Friday, 15 March 2013


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The erotic fetishisation of Urban Decay has a poster girl/boy in the city of Detroit. This much we know, yet how rarely we consider the human cost of this process. With the announcement that control of Detroit's budget is to be passed to the state of Michigan, recent news reports paint a picture of a city in socio-economic free-fall  The state has appointed Kevyn Orr (an expert in corporate bankruptcy) as its financial manager, with attendant Draconian powers to achieve the "Olympian" task of restructuring a sprawling metropolis that has witness a halving of its population in the past twenty years. Read the story here

It seems timely that Radio 4's book of the week is Mark Binelli's "The Last days of Detroit", reminding all of us in the realm of urban design and landscape architecture of the human element lurking in the shadows of the abandoned industrial infrastructure and acres of brownfield land.  Serialisation of Binelli's book has taken the form of a series of sensitively drawn portraits of Detroit's inhabitants,some of whom subsist on its margins whilst others attempt to facilitate change in what was once America's Motor City. Along the way we encounter Detroit Techno, Motown, Urban Farming and the weird world of the Concealed Weapon Certificate.

Get it while it's hot right here (link goes to episode four of five). Today's broadcast looked at the delapidated education system, drawing attention to one beacon of hope at a school for teenage mothers that incorporates a fully operational urban farm (including goats that must be milked). 

I should also mention that Radio Four has also been exploring  the Baroque in Britain with an emphasis on architecture, particularly in episode two, which considers the missed opportunity of the Great Fire of London and Wren's aborted street plan for London. A potential derive- following the streets of Wren's plan that were never built?
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