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Detroit- the post-industrial city

March 24, 2010

Julien Temple’s excellent documentary, Requiem for Detroit takes the viewer on an accelerated journey through the history of the city from its earliest days to its current state. It’s being held up as an example of the first Western post-industrial city and perhaps provides lessons for the future.

Clearly this was a city that owed its existence to the automobile and as this business shifted and re-shaped over-time the impact and reverberations where felt in the city of Detroit.

The film dwells briefly on the topics of suburbanization, segregation and relies heavily on the ruined buildings of Detroit as both backdrop and metaphor.

Temple suggests that demise was a consequence for Detroit post the 70s oil crisis and its rising fortunes in the late 90s thanks to the SUV, merely postponed its decline.

It’s pointers for future urban planners are all about the avoidence of a monoculture; city defined by one industry only, the importance of the inner city as the core and soul of the place and the need for to mix races and income groups.

Requiem for Detroit ends on the possibility of hope, that a city that’s fallen so far behind can only go up from here and that Detroit right now is the place to be to create fresh ideas and thinking about urban futures.

Interestingly, one of the tiny signals of hope is the rise of the urban farming movement in the city, with stories of 1 acre patches generating $50,000 of income a year and as a single to prove what goes around, comes around, Temple reminds us that before Henry Ford developed the automobile, he was an urban farming pioneer.

Posted by Ed Cotton

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