Professor Geoffrey Thün

Emerging urbanisms in deindustrializing city-regions: the afterlife of leftover spaces

Funding period: 1 January 2019 – 1 January 2021
Type of funding: Seminar Series

Host institution: Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, University of Michigan (USA)
Date: January 2019 onwards (Ann Arbor, Michigan)
Lead organiser: Prof. Geoffrey Thün (Taubman College, University of Michigan)
Team members: Prof. Martin J. Murray (Taubman College, University of Michigan), Prof. María Arquero de Alarcón (Taubman College, University of Michigan), Prof. Mona El Khafif (School of Architecture, University of Virginia), Prof. Ila Berman (School of Architecture, University of Virginia), Prof. Christa Reicher (Faculty of Architecture, RWTH Aachen University), Prof. Jan Polivka (Faculty of Architecture, RWTH Aachen University)
Contact: Prof. Geoffrey Thün

Abstract: This initiative investigates a relational study of four transatlantic urban regions that display acute asymmetries of concurrent growth and abandonment in the midst of larger economic restructuring: the Detroit Metropolitan Region; the Ruhr Region; the Innovation Region “Rheinisches Revier”; and the de-industrializing southern end of the ‘US Northeastern Seaboard’. Successive cycles of urban transformation have created uneven, perforated landscapes which consist of fissures, empty gaps and vacated spaces interspersed amongst and between developed zones of concentrated and thriving activities. Leftover spaces are sites of contestation and uncertainty where rival actors compete for a semblance of control with their own visions of re-use, ranging from spontaneous and temporary to deliberate and semi-permanent.

Through a series of digital workshops and a public symposia hosted at the University of Michigan in Winter 2020, this initiative brings together a collaborative of scholars from the University of Michigan, the University of Virginia and RWTH Aachen University to challenge the notion that all sites of abandonment suffer an identical fate. Using these four regions as subject of analysis and testbeds for speculation, this series explores the intricate relationship between the incremental erasure of the built environment and ongoing interventions that appropriate or produce new kinds of improvisation.