Here’s how “Temporary urbanism” can transform struggling industrial towns

The J.L.Hudson building, Detroit, being demolished in 1998: the tallest building ever imploded. Image: Getty.

What will become of manufacturing towns in a post-industrial world? From the Ruhr region of Germany to the American “Rust Belt”, once-prosperous factory cities are today faced with dwindling industry, shrinking populations and fundamental questions about their role in the modern global economy.

The population of Detroit, Michigan, for example, an auto manufacturing centre that was once one of the United States’ largest cities, has declined from 1.85 million in 1950 to just 675,000 in 2017.

Reinvigorating these legacy cities, as they are sometimes called, is not easy – but it is not impossible. Based on my research in Europe, and inspired by the work of the urban planning nonprofit Die Urbanisten, located in my hometown of Dortmund, I have identified several innovative redevelopment models that may offer lessons for post-industrial cities across the globe.

These three movements focus on ephemeral, flexible solutions that are broadly applicable to any city seeking to reinvent faded manufacturing zones: tactical urbanism, sustainable landscapes and the tiny homes movement.

Temporary, tactical urbanism (Plantage 9, Bremen)

Plantage 9 in Bremen. Image: Robin Chang.

For decades, the post-industrial harbour city of Bremen, in Northern Germany, struggled to to adapt to the socioeconomic ideals of the 21st century.

Today, it is known for the success of its tactical urbanism-inspired approaches. Officially coined by the Street Plans Collaborative, this approach broadly encompasses all short-term, low-cost, scalable measures that instigate longer-term, community-building change.

In Bremen, the the ZwischeZeitZentrale (ZZZ), a local organisation set up to work as a project middlemen, set out to match underutilised urban spaces in Bremen with projects in need of a home.

One result was Plantage 9, an old textile factory turned culture and innovation hub with over 30 independent, creative and entrepreneurial temporary users, including a food-truck kitchen, bike repair workshop, and studios and galleries for young artists.

Some of these businesses stayed for less than two years. Others remained, and in 2012 these users negotiated a new lease and management contract between the city and the collective. Plantage 9 has gone from a pilot project to a community association with an ongoing role in the city’s cultural life.

This temporary urbanism experiment succeeded in large part because of citizen engagement. ZZZ played a moderator role between citizens and the municipality, working with a cook, a bicycle mechanic, students, teachers, photographers and filmmakers, among other Bremen residents, to conceptualise and coordinate these tactical initiatives.

As Plantage 9-style matchmaking revitalised lifeless spaces with exciting projects, Bremen’s national reputation has changed, too – from struggling post-industrial city to dynamic urban innovator.

Sustainable landscapes (Zomerhofkwartier, Rotterdam)

 

20/2 14-16uur uitreiking #prijsvraag #Archiprix in #ZoHoLab!

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Local residents in Rotterdam, Netherlands, have also cultivated comprehensive urban revitalisation processes in one neglected neighbourhood. The result: Zomerhofkwartier, aka Zoho,, the new face of a former industrial area near the city’s central train station.

Originally conceived as a temporary project by the group ZOHOCITZENS in 2013, Zoho now includes permanent co-working spaces, along with studios that host events, classes, green spaces. Already in this decade-long process that its developers have dubbed “slow urbanism”, the area has matured into one of Rotterdam’s core makers’ district.

Zoho’s innovations include climate-proofing, and the site serves as an urban laboratory for ecological adaption and transition. Thus far, the project has implemented water collection, storage systems in public spaces, green roofs, urban gardens, and the reduction of hard surfaces.

The ultimate goal is to increase the whole district’s ecological resiliency and the socioeconomic vitality of the district through the micro-greening of the specific locations in the urban concrete fabric.

Tiny Houses (Berlin)

 

Troubled to see a long queue of asylum seekers shivering for hours on a winter's day outside Berlin's notoriously chaotic registration centre, Van Bo Le-Mentzel decided to take action. "I fetched my drill and collected some wood that I found randomly in the streets and brought it to the line where people were standing there bored to death and we just started building," the architect told AFP. The end products were pint-sized playhouses that children could crawl into for shelter as well as break up the monotony of the endless wait. It also marked the birth of the so-called Tiny House University, a project bringing together architects, designers and refugees to experiment with innovative ways to house a population in need. "We are trying to create new kinds of housing forms in society in which it's possible to live and survive without having land or money," said Le-Mentzel. #berlin #survive #survival #house #housestark #instahouse #land #money #houses #instahouse #instastay #instagram #instagrammed #instagrammer #instagallery #tinyhouse #tiny #tinyhouseliving #tinyhouseuniversity

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The Tiny House Movement, which relies on small modular units that recall images of cottages, has ballooned in the aftermath of the US housing crises as an alternative for affordable housing. These wee residences, which are sometimes standalone and other times secondary units, have even inspired an American TV show, “Tiny House, Big Living”.

This movement is firmly established in North America, but is still developing on the European continent (as this tiny house map confirms).

While the typical context for tiny homes is residential, the Bauhaus Campus Berlin collaboration between the Tinyhouse University and Bauhaus Archive from the Museum of Design in Berlin is demonstrating how these units can temporarily reconceive unused spaces for social justice, learning and research.

Inspired by the challenges with providing housing for new residents and refugees in Germany, for example, the project established in early 2017 an educational forum and workshop that allows people to learn how to build their on tiny homes.

Recently featured in German media alongside other similar projects, Bauhaus Campus Berlin includes 12 tiny homes on the front lawn of the museum and promotes tiny house building through design crash courses, panel discussions, and other cultural gatherings.


Scaling innovation

These European narratives reveal resilient trajectories of temporary urbanism, comprehensively coordinated at the neighbourhood scale, using informality to engage citizens and ensure that municipal governments respond effectively and inclusively to contemporary urban quandaries.

Temporary use at the street and neighbourhood level in its diverse range of formats are not limited to post-industrial cities, nor are they confined to Europe. Denver, Colorado, for example, took a tactical approach to launch one of the US’s first large-scale modern bike share systems in a highly automobile-dependent city. And Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, included pop-up landscapes as part of the revitalisation of its Delaware River waterfront, engaging entrepreneurial municipal officials, urban planning agencies, and landscape designers to strategically harness and catalyse investment.

Something is working. But from a scholarly perspective, however, we still know little about the mix of enablers and drivers that inspire such transformative moments. What, exactly, are the factors that make one temporary urbanism project succeed where another fails?

Much critical literature seems stuck on questioning whether the ephemeral has just as much impact as the planned, and whether citizens are as entitled to create effective urban revitalisation as professional planners are. And most current research on temporary use is descriptive or expository – narrating and cataloguing the process and types of users, formats and instruments seen in tactical initiatives.

Critical scepticism is healthy to understanding the change. But I believe that this adaptive practice is the next frontier in city planning.

Ultimately, we have to work backwards to measure the specific dash, dosage, amount and numbers of specifically defined stakeholders, processes, and mechanisms necessary to replicate those results and develop pre-configured “recipes” for more resilient temporary urbanism.

The ConversationBy deconstructing the successful conditions and their combinations can we help cities across the globe build new and modern futures for their residents.

Robin Chang is a research associate at the Technical University of Dortmund.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

 
 
 
 

How the rise of anti-crime politics caused lasting harm to Black Americans

"I see an awareness that has developed in the Black community in the last 10 years or so about how deeply racist the criminal justice system has become," James Forman Jr. says. (David McNew/Getty Images)

The police killing of George Floyd, and the protest movement that emerged from it, has reinvigorated a national conversation around reinventing criminal justice policy in the United States.

At the same time, reports that violent crime is rising in many US cities have resurrected talk of the much-disputed “Ferguson effect,” a theory put forward by law enforcement professionals, and some researchers, who argued that police slowdowns in the wake of the first wave of Black Lives Matter protests resulted in elevated rates of violent crime. President Donald Trump is trying to weaponise this narrative, paired with images of federal officers clashing with protesters in the streets of Portland, to wage a 1968-style backlash election campaign.

“People who want to mobilise a lock-them-up style of either policing or prosecution have tried to weaponise those short-term increases,” says James Forman Jr., professor of law at Yale Law School. “Criminologists will say you have to be very, very cautious about short-term movement [in crime statistics]. We don't know whether or not what we're seeing right now [with violent crime increasing] is going to sustain itself. But the fact is, it's here and people are talking about it.”

In 2018, Forman won the Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction for his book Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America. Drawing on his experience as a public defender in Washington, DC, he traced the emergence of anti-crime politics in late 20th century Black communities. Forman showed how newly empowered Black politicians fought for policies they believed would protect and uplift Black Americans, but inadvertently contributed to mass incarceration. 


CityMetric recently caught up with Forman to discuss crime trends, where he sees reason for hope in this moment and how the Black political class’s attitude toward crime and punishment has shifted since the latter part of the 20th century. 

This interview has been edited and condensed. 

There is talk right now about a resurgence of crime and violence in American cities. We saw similar, more localised concerns after the initial 2015 Black Lives Matter protests in Ferguson and Baltimore. Do you fear this could reinvigorate the kind of politics you describe in your book among segments of the Black community and political class?

I fear that it could be reinvigorated nationally and also in the Black political class. Look at the political conversations that are happening in Atlanta right now, for example, a city that also has seen a short-term uptick in crime as it is a site of a lot of protests about George Floyd and Breonna Taylor on the national level, as well as Rayshard Brooks and Ahmaud Arbery more locally in Georgia.

I think that you can already see in some of the language of the local elected officials this idea that we have to be very careful about pulling back. [They are saying] “while the protesters may make some valid points, we can't risk returning to the ‘80s and ‘90s.” Those decades really traumatised the United States, and particularly traumatised Black communities. There's a deep fear about returning to the levels of the violence that we saw in the crack years.

You write a lot about class divides among Black Americans, where middle income and elite Black people don't suffer as much from extremely punitive policies. They also have closer ties to the politicians who are creating these policies. There are very specific groups of people, even in marginalised communities, whose voices are heard.  As a result of these dynamics, you write about Black politicians fighting for things like mandatory minimum prison sentences or against decriminalising marijuana. Is there still that disconnect between those who suffer the most from criminal justice policies and those who are actually heard in political discourse?  

Let me just say a caveat, that when we talk about class divisions in the Black community it's important to hold two truths in our head at the same time. Bruce Western and others have shown the way in which class, educational status, income can dramatically reduce the likelihood of being hardest hit by the criminal system – namely incarcerated. Middle class and upper middle class Black people get some measure of protection. It's also true at the same time that Black people of all classes are worse off relative to their class counterparts in the white community. 

One area where class is least protective is policing and police stops. The police do not know how many degrees you have. They don't know how much money you have in your bank account. I want to be very clear that in making this point about class, I'm not making the argument that race or racism don't matter in this context. 

In terms of how it plays out now, I see an awareness that has developed in the Black community in the last 10 years or so about how deeply racist the criminal justice system has become. Twenty or 30 years ago they had a consciousness, but there's levels of understanding. Many of the people I write about in the book wanted to promote the interests of the Black community. They weren't motivated by indifference or callousness. When presented with mounting evidence of how awful this system has been in Black lives, they're reconsidering and recalibrating. 

Lots of former elected officials have said to me some version of “I didn't know at the time and I appreciate that you showed us in our full complexity. I appreciate that you showed the pressures we were under. If I had known then what I know now, maybe I would have been less quick to go along with some of these harsh measures.” 

The second thing that has affected the Black political class has been the emerging movements, led by Black people in particular and led by young people. They not only educated leaders, but pressured them and made them understand that there is a political cost. If you're not moved by the moral argument, then you'll be moved by the political argument. You'll be moved by the people protesting outside the office of District Attorney Jackie Lacey in Los Angeles, for example, where Black Lives Matter LA has held, I believe, a year of consecutive protests against a Black district attorney who has had really some of the worst practices.

From what I can tell, she's been pressured by the movement to change some of her positions on important issues like prosecution of low-level drug offenders, for example, and the aggressiveness with which she prosecutes police officers for acts of violence.

What do you make of the calls to defend or even abolish the police?

What I find so compelling about abolition, initially in the prison context and extended to the police as well, is that it shifts the conversation and forces us to go through experiments in which we imagine what it would take to build that world. I think that exercise is very important, because it pushes us further than we are naturally inclined to go. Cultivating a broader imagination is an incredibly important part of this work, because as you know from my book, often it was lack of imagination that caused people to fall back on [punitive policies]. 

That's what caused D.C. Councilmember David Clarke to call the police rather than public health experts when he was overwhelmed with letters about heroin addicts in public space. He was anti-drug war, but he couldn't imagine responding to a call for help with heroin addicts with anything other than police. That's a very common move from even really good and progressive people. 

People who are for defunding, for abolition, are absolutely right about reinvesting that money into alternative structures that support communities. But the reinvestment part doesn't follow naturally from the terms. We might want to come up with a term that captures the new stuff we want to do. I think that's particularly important because one of the reasons Black communities have ended up supporting more police is that Black communities have always wanted their fair share of the resources.

Then, the evidence suggests the United States has too many police officers doing prophylactic, preventative, or stop-and-frisk style policing. The style of policing that leads to district level harassment, pulling people over for no reason. But we have too little investment in the parts of police departments that investigate unsolved crimes. I'm talking about the investigator or the detective who comes to your house after there's been a robbery, an assault, a rape, or homicide. 

As compared to European countries, in the United States we actually underinvest in those parts of our police departments. Jill Leovy’s book Ghettoside shows this in dramatic detail. She describes an LAPD that's stopping and frisking Black drivers wantonly and yet the homicide detectives are still relying on a fax machine and the fax machine is broken. They have to go with their own money to Staples to buy a printer. Meanwhile, other aspects of the department are kitted out in this ridiculous riot gear that makes them look like they're in Fallujah. 

That under investment is particularly damaging to Black communities because we're disproportionately victimised by crime. Because of racism and this allocation of resources, the police are less likely to respond in Black communities. The kids I used to work with in the charter schools in DC, we talk about no snitching, but one of the reasons they would never call the police after they'd been victimised by crime is they would say, “They're not even going to come. You're wasting time.” 

I did a Q&A with Jill Leovy too and her argument is one I've struggled to articulate in our present moment. She argues the state doesn't have a monopoly on violence in low-income Black neighbourhoods, because investigations of violence are deemphasised and crime victims or their loved ones often take retribution into their own hands.  But right now, establishing or preserving the state's monopoly on violence isn't an appealing talking point. 

Yes, this is another thing nobody's talking about. Whatever we're going to do instead of the police has to be accountable to the public. The best, most direct way to have accountability is to have the individuals be public employees. As long as we have 300 million guns in this country at least some of those state employees are going to themselves be armed. It's unreasonable to ask them to do the job without it. Not as many need to be armed as are armed now, but some of them need to be. But they can't be hiding behind union contracts or civil service protections which make it impossible to remove even the worst performing, most abusive officers. 

We can not call them police if we want to. That's semantic, but maybe symbolism matters. But those people have to be state employees. They can work with community-based nonprofits, but there are also communities that don't have as robust of a nonprofit network, and they deserve protection too. These [community] groups have to be accountable to the state and, when they don't exist, the state has to be there. 

Progressives get all the points I just made when it's applied to education. The notion that things be public and accountable to the state is understood when it comes to schools. It's exactly why so many people on the left are opposed to charter schools, because they say they don't have public accountability. They want these things to be a state function. But this point about the difficulty in removing this entirely from the hands of the state is, I think, one that liberals and progressives understand from other contexts.

Jake Blumgart is a staff writer at CityMetric.