Is This Utopia? Are Ruins Beautiful?
November 29, 2007 10:56 PM   Subscribe

Shrinking Cities (virtual and real): Analysis and Interventions.

Don't miss the map of shrinking cities around the globe [PDF] or their description of urban decline in Second Life and a contest about what interventions to apply there (stay tuned). The title is from this quirky image in their press kit. Previously: 1, 2, 3.
posted by salvia (11 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Hmm, this looks terrific but the website seems to be down. Got a cache?
posted by blahblahblah at 11:04 PM on November 29, 2007

Hmmm, that is weird. It still works for me (even after clearing the cache and refreshing). Here's another link to try (specifying you want the site in English) but if the whole site is down, that probably won't work either. Here is Google's cache. Anyone else?

In the meantime, here are a few external links generated as the exhibition has traveled to various museums: Cranbook Museum in Detroit, New York Times coverage, Kulturstiftung Des Bundes, and Manchester.

If the site continues to be down, it's alright with me if someone closes this thread. (In the meantime, I'll be getting a little sleep!)
posted by salvia at 11:27 PM on November 29, 2007

Site is fine for me.
posted by gomichild at 11:35 PM on November 29, 2007

I'm amazed by how extreme some of the reactions are... in this link from the Detroit "previous" all of the photographs look much nicer to me than any urban setting would but the blog author literally refers to the area as "post-apocalyptic". Uh, okay, the lawns aren't mowed but an apocalypse?!? Those areas are visually more appealing than any part of Detroit I've been to and more appealing than a large part of more vital cities I've been to. I'll buy that it's a challenge for city planners but calling it a "crisis" or a "syndrome" as if it's a disease the way the NYT piece did is going overboard.

I'm normally not one to criticize American myopism because frequently it's not exceptional. But some of this panic reaction against shrinking cities is from being trained to expect squeaky-clean, perfect products new from the factory all the time and the new car smell and the new subdivision smell.

Here in New England a rotted-out, collapsing barn or farmhouse is a common sight. There are farmer's stone walls criss-crossing the land no matter how deeply you go into the woods. Yeah, tree roots will shatter a concrete or asphalt sidewalk after a century or a few decades even but it's nothing to freak out about. And none of those things look bad to me having grown up here, in fact modern landscaping and polished, sterilized development looks freaky and disturbing to me. And New England is a spring chicken compared to the areas that most of the population on Earth lives in.

We ought to regard finally developing some abandoned and partially-abandoned cities in the U.S. as a touch of class. C'mon, all of the fashionable civilizations are doing it.
posted by XMLicious at 12:41 AM on November 30, 2007

Not to mention - one of the reasons that the city planners are crying that the sky is falling is because when a city shrinks you need fewer city planners...
posted by XMLicious at 12:44 AM on November 30, 2007

Abandoned virtual worlds really freak me out. There's the whole concept of the ghost town, but rooted in a place that technically doesn't exist. It's just weird.

It reminds me of the "Active Worlds" series of virtual worlds that was mildly popular 'round the turn of the millennium. I'd tried it out years ago, but the crappy computer I had at the time couldn't render it well. I revisited the place (is it technically a place...?) a few days ago on a free tourist account, and it is surreally creepy. Most of its former paying users have moved on, leaving behind hundreds of (virtual) square miles of abandoned buildings they'd constructed together. Like the Exclusion Zone of the future!

Take ">the old "Ground Zero" of the main world, Alphaworld, located at coordinates 0N, 0W. It's been around for ten years, and was so old that the world's "entry point" was moved to another location. It used to be a bustling crossroads of Times Square proportions, full of billboards and people and links to other worlds. Now it's dead. The only signs of life are a few flickering sprite animations and the occasional looping sound file. And the creepiness only increases as you move away from the central plaza and get lost in the bizarre, overcrowded "neighborhoods" surrounding it, stretching out forever. It's like the ultimate anarchist utopia, larger than California state, devoid of life and frozen in time -- a digital, dreamlike Pompeii.

I wonder if there's any money in virtual archeology...
posted by Rhaomi at 1:40 AM on November 30, 2007 [3 favorites]

(correct "Ground Zero" link...)
posted by Rhaomi at 1:43 AM on November 30, 2007

If we're to believe some other folks, people are leaving the country in droves.

So it seems to me that there's a terminology problem, here: It's not that cities are shrinking, it's that parts of some cities are shrinking. (Which goes to XMLicious's point about myopia.)
posted by lodurr at 4:30 AM on November 30, 2007

Nice post. Thanks.
posted by ClanvidHorse at 5:05 AM on November 30, 2007

Awesome post, thanks!
May I suggest the Fabulous Ruins of Detroit?
posted by Jughead at 6:45 AM on November 30, 2007

Between the questionable web design and the mention of Second Life, I'm having trouble taking this site seriously.
posted by mmagin at 10:19 AM on November 30, 2007

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