation by Laura Horelli and Kathrin Wildner.
Financial Times Deutschland / "New Life in the Ruins of Affluent Society" / By Vera Görgen / September 7, 2004
Curator Phillip Oswalt contrasts dry scientific methodology with works by diverse artists, which show decline from an aesthetic, romantic and subcultural side. The exhibition is in search of that which comes into being when there is no more development. The music scene and club culture flourished in factory ruins in Liverpool and Manchester after the decline of traditional industry. The rave-club Hacienda is legendary. And it's not just coincidental that Detroit is the birth place of techno.
Die Zeit / "Great Location, Devoid of Life" / By Kai Michel / August 26, 2004
"You are not alone," is the central message of the exhibition, says chief curator Philipp Oswalt. "That cities are losing their inhabitants is by no means only an Eastern German phenomenon, its not even a German one." Being a victim of shrinkage is not a state of emergency. It's a paradox: now as ever the world's population increases by one million people every week, and huge cities like Shanghai and São Paulo are nearly exploding. And yet, worldwide 400 major cities have lost at least a tenth of their populations during the last few years, including cities like Paris, Boston and Oslo. Thus, its time to take stock: architects, artists, urban geographers, ethnologists and social scientists have been examining how life functions in a shrinking city. The Berlin exhibition shows how the industrial decline shook up Manchester and Liverpool, how Detroit became a large waste land as a result of suburbanization and how one survives in Russian Ivanovo without the socialist combined collectives. The Halle-Leipzig region has to struggle with all of these phenomena at the same time. But, every city has one thing in common: the empty buildings remain. It's worthwhile observing what happens to them.
Archis Magazine / Shrinking Cities / February 2004 / Claudia Gliemann
Shrinking cities are a phenomenon, which cannot be limited to a region or a regime, not to a culture and not to a stage of industrial development. They are found in China, USA, Great Britain, Germany, Brazil, Italy, Russian Federation, South Africa, Afghanistan, India, the Netherlands, Mexico, North Korea and many other countries. In the past few decades, 370 cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants in 62 countries have shrunk constantly.
What are the implications for the development of cities around the world when the positive image of a city is primarily characterised by growth? Growth in terms of economy, residents, housing, industry, service provisions and culture gives a city its worth. Is shrinking similarly equivalent to loss? Or do cessation and postponement enable new beginnings? What do the residents of shrinking cities think about the extensive change in their surroundings? What destroys a social field? Are empty spaces always negative? Or can empty spaces also indicate luxury, which is necessary to recognise and utilise. [..] An international study pored over these and many other questions under the title "Shrinking Cities". The objective of the project is not to find a standard recipe. Work should not be done in the hope of being able to stop the shrinking. Rather, the point is to demonstrate from different approaches the positive and negative aspects of shrinking as a form of urban change. [...]
Shrinking Cities, according to Philipp Oswalt, curator of this project, cannot be understood from one point of view. Therefore, the project would like to collect as many different views as possible. Particularly because cities shrink for different reasons.
New York Times / The shrinking-city syndrom / Feb. 5, 2004 / Kate Stohr
A decade ago, the prevailing wisdom was that cities grow, sprawling ever wider. As the world population hit six billion, experts warned of explosiv overcrowding in the megacities of the developing world. Shrinking cities were considered an anomaly, the results of the isolated economic upheaval or traumatic political events.
In fact, while city dwellers make up nearly half the world's population, new research by the United Nations and other demographers has shown that for every two cities that are growing, three are shrinking. Some cities that were bustling centers of commerce just a generation ago have become modern-day Pompeiis. Cities that have lost more than a third of their population include St. Louis, Phnom Penh and Johannesburg.[...] The problem is so acute that a group of researchers based in Berlin is holding an international competition to adress it. The competition, which aims to find fresh approaches to dealing with population loss in urban areas, is sponsored by a $3 million research project, Shrinking Cities, financed in large part by the German government.
"Even though the development in Germany is quite shocking, it is not the first or only place that this kind of crisis is taking place," said Philipp Oswalt, the project director. [..]
The project has enlisted teams of architects, artists, journalists and other to study four regions in particular that have hemorrhaged people and jobs: Manchester and Liverpool; Ivanovo, Russia, a state-sponsored manufaturing center in the days of the Soviet Union; the Detroit metropolitan area; and the Halle-Leipzig area of what was East Germany. Their research will culminate in Berlin in September with an exhibition of 10 proposed projects from each area.
The Detroiter / Shrinking Cities / Dec. 2003 / Nick Sousanis
The gathering of information for the Shrinking Cities project is a tremendous undertaking and requires the collaboration of an interdisciplinary body of artists. At the local level, co-curators Mitch Cope, Kyong Park (architect, artist, and founder of the International Center for Urban Ecology), and Dan Pitera (architect, head of the Detroit Collaborative Design Center at the University of Detroit) and their curator counterparts in the other cities are responsible for coordinating all the different projects and ensuring their completion. The artists are busy conducting intensive research to provide a foundation for their individual art pieces. It's a global mural - each worker contributes a specific part to the whole while simultaneously creating their own piece of art. The multitude of artists involved, and the diversity of experience they bring to the project is such so as create a complex and rich picture of the city.
International Herald Tribune / The shrinking-city syndrom / February 10, 2004 / Kate Stohr
The shrinking city syndrom is leaving planners with, among other things, the challenge of preserving and reusing buildings of architectural and cultural interest. [...] "The classic urban planning tools don't work," Oswalt said. Traditionally, urban planners advise bulldozing eroded neighborhoods and starting from scratch, he said. Now some of the same sites that were singled out for "slum clearance" in the 1960s are undergoing a second round of urban renewal. Efforts in the '90s to spur economic growth have also failed, Oswalt said. Entire streets --- along with sidewalks, lights and sewage and electricity lines --- were plopped into the Halle-Leipzig region, for instance, after the reunification of Germany led to a 14 percent to 30 percent drop in polulation in the region's cities. Planners assumed that if enough was invested in infrastructure, private investments would follow. Instead the result was a series of "illuminated meadows", as they are known in Germany.
Detroit Metrotimes / Detroit is not alone / Dec. 10, 2003 / Lisa M. Collins
Hold on to your armchairs, tireless Detroit history experts, for this could send ripples through countless late-night debates on the state of the city and its rightful place on the globe: Detroit is not the planet's sole victim of postindustrial abandonment and blight. [...]
Urban "shrinkage" is a fairly normal global phenomenon, says Philipp Oswalt, a German architect and writer. He should know. Oswalt is curator of massive international art project called Shrinking Cities that is putting a magnifying glass on six metropolises, including Detroit, that are losing or have lost populations at great rates. Currently, Detroit ranks 40th globally in percentage of residents lost in the last 50 years, according to the group's statistic.
"Detroit is not better or worse than other places", says Oswalt. "It's just different." Based in Berlin, Oswalt's Shrinking Cities is a tremendous undertaking that aims to come up with remedies - specifically, artistic and profound architectural solutions - to our problems. To Oswalt and to his team of artists and architects, shrinkage is not a negative thing. On the contrary, Oswalt sees the shrunken city as a template for the city of the future. A canvas on which creative minds can develop new and better ways of living. [...]
"We don't just want to look at the problems," says Oswalt. "We want to take action." And while government support of such an endeavor might sound alien to Americans, the German government-funded Federal Cultural Foundation is spending 3.3 million Euros on Shrinking Cities.