My time in the States of course went too quickly but it was a packed week and a very useful one too for my PhD. I started the week in New York, meeting with No Longer Empty, visiting Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space, 11th Street community garden, American Institute of Architects; and then had an explore of the city, starting with the High Line.
In this time, I got to see a variety of practice, from the contemporary art approach of NLE, to the community-building of 11th Street, to the urban occupation of MoRUS and the focus on the key significance of built environment education of AIA.
Most of my visit was spent in Detroit – a city notorious for ruin porn, ‘white flight’, deindustrialisation and depopulation. Ruined, collapsed, vacant and burnt out buildings from the domestic to the skyscraper scale are a feature of practically every street in the city but I soon realised that its not what this city is about nor will it be defined by.
I encountered Detroit as a city that is used to being resilient and this current time is no larger or more insurmountable challenge than others it has faced. ‘Nothing Stops Detroit’ as the sign says. I met people here that have picked up their lives and moved to the city to be a meaningful part of its revitalisation, such as my hosts from the visit, Alyssa and Matt at The Detroit Homestead; people that have returned after many years away, drawn back by the creative, cultural and economic opportunities that it offers, such as a woman who lost her urban famers shop in the NYC hurricane and has now moved back to start the same in Detroit; to cabbies that blog for the city newspaper; to a host of artists and arts organisations that are at the heart of the city’s turn around; and self-made born and bred Detroit developers putting their money where their mouth is with epic scale placemaking and future ambition to match, which I have no doubt will be realised.
I was in Detroit to attend the inaugural meeting of the Placemaking Leadership Council. It was a packed and intense two days but a rare opportunity to meet people from around the world (over 300 attendees from 10 countries) involved in creative placemaking, learn from their practice, collaborate and be inspired by. I also visited ArtxDetriot, an arts festival any city could be proud of and that had at its heart a clear and dedicated love for the city and its future. Photos of my visit here.
I will be writing about the conference and the themes and issues that arose from my visit for the arts and urban press and will post links to those pieces when published, as well as starting a relocalism online photo essay, starting with this research trip.