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Foreword: A Dedication
We dedicate this book, with great sadness, but also joy, to the memory of lgnasi de Sola-Morales. At
the moment of his untimely death, he was thoughtfully, generously, and enthusiastically initiating
the foreword for this publication. As we complete the fnal work for this project, we fnd ourselves
grappling not only with this great personal loss, but equally with a deep regret for the common
void created by his absence and shared by all of us who form part of the discipline of architecture.
lgnasi himself referred, in his book Diferences, Topographies of Contemporary Architecture, to the
impression made upon him by the death of Deleuze, who was clearly an intellectual stimulus.
Likewise, lgnasi, with his intense creative energy, has served and continues to serve, using Deleuze's
own term, as a "mediator" for many of us. With great ability to "construct intellectually mobile
concepts," he forms part of that series of thinkers, events, or things, that open the possibility for
each of us to express ourselves with that same spirit of creativity.
Beyond the obvious and immediate inspiration for our research found in his essay, Terrain
Vague, he continuously generated multiple and fertile grounds of meaningful inquiry, always with
an abundance of profound insights into the rhythms and flows of contemporaneity. He had a
unique capacity to trace beautiful and powerful, open and liberating, contours of thought captured
by others and projected in multiple and unforeseeable directions. He was a profoundly generous
thinker, architect, teacher, mentor, and friend. The great body of work he leaves behind offers
endless opportunities for resonance, exchange, dispute, and creative projection. Many of us will
continue to talk to lgnasi through his work, to play with it, to engage the force of its freedom, and
perhaps to ask of it strange and new questions never imagined by lgnasi himself.
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attention. This activity required equal parts persistence and ambivalenc . It m nl'f tIt If, n
obsessive, self-indulgent, yet ultimately indifferent interest in recording th ondltl n f urb nl m
in Detroit in lieu of providing engineering solutions, putting forth nostalgic I m nt, r pr vldln
snap judgements.
The Committee for Urban Thinking: Detroit was established in 1994 as v hi I to nduct
research on the conditional nature of Detroit's urbanism. Since that time, th Com mitt h b n
stalking the city: pursuing it by keeping track of it in a quiet, stealthy mann r. N v r int nding
to save it, solve it, or spin it, the Committee has effectively operated by rejecting th probl m­
solving posture that pervades many established modes of urban inquiry. The Com mitt 's t ctics
explicate the mode of urbanism at work in Detroit and simultaneously implicat the terms of its
own involvement with the city. Stalking Detroit can be seen as a book about the city or as a book
about the disciplines that try to make sense of it.
Of seminal importance to this anthology, the photographs of Jordi Bernado and Monica
Rosello construct documentary evidence of the material and spatial conditions of Detroit in the
1990's. These photographs capture the fantastic, poetic, factual, and sober reality of the city and
infuse the primary essays with visual openings onto the city itself. The three primary essays place
the study of Detroit in a larger historical and theoretical context. They work the thesis of the
collection from multiple station points and ground the work in scholarly foundations. Jerry Herron's
essay problematizes the touristic appropriation of Detroit's ruins and offers critical positions for
the engagement of Detroit as a cultural product. Dan Hoffman relates the material history of the
city to historical models of production and chronicles the exhaustion of the cycle of modernity.
Patrik Schumacher and Christian Rogner articulate the relationship between Fordism and Modern­
ism, and speculate on Detroit's role in offering a glimpse of post-Fordist urbanism in other cities
internationally.
Three photographic essays are included to draw particular attention to the exceptional
and extraordinary architectural results of Detroit's peculiar urbanism while providing a scalar break
between the larger urban projects. Kent Kleinman and Leslie van Duzer's documentation of the
renovation of the Michigan Theater for use as a parking garage exemplifes the opportunistic inva­
sion of the automobile into what had been the space of architecture in the city. Dan Hoffman's
description of Detroit's demolition at the scale of the house and the city provides an index of the
city's rapidly deteriorating material conditions. Bob Arens' description of the Heidelberg Project and
Tyree Guyton's appropriation of abandoned houses as sites for cultural commentary illustrates the
extraordinary cultural production attendant to the city's abandonment.
Three design projects respond to and are developed directly from the specifc cultural,
historic, and material conditions of Detroit in the 1990's. The primary intention in including this
work has been to· reveal those conditions by representing them using multiple means. An allied goal
has been to offer an alternative to nee-traditional models of planning and urban design and their
naive revisionist strategies for the recuperation of the pre-industrial city. Finally, and perhaps most
importantly, we include this work to speculate on the role of architectural practice in the absence
13
of traditional urbanism. Not coincidentally, each of the three projects, in differing ways, posits
the importance of landscape (in lieu of architecture) as the primary media for the conception and
the construction of the contemporary city. Daskalakis and Perez's "Projecting Detroit" articulates
the surface of the ground as a framework for new modes of experience, activity, and inhabitation
at what had been Detroit's center. Waldheim and Santos-Munne's "Decamping Detroit" takes the
city's proposal to abandon large portions of itself at face value and speculates on the future
status of Detroit's newly depopulated landscapes. Young's "Line Frustration" delineates the political
contrivance of the city's Federal Empowerment Zone boundary while gaming with those territories
tangent to it.
Taken together, the projects are meant to be at once both critical and propositional. They
can be read as critical urban propositions for Detroit's near future, as well as attempts to illuminate
the conditions for practice in cities like it. Collectively, the three diverse strategies pose large
questions about the nature of establishing a meaningful and useful practice in the contemporary
city. The critical responses by Joan Roig, Jim Corner, and Santiago Colas are included to reflect on ,
the strategies for practice implicated in the design projects and to thematize the issues raised by
them in a broader theoretical and critical context. Alex Maclean's aerial photographs afford a rare
synoptic view of Detroit's disappearance.
Increasingly, Detroit is more evident in broadcast reception than lived experience. The
media, real estate, and business interests, as well as the city administration itself have invested in
an urbanism of the simulacra: the ongoing myth of Detroit's resurgence. Despite a recurring history
of recent attempts to solve or save Detroit, the city persists in a spontaneous ev.lution of aggres­
sive dismantling. In spite of the most recent (and several historical} public relations campaigns
designed to spin Detroit's long-awaited resuscitation as a site for destination entertainment and
speculative investment, the ongoing annexation of the city by its own suburbs continues apace,
obscuring the material fact of the city's ongoing demolition. Among the most recent public rela­
tions campaigns has been the expenditure of millions of dollars of public funds to augment the
federal government's 2000 census count of the city's population in an attempt to recuperate
Detroit's image nationally as a site for speculative investment. Developed with publicly subsidized
tax incentives, new sports stadia and casinos serve the growing suburban populace by recasting the
redundant city as an a-historical destination theme park banking on Detroit's historical name brand.
These projects can be understood as tactically deployed coalitions between corporate culture, land
speculators, the media, and various political players interested in declaring Detroit's recuperation.
Only a block deep and intended for easy access from suburban highway systems, these superfcial
surfaces of urban refacement work to simultaneously erase both the guts·and guilt of what ha. d
been one of the largest and wealthiest cities in the modern world. Behind these new public facades
and their attendant media campaigns proclaiming Detroit is back, the city continues to disappear,
leaving behind extraordinary landscapes and an increasingly indeterminate urbanism.
GEORGIA OASKALAKIS, CHARLES WALOHEIM AND JASON YOUNG, editors.
Facts
, From 1900 to 1950 the population of Detroit grew
from under 285,700 to over 1.8 million.
2 From 1950 to 2000 the population of Detroit
decreased from over 1.8 million to 951,270.
3 No building construction permits were issued in
Detroit in 1988, then the 7th largest city in the U.S.
4 Between 1978 and 1998 only 9000 building per­
mits were issued for new homes in Detroit, while
over 108,ooo demolition permits were issued.
5 In 1998, Detroit was the 11th largest city in the US.
6 In 1998, 79% of the population in Detroit was
African American.
7 In 1998, 78% of the population in the surrounding
suburbs was White.
8
In 1998, the average income in the city was 47% of
that in the surrounding suburbs.
9 In the 1990's, Detroit had the largest percentage
of single-family homes in the U.S.
10
In the 1990's, the city lost 1% of its housing stock
each year to arson.
11
In 1990, the city spent $25 million on the removal
of abandoned houses and other structures.
12
Between 1990 and 1992, the city spent $250
million on the removal of toxic waste on property
the city was donating to Chrysler Corporation for
the construction of a new Jeep Factory.
Sources:
1 - 2, 5 - 8. U.S. Census Bureau.
3, g- 12. Dan Hoffman, "The Best the World has to Offer," Public lecture at Union of International Architects
Congress XIX, Barcelona, July 1996.
4. Sanford Kwinter and Daniela Fabricius, "Contract with America," Mutations, (Barcelona: ACTAR, 2000), p. 6oo.
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33
JERRY HERRON
three meditations
on the ruins of Detroit
First the Facts
Forget what you think you know about this place. Detroit is the most relevant city in the United
States for the simple reason that it is the most unequivocally modern and therefore distinctive of
our national culture: in other words, a total success. Nowhere else has American modernity
so completely had its way with people and place alike. Reputedly "historic" towns, like Philadel­
phia, New Orleans, and San Francisco, merely seem old by comparison. Others, such as New
York, Los Angeles, and Miami, are not American at all, but more like small, poorly run foreign
countries with insufficient fresh water and arable land. And Chicago, no less than its sun-belt
reflex, Houston, has been forced to compensate with high-rise architecture for the general lack
of autochthonous culture. This makes Detroit the revealed "Capital of the Twentieth Century,"
and likely the century ahead, because this is the place, more than any other, where the native
history of modernity has been written. This same modernity has made Americans collectively,
and globally, what we are all still becoming today, bringing along with us the rest of the so-called
"developed" world.
The genius of this becoming was our genius (for those fortunate enough to live in Detroit): a
native son. "Nothing original, yet everything new," as Terry Smith has characterized the modernity
of Henry Ford:
Not one of thousands of engineering and other tooling discoveries that attended the sue-
cess of the new processes was his creation. The inventive genius represented by his name
was above all an organizational one: elements developed elsewhere were shaped into
1. Terry Smith, Mal1ing the adem: industry, Art, and
Design in America (Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 1993), 15.
a productive system of incessantly self-refining functionality in which nothing was
original except the system itself . ... 1
What is lost to us now, perhaps, is the liberatory moment of Ford's systemic modernity, the
perpetual making new, which has become conventional to reduce to a panoptic regime of idiotic,
duplicable production, an "incessantly self-refning functionality."
But to stop there is to lapse into the worst kind of Foucauldian nostalgia: a longing for
lost discipline that makes post-modern punishment seem a relief That is to say, it is missing the
34
point. At least, it is missing a point that remained crucial to the emergent structure of feeling
that made modernity seem desirable and therefore worth buying (at frequently exorbitant rates).
The problem of the modernist subject now, at any rate, the problem invented by some aspiring
post-historians of modernity, is the Joss of that defning, historical Other: the time-bound we that
all of us once knew ourselves really to be, as opposed to some modernist ideal. "The practical
problem of urban design now," Richard Sennett has written, for example, with reference to the
plate-glass architecture inspired by Mies, "is how men and women can cope with the solitude
imposed upon them by modernism." 2 One could make such a statement only in the absence of that
2. Richard Sennett, "Plate Glass," Haritar1 6.4 (I 987), 7.
lost collective Other of history. The question is for whom and to what extent Sennett's
once-upon-a-time Other has been dispersed.
3. For an introduction to Ford ism and post-lordism in the
context of Detroit, see Pa rik Schumache•· and Chris-
An oppositional history was characteristic not only of the privileged subjects of
modernist "high" culture, along with middle-class aspirants to simulacra) entitlement; it
seems to have defned the working-class subjects of "Fordism" as weJJ.3 The modernity
tian Rogner, "After Fm·d," in this collection.
4. Robert Lacey, Ford: The Me11 and the Machine (BoRton:
Little Brown, 1986), 109.
of their labor, looked back at now, consisted of the mechanical equivalent of Sennett's
isolation: the day spent in tasks so idiotically small as to refer to nothing outside their repetitive,
mindless simplicity, with the necessary speed of the line executing a kind of noisy, mechanical
"solitude imposed upon them by modernism." "The man who places a part does not fasten it,"
Ford decreed, "The man who puts in a bolt does not put on the nut; the man who puts on the nut
does not tighten it."
4
"Imagine it if you can," a writer for Colliers magazine began his description
of Henry Ford's Highland Park assembly line in 1914 during the peak production years of the
Model T:
... its endless rows of writhing machinery, its shrieking, hammering, and clatter, its smell
of oil, its autumn haze of smoke, its savage-looking foreign population-to my mind it
expressed but one thing, and that was delirium.5
5. Melvin G Holli, ed. Detroi (New York: New Viewpoints,
1976), 134.
6. Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism or, the Cultural Logic
of Late Capitalism (Durh>n, N.C.: Duke University
Press, 1991), 34-5.
Seventy years later, Fredric Jameson would imagine he had discovered in post­
modernity the "savage" self-fragmenting subjectivity described here, which he would
dub the "hysterical sublime." 6 Those two moments of hysterical projection share the
same strategy, which, like Sennett's, reduces to unintelligible ruin any subject position not pre­
cisely supervised by their own prescriptive nostalgias. Each yearning for a moment of historicist
repression that may never have existed, at least not in those terms.
How Not To Visit Detroit
First the facts. Now a thesis. A ruin is not found, it is made: an anti-historical compound of
nostalgia and merchandising. This collusion is suggested in the sociologist Dean MacCannell's
formulation, from his book, The Tourist (subtitled "A New Theory of the Leisure Class"): "The
deep structure of modernity is a totalizing idea, a modern mentality that sets modern society in
7. Dean MacCannell, The Tourist: A New Theory of the
Leisure Class (New York: Schockcn Books, 1976), 7-8.
opposition both to its own past and to those societies of the present that are premodern
or un(der) developed." 7 Elsewhere, MacCannell concludes, quite beautifully, in fact,
"As a tourist, the individual may step out into the universal drama of modernity." 8 I
8. Ibid, 7.
would say he has things about right, except in reverse, rather like Fredric Jameson
writing under the influence of his politically nostalgic unconscious. As a tourist, the individual
does not step into, but out of the historically negotiated drama of modernity. The totalizing impulse
MacCannell ascribes to modernity is, in other words, more nearly post-modern in its origins. With
35
post-modernity it shares an academic, institutionalizing urge to control history; reducing memory
to sites of corporate supervision by merchandizing history as nostalgic ruin.
But to who does a ruin frst appear as a ruin? Not to native inhabitants, surely, for whom
history is not a holiday diversion, but a continuous, if haphazard, way of living. When did Romans,
for example, frst realize that they no longer lived in a city, but in a ruin? Perhaps not until English
gentlemen, taking the Grand Tour, found themselves in need of souvenirs. What those souvenirs
spoke to genteel collectors was not history, but the humiliation of history; not the "lessons" of
the past, but the mastery of ownership, as if consumption had taken the place of self-knowledge,
because in fact it had.
"A world ended in Detroit," Camilo Jose Vergara has declared, connoisseur-like, in Metropo·
lis magazine,9 with his article serving both as advertisement for a recently published coffee-table
book (The New American Ghetto), and a traveling exhibition of his photographs. Vergara has been
dining out on Detroit for a number of years, as a matter of fact, in the pages of such journals as
the Nation, the Washington Post, and the New York Times. He has devised a version of
9. Camilo Jose Vergara, "Visible City," Metropolis (April
Detroit, that most classically representative of cities, which proves attractive to great
1995>. 38_
numbers of middle-class Americans who share his urge to get over the responsibility of
10_ Ibid, 33_
history by reducing its memory to nostalgic ruins. Vergara's "solution" to the problems
11. Ibid, 38.
of the city, and his nominal reason for writing his now much reproduced article in
Metropolis magazine, was to propose that a large chunk of downtown Detroit be turned into a
kind of dystopian theme park: "a dozen city blocks of pre-Depression skyscrapers be stabilized
and left standing as ruins: an American Acropolis."
10
"All I can do," Vergara confesses touristi­
cally, "is to record the fading splendor of the buildings and the disjointed and anguished cries
of those who try to make a home among them."
11
This high-mindedness is perhaps all well and
good, liberal romanticism notwithstanding. It is the naive tourism implicit in Vergara's proposals
that is both more consequential, and also representative of post-modern souvenir taking and
the down-sizing nostalgias that reduce the cause-and-effect of history to the disjointed stuff of
coffee-table publication.
"The tourists," MacCannell writes in his un-self-regarding characterization, "return home
carrying souvenirs and talking of their experiences, spreading, wherever they go, a vicarious
experience of the sight. Authentic experiences are believed to be available only to those moderns
who try to break the bonds of their everyday existence and begin to 'live."' 12 "Just back from
Detroit," the self-authenticating Vergara assures his readers, "which I visit every year. Its down­
town moves me like no other place." 13 Vergara acts out a vicarious self-authentication.
He is "moved" by the spectacular "ruin" of the city, which his own photographs trans-
12· MacCanneJJ, 158-59·
late into marketable souvenirs. These sights are offered for sale to the supposedly
13· Vergara, 33·
14. Susan Stewart, On Longing: Narratives ofthe Min-
disauthenticated, post-modern populace for whom "the fading splendor of the buildings"
iature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection
and the "anguished cries of those who try to make a home among them" have alike <Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1993), 133.
been translated to aestheticized curios. "As experience is increasingly mediated and
abstracted," Susan Stewart points out in her description of souvenirs, "the lived relation of the
body to the phenomenological world is replaced by a nostalgic myth of contact and presence."
14
Vergara's sight-seeing, his vicarious "myth of contact and presence," replaces the reader/citizen's
actual bodily visit to the city, and records (as souvenir trope) an abandonment of urban space,
both real and imaginary, that is of great historical consequence.
As MacCannell suggests, it is the "authenticity of the self," Vergara's prototypical self, that
is really the question. Vergara's concern with an aesthetic of feeling renders history not so much
impossible as irrelevant: "All I can do is to record the fading splendor." Of course, that is not all he
can do, but all he wants to do. He is shrewd, if not precisely original in his wish both to remember
15. Vergara, 36.
Detroit, and at the same time to know nothing whatsoever about it: "[W]e could transform the
nearly 100 troubled buildings [downtown] into a grand national historic park of play and wonder,
an urban Monument Valley." 15 Here, the potential for aesthetic "play and wonder" entitles the
connoisseur to make an empty "ruin" of the place where a million people still live and
16. Michael Sorkin, Variations on a Theme Park: The
New American City and the End of Public Space, ed.
Michael Sorkin (New York: Hill and Wang, 1992), 231.
work, many of them in conditions of enforced desperation. (Vergara's photographs,
offered as souvenirs from a theme park that will probably never be built, rarely include
human fgures, regardless of his rhetorical sensitivity to the "anguished cries" of the
invisible citizenry.) The historic "solitude" imposed by modernity, to which Richard
Sennett refers, is not so much solved as it is thematized, Disneyfed, as consumable entertain­
ment. If "Detroit is everywhere," as Vergara proposes, then so too is his conveniently packaged
"Disneyzone" anodyne, to use Michael Sorkin's dismissive term for a post-modern (and post­
mortem) "urbanism without ... a city." 16 Vergara's is a perfectly un-historical space, wherein the
politics of middle-class feeling take the place of understanding, responsibility, and action. That
is a solution of sorts, I suppose, and one that has kept Vergara consistently in the news, as if to
confrm the wish of Americans to generally escape the old modernist stand-offs: memory versus
desire, history versus utopia. If we could only just get rid of the one, then we would be free to
enjoy the other.
Meditation One: Do You Remember Hudson's?
Perhaps the greatest of all the "ruins" in Detroit is the now leveled structure that once housed the
J. L. Hudson Company, Detroit's premier downtown retailer. At its completion in 1929, it was the
world's largest department store. The building, demolished in 1998, represented an architectural
consolidation undertaken in stages between 1924 and 1929 under the supervision of Smith,
Hinchman, and Grylls. The structure was twenty-five stories, with four additional stories below
ground; it encompassed 2.2 million square feet of f loor space. There were 5,000 windows, 700
dressing rooms, and 51 passenger elevators each with their own white-gloved attendant. Hudson's
had storage space for 83,000 furs. A seven-story f lagpole topped the structure. This mercantile
enormity displaced the former high points of civic culture: the church steeples and city hall tower.
The lives of citizens would no longer be triangulated by those outmoded referents; instead, people
were invited to discover themselves in relation to a commercial culture that they could buy and
dispose of piecemeal, as they pleased. It was the modern way.
The enormous building was vacated in 1983, when Hudson's (by then a subsidiary of a
Minneapolis retail chain) closed its doors in Detroit forever. Only downsized suburban outposts
remain. The old downtown store was never too far out of the public mind, however. At holidays
it served as a gigantic reminder of all the good times that people (who invariably no longer lived
there) say they used to have in Detroit, but which the city (abandoned by more than half of its
former residents) now seemingly makes impossible. The fact is that Hudson's was not a ruin of
anything, except a sentimental wish to impose on someone else a kind of life that modernity has
taught us all, collectively, to leave behind.
The suburbs did not kill Hudson's, in other words, we simply outgrew it, just as we were
intended to. The J. L. Hudson Company built the frst suburban shopping center in the United
States (called Northland), and, along with other "downtown" interests, developed (at enormous
proft) the housing and transportation routes required to make suburbia viable. Not incidentally,
the year of Northland's completion (1954) was the same year that previously growing sales at
the downtown store began an irreversible decline. And no surprise, Hudson's taught consum-
37
ers how to master and ultimately condescend to the many-storied plot that was once crucial to
the pedagogy of department-store consuming: the omniscient, commercial narrative that moved
shoppers through the store and into lives defned in imitation of its disciplinary regime. Just as
labor unions ceased to script the enfranchisement of individual workers, centralized shopping
became anachronistic to the mature desires of fully individuated consumers who preferred the
come-as-you-are populism of shopping mall entry. In both instances, "we" outgrew the master
narratives, those training wheels on our ideological bicycle, and now feel sufficiently confdent to
go forward on our own. And that represents not a ruin of modernity, but its on-going vitality, a
vitality vouchsafed not only to those who have left the city behind.
"I am disappointed by the reaction against the ruins park," Vergara muses, in a state
of disingenuous incredulity. He seems unable to fathom the preference of homeless citizens, for
example, when they say they would prefer heat, shelter, and jobs, instead of his Motown
Acropolis which "would occupy only a minuscule fraction of the city's idle space."
1
7
17· Camilo Jose Vergara, "Visible City," Metropolis (April
1995), 38.
Perhaps what is at stake is a native grasp of the danger implicit in his fantasy. All too
easily, the poor and disenfranchised are reduced to souvenir extras when "we" who are not poor
execute our nostalgic "contract" with America, as if history were subject to periodic renegotiation.
That opportune fguration simply cannot be sustained at ground level, surely not around the old
Hudson's store, in this city of desperate (if illegal) modernity. Here the illicit economy is, for some
cohorts of the population, the main employer, especially of young men. They seem not to require a
public monument to "our throwaway cities," to use Vergara's terminology. Their lives prove suf­
fcient reminders of where and who they are, and of the value yet to be discovered in a history
that others would prefer to blame on resident "indifference" and then simply leave behind.
Meditation Two: Horace Rackham's Doorknob
On both sides of Woodward Avenue, just north of Detroit's so-called New Center (a semi-successful
attempt to relocate the city's overcongested downtown in the 1920's) is a neighborhood that was
once home to some of the richest and most powerful men in the United States. Boston-Edison,
it is called, after two of its main streets. Henry Ford, then a recently minted billionaire, built
his first mansion here in the years just before the First World War. S. S. Kresge (founder of
K-Mart) lived in a great house, the grounds of which occupied a full city block. J. L. Hudson, who
created the Hudson's department store, lived only a street away. Ranged around them were the
less wealthy and elite of Detroit: retailers and car magnates and manufacturers. Even Ty Cobb
was a resident, if not precisely a neighbor. On Edison Avenue, just a couple of houses down from
where Ford would one day make his home, Horace Rackham built his house. Before he became
rich and philanthropic (endowing among other things the University of Michigan's graduate school)
Rack ham was an attorney and investor who, along with a small group of Detroiters, loaned Henry
Ford the money he needed to build his first commercially successful car: the original Model A.
This was Ford's third try at auto manufacturing. The first two attempts having ended in financial
wreck, investors were hard to come by. "The horse is here to stay," a banker friend of Rackham's
advised, "the automobile is only a novelty-a fad." Nevertheless, Rackham bought 50 shares of
Ford stock, at a cost of $5,000. Between 1903 and 1919, he was paid $4,750,000 in dividends
on that investment. When Ford bought him out in 1919, taking the company private, Rackham's
shares were redeemed for $12,500,000. He became, on the spot, an immensely wealthy man.
Rack ham's house still stands, like most of the houses in this district. It is a modest place,
by local standards, not nearly so fne as many of his neighbors'. I know the people who Jive there
now, a mathematician and an artist. The frst time they invited me over, before ringing the bell,
I put my hand on their front doorknob, which appeared to be original. I imagined Rackham doing
the same thing, then opening the door on that April afternoon, eighty years before, after he had
collected his check from Henry Ford: "Honey, I'm home, and here's the 12.5 million." It is doubtful
this little vignette ever got played out. Rackham was probably driven home, arriving not in front,
but at the side or the rear, greeted by a servant. No wonder I get things wrong; it is hard for me to
imagine his life, except as the wish-fulflling fantasy, the retro-souvenir, of a West-Texas used-car
dealer's son who grew up knowing very little about wealth, or servants, or porte cocheres.
Not that my friends who own Rackham's house are any more knowledgeable about such
things. Like virtually all the current residents in the neighborhood, they inhabit places (often near
palaces) never intended for people like themselves. But then who could have guessed that one day,
half the city's population and most of its wealth would just walk away? Before that happened,
people of the class, or race, of the neighborhood's current homeowners would likely have been
consigned to the back stairs, the third foors, the cottages of tradesmen and domestics. Sometimes
present-day Detroiters buy the great houses as if to get even for their prior exclusion. They make
a payment or two, strip out the doors and fxtures and sell these to dealers; then they default on
the mortgage loan. Many of the homes have been wasted that way, and then abandoned to the
next stage in their devolution. Here impromptu recyclers ply their trade, day and night, with old
shopping carts and rattletrap pick-ups, for the most part unmolested by the law, making their way
up and down Detroit's un-maintained streets. Inevitably, these houses reach the fnal stage in this
process of controlled decay, becoming yet another crumbling souvenir of the glory that was once
Detroit. "The houses, mostly standing as they stood a half-century ago, are dismal structures,"
Russell McLauchlin wrote, for example, in a reminiscence of his own (even more dilapidated)
childhood neighborhood, not far from Boston-Edison:
18. Russell McLaucblin,Aifred Street (Detroit: Conjure
House, 1946), xi.
Some have night-blooming grocery stores in their front yards. Some have boarded wi ndows.
All stand in bitter need of paint and repair. It is a desolate street; a s: ene of poverty and
chop-fallen gloom; possibly of worse things. But once, within a clear middle-aged
memory, Alfred Street was a lovely plae.18
McLauchlin's description was written at the end of the Second World War; the intervening
years have only increased the local appetite for nostalgia. This nostalgic sighting of the past offers
a retroactive justifcation for the very acts of abandonment that produced the "ruins" in the frst
place. These ruins are now made to appear, sui generis, as the result of some native defciency
of culture which those lucky enough to have escaped need to prevent from overtaking their new­
found homes.
What is interesting is how little power such grand residences as existed on Alfred Street or,
somewhat later, in Boston-Edison, held over the original owners, who abandoned them long before
the neighborhoods got old. As E. P Thompson has taught us with regard to social class,
19. Edward P. Thompson,The Making of the English Worh-
modernity is no less invisible, except when it is in motion.19 Such mobility is what made
ing Class (NewYork: Random House, 1966).
20. RD. McKenzie, "Detroit's Substantial Families:
the Boston-Edison houses desirable as destinations, and then antiquated them almost
as fast. Because money, especially when newly made, is expressive only on the go, when
it is buying something new. Detroit's "substantial families," as R. D. McKenzie called
1900-1930," in Detroit, ed. Melvin G Rolli (New York:
New Viewpoints, 1976), 122-123.
them in his 1933 study (dealing with the years 1900-1930), had always been moving
away from the past and the central city, out toward, and then into, the suburbs. What McKenzie
discovered is that this pattern of migration was much faster for Detroit's richest citizens than for
similar citizens in New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago. In those cities the population of"notables"
39
in fact increased between 1910 and 1930.
20
In Detroit, that population declined because people
who had "made it" considered getting out of the city to be a necessary imprimatur of success.
McKenzie's conclusion, in his quaintly snobbish sociology, was that the preponderance of
heavy industry and working class immigrants were responsible for the elite's evacuation of Detroit.
But that is to mistake the cause for the effect. Detroit had so many mobile rich people, many of
whom started out as working-class immigrants, because it was and is a place given over entirely
to industrial modernity. That is what created Boston-Edison, and that is what made it available,
almost immediately, to somebody else on the way up. "Nothing original, yet everything new," as
Terry Smith remarked of Henry Ford's modernity. Ford himself, a farm boy turned mechanic, only
stayed in his house at 66 Edison Avenue a couple of years before building Fair Lane in suburban
Dearborn, where he moved in 1916. The Boston-Edison houses, even the ones that have been truly
ruined by predation, are not souvenirs of lost elegance, failed culture, depopulation, or something
else. Souvenirs are something you bring back from a trip after it is over. For the people who live
here, the trip is far from done, so these historic houses keep getting moved into, and used, because
for somebody they still represent "everything new," no matter how old it may be.
Meditation Three: Romance of the Road
Perhaps the most important historic site in Detroit goes entirely unnoted because it is not marked.
A state commemorative plaque is located not at the site itself, but in an historic neighborhood
some distance removed. The stretch of Woodward Avenue between Six and Seven Mile Roads was
the first piece of concrete paved highway in the United States, laid down in 1909, before anybody
could have guessed at the importance of what was being done. The paving represents an act of
pure creativity. Like pure science or pure mathematics, it pre-dated the use that would reveal its
premonitory value. Industrial modernity produced the workers who would build the cars, in such
great numbers and so cheaply, that everyone, including the workers themselves, would eventually
be able to buy one. And by then, the value of modern pavement would seem so self-evident as
to merit no special notice of this long-since forgotten moment of foresight. Today, high-velocity
pavement grids the geography of our sight-specific modernity, enabling a schematic wonder that
makes all attendant wonders seem likewise possible by association.
Sight-specifc modernity was no less powerful in 1951, when Detroit celebrated its 250th
anniversary, which became the occasion for the publication of This Is Detroit: 250 Years in Pictures.
The "Postlude," subtitled "The Vision and the Fulfllment," offers the following recollection of the
city's founder Antoine Laumet de ]a Mothe Cadillac: "On the site of Cadillac's fort of 250 years
ago the imposing buildings of the new Civic Center are now rising. As long as her citizens shall
continue to dream and dare greatly, the future of the City Cadillac founded will remain secure."
21
The fnal two images in the volume are of then not yet extant freeway interchanges:
21. M. M. Quaife, This is Detroit, ed. William White
the Lodge/I-94 interchange north of the Wayne State University campus, and the
(Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1951), 197.
Lodge/I-75 interchange near Tiger Stadium. The two images are titled, aptly, "Works
in Progress," just as the city itself was, and is, a work still in progress. Each shows an aerial
rendering of the city and, superimposed over it, a tracing of the planned f reeways that would
innervate that historic terrain just as a nerve innervates muscle tissue and endows it with the
capacity to move. The future of Detroit will remain secure, the anniversary volume advised, "as
long as her citizens shall continue to dream and dare greatly." That is what these photographs
are all about. They are maps of the dream and wonder of modernity, expressed at the intersection
of pavement and history.
40
But the photographic superimposition gives a false impression, and merely confrms the now
prevalent, and nostalgic, view that freeways laid waste to otherwise vital communities that would
still be vital today if only they had not been submitted to the eminent domain of concrete. These
claims are utter nonsense because the freeways did not interrupt the historical logic of American
urbanism. On the contrary, they are its purest, most sublime expression. The photographic image
is a false one because the freeway is not a superimposition, but rather a natural outgrowth, a
fulfllment of the modernity of which the city is the sight-specifc expression. And now that we have
arrived at the future always already inscribed in our design, the question is whether we will have
the courage to take responsibility for the results. This is a complicated question, obviously, and
only made more so in a city such as Detroit. In this respect at least (Vergara notwithstanding),
Detroit is an exaggerated paradigm of all American cities. By default, it has been inherited by
populations (many of them poor and poorly-educated minorities) whose attitude toward historic
"preservation" can only be a vexed one. Particularly so, since the history in question was one
scripted to exclude them from the scheme that made modernity so highly proftable to somebody
else, someone who has now moved away.
As to what became of our ability to dare and dream greatly, there is no simple or single
answer. Perhaps it is our frustrated national impatience with the future, and our concomitant
wish to devour it ahead of time, before it runs out. "Futurology" displaces history and nostalgia
supplants modernity as "cultural dominant" (to use Fredric Jameson's term): a nostalgia for how
we imagine the by now exhausted future used to make us feel. William Whyte, for example, is
among the most famous and famously nostalgic of city interpreters. In his book City, subtitled
"Rediscovering the Center," he recounts with sociological exactitude his love affair with pedestrian
streets, which are the nostalgic Other of high-speed pavement. He laments the unwillingness of
Americans to walk more than 800 to 1,000 feet before getting in their cars, noting this distance
as approximately that between the anchor stores in a suburban shopping mall. He concludes, "[l]f
Americans could widen their walking radius by only 200 feet, there would be a revolution in U.S.
22. William H. Whyte, City: Rediscovering the Center
(NewYork:Doubleday, l988), 303.
land use. However, there would have to be structural changes. There would have to
be places to walk." 22 It is not as if Whyte is wrong, or not entitled to his nostalgia for
a redemptive future, which of course he is. The problem is his presumption that the
behavior of Americans is evidence of a kind of ignorance, or moral degeneracy, although
these are perhaps highly convenient assumptions to adopt.
This strikes me, nevertheless, as the worst kind of pandering. In the name of bringing
things back, of rediscovering our center, "we," whoever that is, are invited to see as ruin that which
others might want to call history. The city, in fact, counter to Whyte's presumptions, did produce
places to get to. We got there, by choice, on paved highways. And it is the extraordinary wealth
produced by the city, by this city, Detroit, that made the trip possible for numbers of individuals
unprecedented in the long history of human societies. That is what the city did. Now, to presume
its putative exhaustion is evidence of anything but the city's successful design is like blaming
the gas tank for getting empty or the tires for wearing out when somebody drives the family car.
The problem is not that so many people used the city to get to where they wanted to go, which
was someplace else. The problem is that not everybody was allowed to come along for the ride, so
that a population who has been excluded from its entitlements now often inhabits the structural
apparatus of modernity. To blame those people for conditions over which they have had little
control, or to blame the historic city for its insistent, if problematic, witness to its own success
is to miss the fundamental point, only hinted at in Whyte's suggestion of a need for "structural"
change. That is precisely what is needed: a structure for changing nostalgia into intelligence,
ruin into history, for recalling the sights of modernity to a still relevant specifcity. There will be
41
no arbitrary posting of the Modern, in other words, until we have reached its end, architectural
cartoons notwithstanding. As to what, precisely, that end may be, it is all a matter of arrival.
That is to say, it is all about cars.
Conclusion
The automobile is the mechanical summation of our urban predicament: the ultimate love object
of our national desire, which renders the city at once accessible, and also outmoded, inconvenient,
unnecessary, like the history, supposedly, from which it was born. There is simply nowhere con­
venient to park, in the city or history. Whatever is to become of the metropolis, then, and us along
with it, will be determined by the confrontation of cars with historic space. The most sublime
expression of our national identity was sight specific, to be apprehended behind the wheel. That
is where individualist democracy and industrial modernity converge climactically in an embrace
of man (or woman) and machine that is perhaps the supreme moment of fulfillment we will know
as a people; with the fit of dream and reality being perfect, or nearly so.
This was all made possible, regardless of how we may feel about the results, through the
logic of the "sunken ditch." This is the origin of the American freeway and also the cause of much
derisive, and mistaken, criticism by architects and urban planners, who presume that some kind
of gigantic mistake was made. Quite the contrary, freeways were the populist fulfllment of an
urban "dream" distinctively our own (to recall the language of the 1950's Detroit commemora­
tive volume). By sinking roadways below street level, civic authorities could control access and
therefore allow greater speed of travel for urban motorists. Not incidentally, this made good on
the sight-specific promise that cars had only been hinting at ever since Henry Ford drove his first
"Quadricycle" through the streets of Detroit on that fateful June morning in 1896: the promise
that automobiles would carry us out of the past and into the modern world.
Quite clearly, Detroit is the Capital of the twentieth century, and probably the century to
come. Here, we built the auto-matic future, and it drove us out of town and into the world beyond,
where it is every American's God-given right to park directly in front of wherever it is we are
going. "The road generates its own patterns of movement and settlement and work," J. B. Jackson
proposes, tantalizingly, in A Sense of Place, A Sense of Time, "without so far producing
its own kind of landscape beauty or its own sense of place." 23 I am not so sure that
23. John Brinckerhoff Jackson, A Sense of Place, A Sense of
Time (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994), ViJ.
those conclusions are sustainable, given the witness of Detroit, although the implica-
tion that modernity should yield a traditionally recognizable "beauty" is possibly the problem.
The sense of place that modernity produces, fnally, may require new, un-nostalgic categories
to comprehend it. Whatever image we make of the city now, whether we left or stayed behind,
it will be of the city, this city, confronted through a windshield. This is the sight toward which
modernity has driven us: screened by our private nostalgias, protected by an individually service­
able technology, and traveling at speed through the ruins our evacuation has made of Detroit.
JERRY HERRON
42
CAN HOFFMAN
the best the world has to offer
If Detroit is to be called "The Capital of the Twentieth Century," 1 it is not because of its archi­
tecture, monuments, or great cultural achievements. Detroit is the Capital because of its singular
devotion to the idea of industrial production, investing all of its resources into a technology and
product that has transformed the face of every modern city. In the process, Detroit
1. Following Jerry Herron, "Three Meditations on the
has allowed itself to be reinvented time and again; recasting its space, culture, and
architecture in the form of the latest production idea.
Ruins of Detroit," in this collection.
The "Capital of the Twentieth Century" is not a place but a product; a new style,
a new mode of production, "a better idea." This idea is confrmed in common speech when we refer
to the American automobile industry as "Detroit." Nowhere else do we fnd a city so completely
dedicated to a single industry and the obsessions of modern technology. Detroit defnes itself
through its pursuit of material perfections, and by forgetting the past in order to make way for
technologies that promise greater accuracy and production effciencies. Perfection is not a spiritual
thing in the Capital. It comes rolling off the line every other second in the form of a new car. Ideas
like the fatness of a plane or the straightness of a line are now considered as practical concerns
rather than spiritual pursuits, organizing industry and science in a never-ending trajectory of
progress and growth.
Practical ideas are the currency of the Capital (Ford has a better idea). They produce their
own economy, re-inscribe space, and transform the city: practical ideas such as the division of
labor, the assembly line, the horizontal factory, yearly model changes, and the "team" model of
design and production. Practical ideas are always simple. They offer a way forward in situations
that are otherwise complex and difficult. The problem is that new ideas produce new complexities.
New conditions that the Capital would rather overlook than confront.
Bob Lutz, while a senior vice-president with Chrysler Corporation, described his firm's
new "team" approach to design in a videotaped interview. 2 In this interview, Lutz described
2. Bob Lutz, interviewed in The Automobile Story (Prin-
how a diverse group representing the many aspects of a new car's realization could
design a single part of a car simultaneously. These aspects included basic engineering,
design, marketing, fabrication sub-contractors, cost accounting, and a limitless array
ceton, N.J.: Films for the Humanities and Sciences,
1992).
of attendant specialties. He went on to describe how a corporation could be organized
around this idea, and consider issues as complex as contractual relationships with suppliers as
well as new procedures to be implemented on the assembly line. The range of applications was
43
enormous and this was precisely Lutz' point: the simpler the idea, the greater its effect. Ultimately,
however, there is another side to the excitement that comes with a new idea. This is the shadow of
obsolescence that it casts upon the remainder of the city. With every new idea comes the realiza­
tion that a part of the city is now obsolete. Bob Lutz was fully aware of this when he used the
General Motors Headquarters Building in Detroit as an example of the obsolete, linear model of
development and production. The old model divided the corporation into separate divisions that
communicated through slow and formalized channels. The three parts of the building represented
the three primary divisions: sales, engineering, and design. With this passing reference, Bob Lutz
relegated this great building to the shadow of history, and denied the efcacy of its presence in
the city. A new idea has great power in the Capital and architecture is always one of the frst
casualties. The edge of technology is always happening somewhere out of sight, and beyond the
horizon of the city. It emits signals through casual remarks, subtle advertising campaigns, and
stock prices. The General Motors Headquarters is still standing but the psychic locus of the city
has now been shifted.
The faith in new ideas erases the past and eliminates the function of monuments. Think of a
capital without monuments and the collective act of mourning that they evoke. The great capitals
of the nineteenth century are full of them, constantly reminding their citizens of the formative
events in their nation's history and how they are all bound to a common culture. Monuments
stand alone as stable points against the fux of the present, and inspire civic virtues through the
remembrance of the ancestor's sacrifice. According to convention, these virtues rule over civic
life and are the foundation for the patriarchic nature of the nation-state.
However, despite its many imposing structures ornamented with the trappings of civic life,
there are no monuments in the "Capital of the Twentieth Century." Things move too quickly.
Survival is more a matter of forgetting than remembering. Rather than guided by images of the
past, the citizens of the Capital invest their beliefs in the images that promise a stake in the
new. There is no future in the past. Here the complexities of the moment are presented within an
image of desire, and are delivered in the form of media advertising. A recent billboard, installed
along one of the major freeways in the Capital, shows an image of the new Ford Explorer set in
an Arcadian landscape of waterfalls and lush trees. Across the bottom of the image is the phrase
"The Best the World Has to Offer." This image functions on many levels. The "best" the world has
to offer is somewhere beyond the horizon, and the endless entropic sprawl of the Capital. This
place can be reached only by purchasing the other half of what the world has to offer, in this case,
the world of consumption and international techno-capital. Nature and technology are combined
in a transporting picture of delight. The subtext to the image carries the message that the way
forward is the way out. Technology provides a perfected nature, an idealized, and transcendent
aesthetic. The city is simultaneously as unattainable and as close as this late model car.
Advertising succeeds to the degree that it denies the context within which it is placed. The
paradoxical location of advertisements amidst the ruins of the Capital would certainly confirm
this equation. However, there is something more to this image. The pairing of absolute nature
and technology carries with it a difficult truth that we are just now beginning to comprehend.
The fact that the car is placed at the edge of the world shows that the Capital is now staking
claim to the edge of the planet, and also, the horizon of development has come full circle upon
itself and is calling for a more ecological vision. Perhaps the car is about to be mistaken for an
image of nature itself.
As markers, these images are helpful to the citizens, offering ways in which they can direct
their lives in the fux of an ever-changing economy. Advertising encourages the reconciliation
of one's personal desires with the demands of the new idea that is transforming the landscape.
44
These ideas cannot be stopped because they hold the promise of a new life for industry in the form
of greater profts and more growth. The Capital must continue to expand since growth is now
in the interest of all of its citizens. Images help the citizens reconcile this trajectory, they give it
a form, and they offer space.
This growth makes the Capital diffcult to pin down. Things are always moving, they are
a blur or a smudge on the map. In the end, it is all movement; the stable reference point was lost
long ago. The images are what we remember, and the images are what we desire. They are the
currency, and the moving reference for this capital on the verge of dreams.
The frst of these ideas was the moving assembly line itself, which encapsulates the idea of a
moving reference. Historians place the invention of the moving assembly line in Cincinnati, where
pig carcasses were frst moved on hooks through various stages of slaughtering and carving. 3 But
3. Siegfried Giedion, Mechanization Takes Command
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1948), 216.
its application to the assembly of automobiles brings the process to its true conceptual
clarity: moving vehicles produced on a moving assembly line.
The strength of this idea was too powerful to be limited to an industrial process.
Here the dynamism of a relational function is applied in practice: a moving machine
produces a machine that moves. The complexity of movement within the body of a worker is
externalized into a complex array of devices that can sustain that movement at a constant speed.
The static reference of space is now supplanted by the temporal reference of motion. Motion is
now the constant. This idea spawns other ideas and sets in motion a new economy and
4. On the application ofTaylorism to Fordist production in
image. An older idea, the division of labor, is applied with a ruthless precision as every
Detroit, see Patrik Schumacher and Christian Rogner,
"After Ford," in this collection. For a general introduc·
stage in the assembly process is organized around the logic of the moving line. The
tion toTaylorism and Taylor's principles of scientifc
line is divided into an infnite number of serialized and individually optimized motions.
management, see Robert Kanigel, The One Best Way:
Frederick Winslow Taylor and the Enigma of Effciency
This is Taylorism: the analysis of human motion according to principles of effcient
(New York: Penguin Books, 1997). management.4 The body becomes a component of the machine.
The force of this reduction was a diffcult, albeit thrilling, adjustment; and a
great discipline was required to sustain the mechanism. Architecture, until that time, had been
the very symbol of a static, spatial reference. It was called upon to lend balance to this newly
unhinged world. The balance took the form of an explicit, spatial ordering, which served to prepare
the population for the strict precision and hierarchy of the production system. It achieved this by
recalling the virtues of civic duty and propriety, and by giving shape to an important web of
civic institutions such as museums, churches, monuments, and schools. Virtue became a prag­
matic thing, a question of effciency rather than ethics. Advertising itself played a secondary
role to the projection of civic duty, which,
because of the local nature of the economy
at the time, all businesses actively sup­
ported. One might say that a company's
building was its best form of advertising; it
declared a place in the community through
the fact of its physical presence. One has
a sense of this in the old part of the
city where ordered facades punctuated by
monumental, civic institutions, such as
churches and museums, shape the streets.
Even the Highland Park Model T factory
assumed a civic air, its concrete frame
rendered in the stately air of a one-half
mile long brick and limestone facade.
fg
45
Order produced order. Straight lines produced more straight lines in a seemingly endless expendi­
ture of energy. Building itself was rendered as production, and the crafts of the previous age
existed as mass-produced emblems of virtue whose mechanical repetition on facades it both
celebrated and depleted.
Order was power. The order of vertical process shaped both the vertical offce and the
(then still vertical) assembly lines. This spatial and operational symmetry was not coincidental,
nor was its extension into the organization of the city or the maintenance of social order. This
socially legible and enforceable order was a necessary aspect of the massing of labor in suffcient
quantities for industrial production. Raw material was delivered to the top of a multi-storied
factory and distributed to the stations along the assembly line by the force of gravity. Another
new idea: order fows from top to bottom. These vertical factories mark the frst widespread use
of another top-down method of material distribution: the concrete frame. Ideas travel fast, pulling
along a train of massive industries and their cities.
At this early stage, civic duty was characterized by strict codes of behavior. The division of
labor had not yet worked itself into the division of Lhe psyche, splitting the public from the private
realm, splitting the outer and inner aspects of being. (This was to evolve in the latter history of the
Capital.) At this point in the Capital's history the manner of appearing in public was determined
by codes of behavior actively shaped by the civic institutions. These codes not only addressed the
outward manifestations of style but also were involved in educating the citizens in the disciplines
of writing and geometry, as these forms of order still had to be born by the individual worker.
Machines had not yet learned to run themselves and the line demanded thorough grounding in
geometric and mechanical principles. Precision was still a matter of touch, as evidenced by the
Model T cast iron chassis components and the complex hammered metal adornments on buildings.
All of these were formed by the disciplined precision of hand and eye.
Order was manifest at this time. It was a matter of civic responsibility and pride. The
production economy fowed out of the repetitive effciencies that such an order brought. The fact
that Ford wanted all of his cars to be black was not simply an aesthetic decision but rather a
statement about the nature of the production economy. Value was to be found in the modes of
production itself, in its repetition, and strict adherence to economic principles. Order begets order,
the acceleration and growth of which is proft.
The myth claims that over time the other car companies took advantage of Ford's rather
stiff approach to production and profted at his expense by offering the new consumer a wide
variety of colors and styles. Like all myths, it contains an historic development in the culture of
the city, which also contains a new idea, image and economy. The fact was that the vertical system
of production was approaching its limit. The concrete factories were proving to be too infexible for
the increasingly frequent changeovers due to new style and model offerings. One could have only
so many holes in the concrete foor slab in order to distribute the parts to the assembly line. The
new idea was to put the entire line on one level and to deliver the parts to it with the
use of motorized vehicles. Albert Kahn designed the frst such factory for Ford, using
5. Frederico Bucci, Albert Kahn, (New York: Princeton
an integrated structural and saw-tooth skylight frame permitting the easy addition Architecture Press, 1993).
of space in the horizontal dimension. 5
The fexible expansion of the factory was paralleled by the expansion of the paved road
system throughout the city. A new concept of urban transportation was born, one that was free
of the hierarchy of avenues and streets. Houses and factories could be placed anywhere on the
grid. The city was soon flled and, for a short period, it experienced the
he appropriate expression
he Fordist corporate
reaucracy. Albert Kahn,
neral Motors Headquarters,
·troit, 1917-1921.
delirium of density. Tall towers were constructed in the downtown area
and neighborhoods were built alongside the edges of factories. The Capital
grew at an unprecedented rate. The model of production through interchangeable parts was
taken as a model for the management of production itself, articulating discrete functions for sales,
engineering, and design. These components articulated the built diagram of the aforementioned
General Motors Headquarters. The view from the top extended to the horizon, which offered the
image of an abundant nature.
Images have always played an important role in the city. They fuse irreconcilable forces so
that they may be used to promote and accommodate the latest ideas. The image of the horizon as
nature portrays something immense and sublime. The horizontal expanse now extends into the
far distance: an industry for the world, an industry that consumes the world. Nature comes to
be understood as a resource for production and production is understood as a natural process.
The paintings of Charles Scheeler illustrate this. Those great works that fuse the traditions of
still life and landscape, so still and yet so flled with activity. As beautiful and precise as they
are, they are haunting images that give the feeling of something violated. The large piles of black
coal unloaded from the steamer at the Rouge Iron Works have been scraped up from some other
time. They are charred pieces of the sun that will transform nature once again. Ford conceived
the Rouge Plant as a single, organic process. From the raw material to the
finished product, the vision was all-inclusive.
There is also, at this time, the question of human nature. For now,
the place of civic duty becomes the place of civic strife. The mass of urban­
ized workers demand more time. Time is money. The solution is no longer
found in the evocation of civic duty and the construction of spaces of pro­
priety, but in the negotiation of competing interests. The image of the GM
building arises again. It too is an image of confict. Vertical structures
crack under strain. Centralization reaches its physical limits: mass society,
mass culture, and human being as a collective entity. Maps are drawn
of populations and resources; they all become the same thing. The only
solution is to expand outward, the horizontal solution. The purchase of a
car is the purchase of space, a personal horizon. Now you can control the
earth that moves beneath your feet. The movement of the assembly
line is personalized, and the division of labor into parts begins to enter
into the psyche. Personal life is separated from civic life. The space of the
car is an escape into this personal realm, and we all know what happens
inside. But now the inside becomes the outside: a smooth shell, an organ
of speed. Speed smoothes the differences, and transforms the landscape
into a compressed projected line whose absolute limit is the horizon. The
pain of duty is now balanced by the thrill of escape velocity. A new danger
emerges: weapons of speed in the hands of workers. Where are the limits?
Where are the controls? Density remains a problem. The automobile begins
to claim its own space.
The Second World War offers a small break in the action. Detroit
wins the war; there is not a big difference between a car and a tank.
It won because it out-produced them all. The "Capital of the Twentieth
Century." The big difference comes in the pay back: the solution to the
problem of density. Here is the idea: build roads instead of cities, and
impose a national speed limit. It could not happen at a better time since
the nuclear threat makes density dangerous: the strong image of a city in
fames. Again the image resolves by combining opposing tendencies. Self-
47
defense is equated with self-interest. One can say that the bomb did its work without exploding.
Through modern nuclear planning, the city escapes from itself over the horizon. But maybe the
real danger was from inside. There were race riots in the city during the war, and walls were
erected between neighborhoods. The pressure was mounting.
Turning towards the end of the century, the horizontal factory has been transformed into
a network of roads extending over the horizon. Production has now been decentralized into a
national network that responds to ever changing tastes. Density and fexibility are no longer
problems and automation is now making the worker a secondary player. The big problem, however,
is to maintain consumption at the same rate as production. Because of continual technological
advances, new ideas are always increasing production.
Another idea emerges: the fabrication of desire. This is now possible due to the fact that the
hierarchic structures of space are no longer in place. A network of media, criss-crossing the city
without leaving a mark, has replaced them. The division of labor has fnal1y wrestled the psyche
from its civic or public obligation releasing a food of narcissistic energies over the landscape. The
overt structures of domination have been transformed into a net of psychological relations. The
image is now the currency, the fow, and the energy, which transforms production into a second­
ary activity while the tangibility of things is always suggested. Images constitute the fabric that
holds the city together. Indeed there is an economy of images ranging from the vernacular marks
made by those who dwell in the absence of the power stream, marks on walls, erasures, inspired
inscriptions, declarations of faith, and stains upon forgotten spaces. As economic power increases
the design of the image becomes more deliberate, more planned, and the sign emerges from the
index towards the abstraction of the symbol. The touch of the hand is lost as we ascend through
the economy. Spontaneity becomes a fabrication, sensuousness the result of technique.
Images mark the idea of the place though they themselves are placeless. We see them from
the highway: the large billboards, the Goodyear sign that registers the yearly domestic automobile
production, the image of number, always changing, a remnant from the age of production. The
twin billboards at Woodward and Eight Mile Road are the gateway to the suburbs, and the
landscape of narcissistic pleasures. The general tire sign at the bend ofi-75 displayed the news
and weather and recorded the temperature of the city amidst the blackened shells of houses.
There is another problem, the Capital is becoming weary of its many transformations. There
have simply been too many. There is not enough energy in the system to clean away the debris
lef from the previous cycles. The forces of entropy cannot be exceeded by the illusion of images.
We now seem to be moving just to stay in the same place. A new idea is needed.
DAN HOFFMAN
fg 2. The mechanical order of
labor. Ford's assembly line at
Highland Park. Promotional
postcard, circa 1923.
fg 3· The seriality of both process
and product. Ford's production
plant at Highland Park.
Promotional postcard, circa
1923.
fg 4. The overall confguration of
the Fordist factory is composed
along principles of
differentiation and repetition.
Ford compound at Highland
Park, promotional postcard,
circa 1923.
47
defense is equated with self-interest. One can say that the bomb did its work without exploding.
Through modern nuclear planning, the city escapes from itself over the horizon. But maybe the
real danger was from inside. There were race riots in the city during the war, and walls were
erected between neighborhoods. The pressure was mounting.
Turning towards the end of the century, the horizontal factory has been transformed into
a network of roads extending over the horizon. Production has now been decentralized into a
national network that responds to ever changing tastes. Density and fexibility are no longer
problems and automation is now making the worker a secondary player. The big problem, however,
is to maintain consumption at the same rate as production. Because of continual technological
advances, new ideas are always increasing production.
Another idea emerges: the fabrication of desire. This is now possible due to the fact that the
hierarchic structures of space are no longer in place. A network of media, criss-crossing the city
without leaving a mark, has replaced them. The division of labor has fnally wrestled the psyche
from its civic or public obligation releasing a food of narcissistic energies over the landscape. The
overt structures of domination have been transformed into a net of psychological relations. The
image is now the currency, the fow, and the energy, which transforms production into a second­
ary activity while the tangibility of things is always suggested. Images constitute the fabric that
holds the city together. Indeed there is an economy of images ranging from the vernacular marks
made by those who dwell in the absence of the power stream, marks on walls, erasures, inspired
inscriptions, declarations of faith, and stains upon forgotten spaces. As economic power increases
the design of the image becomes more deliberate, more planned, and the sign emerges from the
index towards the abstraction of the symbol. The touch of the hand is lost as we ascend through
the economy. Spontaneity becomes a fabrication, sensuousness the result of technique.
Images mark the idea of the place though they themselves are placeless. We see them from
the highway: the large billboards, the Goodyear sign that registers the yearly domestic automobile
production, the image of number, always changing, a remnant from the age of production. The
twin billboards at Woodward and Eight Mile Road are the gateway to the suburbs, and the
landscape of narcissistic pleasures. The general tire sign at the bend ofl-75 displayed the news
and weather and recorded the temperature of the city amidst the blackened shells of houses.
There is another problem, the Capital is becoming weary of its many transformations. There
have simply been too many. There is not enough energy in the system to clean away the debris
left from the previous cycles. The forces of entropy cannot be exceeded by the illusion of images.
We now seem to be moving just to stay in the same place. A new idea is needed.
DAN HOFFMAN
fg 2. The mechanical order of
labor. Ford's assembly line at
Highland Park. Promotional
postcard, circa 1923.
fg 3. The seriality of both process
and product. Ford's production
plant at Highland Park.
Promotional postcard, circa
1923.
fg 4· The overall confguration of
the Fordist factory is composed
along principles of
differentiation and repetition.
Ford compound at Highland
Park, promotional postcard,
circa 1923.
PATRIK SCHUMACHER AND CHRISTIAN ROGNER
after Ford
1. Charles Jencks, 'l'he Languauc of Post-Modern Archi­
tecture (London: 1977).
2. Post-Ford ism as a category of socio-economic pcrio-
dization is of Marxist provenance and has been the
central term of a wide and fruitful debate. Sec David
Harvey, The Condition of Postmod<"mily <Oxford:
1989), and Post·Fordism: A il<odc••; eel. Ash A mi n
(Oxford/Cambridge, Mass. : 1994).
The moment of Detroit's deepest crisis coincides with the "Death of Modern Architec­
ture" as announced by Charles Jencks in 1977.1 This is no coincidence. The emergence
of postmodern architecture and urbanism in the seventies, sweeping the market in
the eighties, represents much more than a new aesthetic sensibility. The postmodern
rejection of homogeneity, coherence, and completeness, and the explicit celebration of
heterogeneity mark a radical departure from fifty years of modernist development.
The force behind these developments, rather than emerging from within the architec­
tural discipline itself, must be found on the socio-economic level. Postmodern cultural production
coincides with the historical crisis in the regime of mechanical mass-production, first developed
by Ford in Detroit. 2
The historical closure of Ford ism as a model of socio-economic progress spelled the demise
of Detroit, once the proud origin of modern industrial development. "Detroitism" had become a
globally emulated recipe for economic prosperity. Now Detroit stands devastated, overburdened
by the infrastructural, architectural, and human sediment of its Fordist past. Central parts of
Detroit are empty. Large buildings stand as ruins. Ofces, schools, train stations, and vast urban
territories have been abandoned. Urban planning proposals counter this drastic situation with
equally drastic measures: the demolition of entire urban quarters and their conversion into parks.
Greenbelts are proposed to cut the vast, fragmented feld into recognizable "communities", sealing
the ultimate fate of Detroit as a suburb of its own suburbs. Detroit's extended suburbs are alive
and well, forming a polycentric conurbation where typically post-Fordist service industries settle
at a safe distance from inner city wastelands.
However, it would be wrong to assume that post-Fordism is the era of suburbia and Fordism
the era of the city. Suburbanization was the general rule of(mature) Fordist urbanization. Post­
Fordism breaks the universality of suburbanization. The new model of post-Fordist urbanism re­
3. "All the elements of the cultural past must be 'rein-
vested' or disappear." Asgcr Jorn, "Detour ned Paint-
ing", quoted in Guy Debord, " Dctournerncnt as Ncga-
tion and Prelude," Internal ion ole Situalionnistc #3
(December 1959), translated in: Silualionisl lntenw­
tionol Anthology, cd. K I nauiJ (Berkel ey: l981).
inhabited the historic city. Postmodern architecture found its market in the rediscovery
and "detournement" of the historical city, not merely as brandable commodity, but as
a necessary communication hub for the new economy.3 Jane Jacobs rendered a critical
verdict on Detroit in 1961, at the height of its economic power:
I.
l
Virtually all of Detroit is as weak on vitality and diversity as the Bronx. It is ring super­
imposed upon ring of failed gray belts. Even Detroit's downtown itself cannot produce
a respectable amount of diversity. It is dispirited and dull, and almost deserted by seven
o'clock of an evening.4
49
'1. Jane Jacobs, '/'he Death a .d Life of Great American
Citi<•.> (New York: Random House, 1961).
Monotony and lack of diversity are the typical "ills" or "failures" of the modern city. To avoid
Jacobs' ahistorical condemnation of the industrial city, one must grasp the economic rationality
underpinning its development. This includes the intentional rationality and social meaning of
urban monotony, zoning, and the various symptoms of industrialized urban arrangement. Over
half a century of rationally planned coherent city building could not have been a "mistake". But
what was progressive then has indeed become dysfunctional today. The new socio-economic logic
of post-Fordism offers a reading of the current prospects of Detroit and other cities caught in
the dynamic of global economic restructuring. Any understanding of Detroit must begin with the
socio-economic logic of Ford ism and its urban implications.
Fordism as a Technical and Spatial System
Detroit served as a visible model of Fordist industrial development during the first half of the
twentieth century. As an economic monoculture it mirrored the prosperity, growth, and decline
of the automobile industry. Detroit offers a paradigmatic case study of Fordism as an
organizational model of urbanization, and for the collusion between industry and archi-
;. Frederico Bucci, illl"'rt t hn (New York: Princeton
tecture, as personified by the collaboration between Henry Ford and Albert Kahn. 5 Architecture Press, l99:J
)
.
One might speak of three phases of the Fordist revolution:
Phase 1: Taylorization takes Command. Automobile manufacturing in the pioneering days
was organized around the work of autonomous artisan engineers. To increase the speed and scale
of production, Ford applied Taylor's principles of scientifc management. Work became scientific:
observable, controllable, and modifiable. Individual laborer's tasks were recorded, analyzed, and
broken down into elementary movements. Effciency was optimized by the reconfguration of
tasks within time and space according to the dialectic of differentiation and repetition. Within
this concept of order the fow of production over time was the controlling parameter. Albert Kahn
provided the required architecture and spatial organization. The Kahn System of Reinforced
Concrete enabled wide spaces offering freedom of movement and fexibility for functional adap­
tation to various production lines. Ford's Highland Park plant (1909) offered large
expanses of clear space allowing the unconstrained organization of various production
cycles, each on its own foor. Discrete processes were stacked vertically, joined via foor
openings, and fed by a fow of material from top to bottom. This vertical organization
enabled the production of the frst complex assembly-line product: Ford's Model T.6
Phase 2: The factory under one roof is superceded. The assembly line concept
was applied to an overall urban complex. Several single story buildings were joined
6. Henry F'ord, "Mass Productjon," in EncyclopecUa Bd·
tannica, voi.J5 0929), 40, cited in Federico Bucci,
Al bert. Kahn (New York: rinceton Architecture Press,
1993), 12. For Al bert Kahn' s description of the division
of labor in architectural production see A. Kahn,
"Archit.cciura\Trcnd", in ou.rnal of the Maryland
ilmdcmy of 8cience8, vol. ll, no. 2 (April 1931), 133,
cited in Federico Bucci, i bert Kahn (New York: Prine·
eton Architecture Press, 1993), 126'7.
together, each accommodating a specific task, and extruded to the length desired. Entire build­
ings acted as elements of multi-building assembly lines. At the River Rouge plant (begun 1917)
the flow of materials and sub-components determined the overall "urban" layout as an integrated
machine. This was literally the "city as machine" later proclaimed by Le Corbusier and other
ideologues of modernist urbanism.
8
52
receptacle for a series of universal mass consumer
goods: living room, dining set, (Frankfurt-) kitchen,
bathroom, washing machine, and later the refrigera­
tor, television, and automobile. The new paradigm of
Functionalism implied an objectification and analysis
of the design process and architectural composition
was assimilated to the principles of Fordist organi­
zation: decomposition, differentiation, repetition, and
integration.
This logic was already evident in the organiza­
tion of separate functions into specialized and sepa­
rately optimized volumes in Albert Kahn's General
Motors Headquarters Building (1917-1921). Walter
Gropius's Dessau Bauhaus (1926) was paradigmatic
of modernist work in this respect with residential, administrative, and workshop functions sepa­
rately articulated, allowing for depth, height, and facade to be independently determined for each
respective function. The same principles were at work in canonical conceptions of the modernist
city. Le Corbusier's Ville Radieuse (1933) is among the most comprehensive and rigorous exposi­
tions of Fordist logics of differentiation (zoning and distinct functionalist articulation of each
zone), repetition (homogeneity of each zone), and hierarchical integration (transport system)
applied to the city. Lafayette Park (1955) by Mies, Hilberseimer, and Caldwell offers the most
legible post-war example of these principles of modernist planning applied to the renovation of
Detroit. Hilberseimer's publication of The New Regional Pattern (1949) rendered these same
Fordist principles of decentralization and differentiation by intertwining transportation, commu­
nication, and production infrastructures across the natural environment of North America.
From Fordism to Post-Fordism
In the late 1960's, the Fordist system of universal mass production, corporate concentration,
collective bargaining, and state-regulation was challenged on all fronts. The first serious break
in the post-war boom occurred with the recession of 1966-1967. The political struggles of 1968,
the oil-crisis of 1973, the breakdown of the international exchange-rate system, and a
10. See UNIDO (United Nati ons Industrial Oeuclopmenl deepening of the recession in 1974 followed. The automobile industry was in free-fall,
and Detroit, site of the oldest and least competitive plants, was hit hardest. By the
end of the 1970's it was clear that the recession had become a structural (systemic)
crisis that called for new political and economic strategies.10
Organization), Srru.clu.ral Change in Industry (Vienna:
1979), and OECD (Organization ofEconomic Co·OiJCra-
tion and Development), Posittue Adjustment Policie.<:
Managing Stru.ctu.ral Change (Pa•·is: 1983).
9
5
3
The origins of the crisis in Ford ism and an outline of emergent post-Fordist tendencies
can be found in several concurrent socio-economic transformations. Among these are five key
conditions: shifting commodity markets, increasing electronic control of production, decreasing
state regulation, increasingly global capital markets, and deteriorating labor relations.
1. Market Stratification: With the growing complexity of labor division and the prolifera­
tion of white-co11ar labor, salary stratification increased. Aff luence beyond the saturation of
the most basic needs meant that markets began to diversify, a11owing for status and identity
consumption to accelerate aesthetically motivated product-cycles. These developments placed a
reward on innovation and flexibility rather than simple cost reduction achieved through mass­
market economies of scale. The house, as the main site of consumption, was itself drawn into
the logic of differential identity, status, and income. The Modernist housing standard ("Existen­
zminimum") became the very standard against which market diferentiation was measured.
Postmodernist design, architecture, and urbanism catered to this demand and reconceived the
"failed" modern city as a site for destination recreation and brandable post-urban tourism.
2. Flexible Production: New computer-based production technologies made possible
greater product diversity (small runs) without the enormous cost of handicraft production that
had previously limited deviations from the standard. The crucial material factor was the micro­
electronic revolution that ofered greater productivity through desired economies of scope, rather
than scale. Flexible specialization became a technological possibility, and the subsequent fluid­
ity of production demanded the dissolution of static Fordist labor and management arrange­
ments.
3. Vanishing State-Regulation: As products and markets differentiated, economies of
scale were recuperated through international expansion. The resultant international economic
interdependency had the effect of eroding the economic competence of the nation state, and its
ability to smooth out disturbances in the business cycle. As markets globalized, the Jess economi­
cally feasible it became to protect national producers. With the increasing internationalization
of mobile capital, a withdrawal from Keynesian macro-economic regulation and a systematic
dismantling of the social welfare state became inevitable. This process continues to this day, and
Detroit serves as one of the most thoroughly developed models of this tendency.
4. Globalization of Capital Markets: Globalization emerged as a new model of interna­
tional integration between production and consumption. Increasing volatility in capital markets
resulted from speculation in "emerging" economies. Outsourced labor and offshore production
optimized profits by driving down wages through international competition. Globaliza­
tion took the form of a re-emergence of inter-imperialist rivalries, militarism, enforced
austerity programs, the break up of national welfare programs, and a downward pres­
sure on labor-costs. The majority's standard of living, even in the most advanced econo-
11. Overall productivity suffe s as long as the world alloca-
tion ofmaterial and labor resources remains driven
by an irrational, militarily guaranteed, and thus ulti-
mately very costly "cheapness" of labor, which allows
the squandering of millions of potentially much more
fg 8. The modern design principles
of de-composition, spatial
specialization, and serial
repetition. Walter Gropius,
Bauhaus Dessau, Germany,
1926.
fg g. Organizational Principles of
Differentiation and Repetition
applied to the city. Le Corbusier,
La Ville Radieuse, Zoning
Diagram, 1933.
mies, stagnated or declined while class disparity increased.11 productive lives.
5. Exploding Labor Relations: The increasing volatility of glo­
bal markets and the abdication of state responsibility eroded collective
bargaining. Capital-labor compromises and state sanctioned collective
bargaining agreements were displaced in favor of "free market" neo­
liberalism (Reaganomics and Thatcherism). Downsizing and outsourcing
12. See among others:
54
labor became the norm, replacing regular employment with increasingly flexible arrangements.
This in turn made markets even more unpredictable. Employment contracts became shorter.
Mobility increased. "Casual labor" and "self-employment" replaced regular employment.
Patterns of Post-Fordist Production
The historical crisis in Fordist production forced a reorganization of corporate structures as they
faced a new pace of change and the increasingly global competition for markets. The ongoing
organizational revolution tends to render corporate organization non-hierarchical and replaces
command and control mechanisms with participatory and open structures; although, the drive
of corporate restructuring towards discursive cooperation remains compromised by the systemic
barrier of capitalism that hinges authority upon property rather than discourse. The thrust of
development tears and shakes the corporate edifice of Fordism.
The "architecture" of business organization is liquefying. Fordist strategies of rationaliza­
tion and hierarchy are giving way in favor of post-modern production patterns. These patterns
of arrangement ref lect not only a response to the economic and material conditions of produc­
tion, but also portend an equally important transformation in the structure and organization
of corporate space itself.
Fordist principles of corporate organization were generalized from their origin
T. Cannon, WPÍtOmt íO IH• ÍtuuÍHIIOn. ÆOltOJ{|n¿ Î'OIO-
HOX InIht ZÍ8! ltn|IlI\ (London: 1996);
in industrial production to the organization of the service sector and ultimately served
as a model of state administration. The whole of society was eventually subsumed
within this rigid pattern of hierarchical organization. Everywhere a comprehensive,
bureaucratic, functional hierarchy allocated rigid job-descriptions and repetitive tasks
within coherent chains of command. The modernist pattern of urbanization is the
projection of this total social machine into space.
M. Ray and A. Rinzler, JHC ÍCu Í´I j0I 8n· ·8
(L.A.: 1993);
T. Peters, lIDPIUItOn Ma.rw;I!IIII!IIf: Í¡tP88UI\ ÍI8OI-
QOÐI8OIIOn jOI ÍOnO8tCOn ÍIÐtIIP8 (N.Y.: 199:1);
'. Peters, 1HIIU|ÐQ On lHuO8 (N.Y.: 1987);
W. Bergquist, Í`ht ÍOSIDOHtIÐ lI;(OnI2O|IOÐ` Åu8ItI-
InQ Iht1II Oj ÍIItUPI8IÐÍt lHOÐgt(New York: 1993);
M. Kilduff , "Deconstructing Organisations," .\1OHc'u)
Oj ÅunuQtmtnI HtUIcu # 8;
K. Blanchard, and S. Johnson, ÍHt lnt ÅIlítIIt· ÅOn-
OQtI (New York: 1982);
J. L. Bower, "Disruptive Technol ogies: Catching the
WBVe," !!OIUtlIH ÍÌIi8Int88 HPUItu (Jan/Feb J995).
13. M. Cas tells & P. Hall, 1ttHlIOjOÍt8 Oj lHt WOIÍH
(Landon/N.Y.: 1994).
With the failure of stable cycles of reproduction and expansion, post-Fordist
production paradigms are increasingly organized around principles of decentraliza­
tion, horizontality, transparency, f luidity, and rapid mutability. Concurrently, the
organization and management of these post-Fordist processes and other forms of
social arrangement are increasingly based on a set of similar post-modern principles.12
The new tendencies evident in corporate restructuring can ultimately be summarized
as follows:
1. fattening of hierarchies into horizontal fields;
2. decentralization, devolution of authority and responsibility;
3. self-organization rather than bureaucratic task allocution;
4. collegial communication and evaluation rather than command and control;
5. dispersal and sharing of information and technologies;
6. team-work, informal or temporary alliances, loosely coupled networks;
7. hybrid conglomerates and ad-hoc assemblages replace integrated entities;
8. increasing reliance on outsourcing, temporary and self�employment;
9. mutability, mobility, and indetermjnacy as positive values;
10. processes analogous to ecological or biological systems.l3
These organizational tendencies are presently evolving in response to the challenge of
permanent innovation in production. One could expect (and can find emergent in contemporary
Model The Rigid Bureaucracy Model The Project Organization
work) an analogous set of developments in the cultural sphere including the
spatialization of these ideas in the making of architecture and urbanism.
The possibilities for post-Fordist urbanism are among the many interesting
questions raised by Detroit in general and this anthology in particular.
Post- Urbanism
As for developments in the spatialization of post-Fordist principles, the
work of the so-called "L.A. School" cultural geographers, and Ed Soja in
particular, offers an extensive analysis of the coming posl-Fordist urban­
ism. Soja's exploration of postmodern urbanization focuses on the metro­
politan region of Los Angeles. In as much as L.A. is one of the world's
leading "superprofitable growth poles," it allows us to identify the future of
post-Fordist urbanization. L.A., in this regard, plays the role Detroit once
occupied as the "most thoroughly modern (Fordist) city in the world."
Soja's analysis of L.A. suggests that contemporary post-Fordist pat­
terns of urbanization function as a "mesocosm" that reproduces within its
own spatiality the complexity and contradictions of the global economy:


Seemingly paradoxical but functionally interdependent j uxtapositions are the epitomiz­
ing features ... -One can find in Los Angeles not only the high technology industrial
compl exes of the Silicon Valley and the erratic sun bel t economy of Houston, but also
the far-reaching industrial decline and bankrupt urban neighborhoods of rust-belted
Detroit or Cleveland. There is a Boston in Los Angeles, a l ower Manhattan and a South
Bronx, a Sao Paulo and a Singapore.14
The simultaneity of growth and decline, locating leading high tech industrial
Model The Matrix Organization
10
,
t •' t•.:��� I , \1
•• ·· � ·
. •.. \ .. );!"''"
• •
.
• ' • ' • !•MO'
•- .- : l��'i� I • •
•••

.
.
.
: ;:; ;� . . . ••
• 11
14. Edward W. Soja, l'oslmodern Geographies (London/
NY: 1989).
15. With this interal ization of the periphery comes the
largest homeless populati n, soaring rates of violent
crime and the largest prison population within the US.
The militarization or the worl d economy finds itself' rep­
l icated here in the rule of a militarized LAPD. The anti­
mcist explosion of 1.992 testi fi es to this.
16. Edward W. Soja, Poslmocern Geogrphies (London/
N.Y. : 1989), 21 2.
sectors next to abandoned industrial wastelands, and a growing low-wage economy of
industrial sweatshops, posits an uphill battle for social control and exacerbates the friction of
distance in the "spread city." 15 Soja's postmodern geography (spread city)
differs markedly from the process of post-war suburbanization. It is best
fg 10. Organizational Models,
Gareth Morgan, Creative
Organization Theory, 1989.
fg 11. Diagram study of "loosely
coupled network," Patrik
Schumacher, 1999.
described as "an amorphous regional complex that confounds traditional
definitions of both city and suburb." 16 This post-Fordist landscape inte-
grates a loose and open network of research, production, and service systems. Interspersed with
leisure environments are alternating expensive residential developments with enclaves of cheap
labor. The interpenetration of different activities succeeds even despite the problems of social
control and the cost of policing caused by the proximity of populations increasingly polarized
along lines of class, race, and ethnicity.
Another marked spatial phenomenon has been superimposed on the polycentric spatiality
of the (L.A.) post-Fordist landscape that is also evident in Detroit: the decisive re-colonization of
corporate headquarters within the downtown core, reversing the trend of the Fordist era. This
revival of the central business district and selective gentrification of the inner city, including
recreational and pseudo-historic tourist events, caters to a largely suburban population. This
reflects the post-Fordist organizational shift in corporate structure along lines of contemporary
production and consumption patterns. The ongoing annexation of Detroit by its own suburbs
continues apace as suburban wealth simultaneously speculates on property values at both the
agricultural perimeter and abandoned industrial center of what remains one of the largest and
most prosperous metropolitan regions in the U.S.
Detroit's precipitous and public demise may have stepped over a kind of critical threshold
(a point of no return?) offering an unequivocal image of post-Fordist dis-investment. In this
sense, Detroit offers the most legible indictment of Fordist patterns of urbanization. The recent
(and by now regular) injections of recuperative capital evident in the Renaissance Center project,
new casinos, sports stadia, and other urban "cures," have failed to promote a revitalization of
17. See Jerry Herron, "Three Meditati ons on the Ruins of
Detroit's downtown. Some already find delight in the ruins, indulging in a voyeuristic
aestheticismY Others are determined to save the city through social missionary work.
Others hope to spin it, using media hype and political spin doctoring to influence
Detroit" in this collection
property values through real-estate speculation. Will Detroit benefit from this new
form of development, and what are the possibilities for practicing urbanism in this context? Will
Detroit's already evident future come to pass as a destination tourist commodity and name
brandable recreation center engulfed by pockets of abandonment, disinvestment, and decay? If
so, even this unenviable future will need to overcome a century of rusty prejudices.
PATRI K SCHUMACHER AND CHRI STI AN RDGNER
Ill
What attitude, what "state of soul" will permit the
architect or the urban designer to see, think, and
project the space of the contracting city? The philos­
opher, Richard Rorty, in the fnal essay of his book,
Achieving Our Country, titled "The Inspirational Value
of Great Works of Literature,''
2
0
refers to a particular
kind of thought currently prevalent in the teaching and
production of philosophy and literary criticism which he
denominates "knowingness." "Knowingness," he says
"is a state of soul which prevents shudders of awe."
2
1
Knowingness departs from an analytical, a scientifc
spirit that seeks understanding through explanation; it
arrives at judgment and critique, but devoid of hope
and futurity. Deprived of inspiration, of the imaginative
spirit, "knowingness" leaves behin?, in Rorty's words,
"only professional competence and intellectual sophis­
tication."
22
According to Rorty, the ability of a text, for exam­
ple, to produce "shudders of awe" is its inspirational
value. Although, in his argument, he specifcally refer­
ences the inspirational value of works of literature and
philosophy, we can extend this thought to the inspira­
tional value of a place, a situation, to what surrounds
us, to the terrain vague. If we view these radicalized
spaces primarily as the products of a mechanism of
social, political, and economic forces, we may not
see their inspirational value. "Knowingness" offers us
understanding and kr:wledge, but not inspiration,
hope, or vision. Extrapolating Rorty's thought again,
knowledge i_ s about placing something "in a familiar
context - relating it to things already known."
2
3 But
if so_ mething is to have inspirational value, it "must
be allowed to recontextualize much of what you previ­
ously-thought you knew; it cannot, at least at frst, be
itself recontextualized by what you already believe."
2
4
"Knowingness" has given us a necessary under­
standing of the mechanisms of the unfolding of moder­
nity and post-modernity in our cities; it has theorized
the movement from an industrial to a post-industrial
landscape, from Ford ism to post-Fordism, from coloni­
alism to post-colonialism. The terrain vague is being
quantifed and objectifed; the space of the contracting
city has been and continues to be explained; it is gradu­
ally-b�ing given a less alien or foreign aspect, one that
is more comprehensible, more reassuring. But in our
anxiety to contextualize it, to analyze, interpret and
assign meanings, we may obviate that potent moment
of observation; we may forget to pause and simply
experience the immediacy of this reality we are so des­
perately trying to master, to appropriate. We may not
see it at all. And in the moment of our inattention,
these expectant voids will have been re-colonized and
dressed with a recognizable identity, either hastily
returned to an unambiguous pre-urban "nature" or rea­
bsorbed into the latest productive cycles as strip malls,
suburban housing and large-scale projects such as sta­
dia and convention centers.
The terrain vague has inspirational value; it has the
capacity to produce "shudders of awe,'' that strange
mingling of dread and wonder that can move our intel­
lect and our emotions, and can motivate and incite
us. Its sheer magnitude, pervasiveness, and otherness
force us to recontextualize what we thought we knew.
It shatters pre-established categories for thought and
action. It disorients us. The terrain vague cannot be
fully integrated into our understanding. As an atypical
phenomenon, it cannot be easily explained by the situ­
ation that gave rise to it. The terrain vague leaves a
vital gap in "knowingness" that can be activated. The
shock of otherness may permit us to create new ways
of thinking, seeing, and feeling for this yet unchartered
territory, to slip outside what is familiar and reassuring.
Inspiration begins in "wild, unreflective"
2
5 fascination,
enthusiasm, and awe.
To think or project Detroit is a coming to terms,
not with the angst and despair of congestion, velocity,
and chaos imposed by the early 2oth century metro­
politan experience, but rather with the anxiety propiti­
ated by the progressive silence and emptiness of this
post-industrial metropolis at the turn of the millenium.
To speculate in and on the city today involves not only
the awareness of a discordant and aleatory reality, but
also the determination of an horizon of attention capa­
ble of provoking an (impossible) event, of creating a
visibility, within the indeterminacy of the terrain vague.
2
0
Richard Rorty, "The Inspirational
Value of Great Works of Literature,"
Achieving Our Country: Leftist
Thought in Twentieth-Century Amer­
ica (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univer­
sity Press,1gg8), 125-140.
21 Ibid., 126.
22 Ibid., 132 .
23 Ibid., 133.
241bid., 133·
25 Ibid., 134.
26 5ola-Morales, 123.
{left) General plan and sections, and
model: composite plan view.
{below) Photomontages of the
landscape and vectors.
plane leans over the landscape, constructing its entire
length. The variegated glass surface: clear, opaque or
translucent; open or closed; textured or smooth, is
imprinted with reflections, perceptions, and orders of
the past, present, and future city. The vectors act as
virtual mirrors that cite the phenomena of a reality that
escapes our apprehension; they register a multitude of
pure sensations. They do not explain but rather expose
or bear witness to the erasure of the city. A suspended,
undulating path sits alongside the inclined plane: an
inhabitable trajectory traversing the amplitude of the
place. The restless path mirrors the movement of the
indentations and rises of the landscape beneath and
prompts transitive relations with the appearing and
disappearing city.
These two suspended gestures vaguely connect
speculative programs to existing ones and prompt or
insinuate new uses. The topographical event to the far
west end of the site doubles as a drive-in theatre. It
initiates the trajectory of the frst vector that begins
as the projection screens for the drive-in and stretches
to the cultural anchor of the city, the Fox Theatre.
At the drive-in, the ground bends down from the exist-
8g
ing street; access off the highway is woven into this
sloped plane, repeatedly disrupted by surface undu­
lations. Light suggests shadows faintly on the faded,
compressed forms, dividing the slope visually into mul­
tiple outlines of upper and lower grounds, overlapping
pedestrian and vehicular zones. The land rises and falls
in elongated broken parallels until it reaches a point
of tangency with the trench incised in the longitudinal
axis of the site: a patch of nature; trees hovering at eye
level; a shadow or reflection of the path suspended at
some distance above.
At the edge of the depressed freeway, the second
vector passes by the Fox Theatre and stretches to the
far east end of the site, meeting the embankment
of the web of highway interchanges. It projects unin­
terrupted over the new and existing topography: an
encounter of disconnected points in space. The raised
pedestrian concourse meets the oblique plane of an
amphitheater: the spatial inverse and programmatic
double of the Fox Theatre. A volume of the continuous
voided three-dimensional space of the city is tenta­
tively captured within its translucent shell.
The perspectival crossing and convergence of the
Dislocation The frst revision of the territories involves the voluntary relocation of those remaining resi-
Erasure
dents wishing to be relocated, the discontinuation of city services, the capping of utilities, and
the spatial demarcation or bounding of the newly constituted zones. This activity is accompanied by the
appropriate political and economic de-commissioning and divestiture and has the effect of altering the
status of the extant ground and building fabric. Once evacuated, these "Zones" effectively sever the arterial
connectivity between the remaining marginally viable portions of the city and ultimately hasten their own
entropic demise.
The second phase of the project concerns the erasure and scrubbing of the newly evacuated
Zones. The proposal authorizes and accelerates the ongoing arson of abandoned houses in
the city. The effective erasure of urban vestiges within the Zones are initiated through the sanctioning of
regularly scheduled large-scale burns as a continuation of Detroit's Devil's Night festivities. These burns are
complemented with the aggressive demolition of selective portions of the Zone, the release of captured
wildlife species, and the insertion of plant species that would effectively hasten the natural deterioration of
the city's building fabric as an effect of weathering.
"
0

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The third phase of the project proposes the ecological re-constitution of portions of the Zones through tree farming
and the inundation of the ground through selective flooding. The use of aerially deposited low-grade seed and the
manual insertion of fast-growing seedlings allows portions of the Zones to enter a period of lessened investment and maintenance.
These softwood tree farms can effectively be abandoned for generations and returned to at some future date as ex-urban resource
parks. The presence of the Detroit River, St. Lawrence Seaway, and Great Lakes systems allows for the selective introduction of food
plane de-regulation and the partial inundation of certain Zones. Using the existing infrastructure for the collection, distribution,
and release of the region's abundant fresh water supply, regularly scheduled soakings are an effective long-term solution to the
contamination of the ground on many sites. These transformations of the urban ecology will have the effect of changing the status
and image of the city's remaining territories while materially enforcing the evacuation of the Zones.
-
]
.
0
"
c
·c.
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0
The fnal stage in the project speculates on the future re-appropriation of the de-commissioned Zones and their
annexation from agents and constituencies outside the city. These re-programming proposals make a virtue of
the Zone's abandonment, erasure, and relative vacancy by opportunistically occupying the physical residue of Detroit's ex-urban
landscapes. Not insignifcantly, these activities are economically viable given ongoing market conditions. Those market conditions
continually present demand for opportunistic incursions by the population of the metropolitan region. The future annexation
of Detroit's zones will continue as open-ended responses to individual or collective demands placed on the landscape and its
infrastructure as ambient absences. Rather than master planning or scripting a particular material and spatial future for these zones,
Decamping Detroit speculates on the process of their decommissioning and the staging of their vacancy.
155
The sensation was very strange. There were hardly any people in the streets, and when someone passed by,
it seemed the landscape became even stranger. Once in a while, I stopped the car to take some photos. I walked
a bit, but not too far, not for fear of anyone, I actually wanted to fnd some people, but for fear of becoming a
part of those scenes.
I kept driving. I understood what made those scenes so strange was that their reality was very close in time.
These were not ancient ruins. They were contemporary ones, perhaps ruins of the future. This is what made them
impossible and unreal. Suddenly, in the midst of that urban ruin, there appeared bubbles of civilization, foating
happily and completely foreign to all that surrounded them. They did not burst when I passed through their skin.
I realized then the people in that city went from bubble to bubble without worrying about the vacant spaces
between. I thought this space between must be purposeful so that the bubbles, not having direct contact with one
another, would not explode. I kept on driving, entering and leaving the bubbles and crossing the vacant spaces. The
city seems even more impossible when it actually exists and you are there.
I tried to fnd some logic to be able to foresee what I would fnd next, but neither the size nor location of the
distinct bubbles was foreseeable. I came across that gigantic and heavy transparent building that had once been
a train station. I saw that strange vision of a former theatre turned parking garage (a species of drive-in theatre)
with cars parked at the level of the dilapidated orchestra pit. One time I stopped in a solitary place where the
sidewalks were completely invaded by vegetation. Returning to my car, I discovered an absurd sign prohibiting
parking located on a totally abandoned street. The sign indicated, with great precision, the months, days, hours,
and other circumstances oft he no parking zone. At the bottom of the sign, it read "no parking anytime during
emergencies." Maybe that was why no one was there. Maybe there was an emergency that I was unaware of.
Evening was approaching, so I decided to return to Chicago.
January 14, 2000, Chicago
There were many photographs on my table. I looked at them, sometimes all at once, sometimes more profoundly
at only one. I was trying to remember those days in Detroit when the photographers, Monica and Jordi, had just
arrived, and began shooting the frst photographs, still insecure about how to carry out their work. I had been in
those enormously real scenes, but still, even contemplating the photos, they seemed a fction. The more I looked,
the more impossible they seemed. I began to confuse reality and fction as if in a dream. Furthermore, today
photographs no longer certify a reality. Rather they certify the possibilities of technique and the photographer's
creativity and imagination in allowing us to participate in other realities and in other ways to understand and see
things. Jordi and Monica's photographs are apparently quite different from one another, clearly distinct interpreta­
tions of the same reality. What makes them similar is, through different paths, they reach the same conclusions.
They both show us a fctional reality.
The objective, but at the same time, tendentious, presentation of reality in Jordi's photos, with their extreme
hyperrealist desire, makes them all the more unreal. In Monica's, because this reality is presented as an imaginary
dream, both anguished and calm, the scenes are transformed into even more unreal and impossible ones. I
remembered one of the cities Alan Lightman described in his book, Einstein
'
s Dreams, in which there is no time, only
images, a city of memories and therefore a city that does not exist, and has disappeared, but, within its own logic,
continues to function. This city exists. It is a memory or an imagination. Photographs generally evoke memories, not
only memories of past histories, but also, and in this case, they acquire greater value. They provoke the imagination
of possible future histories, of urban deserts, uninhabitable and inhospitable space, but quite attractively open to
visitation because of this very impossible existence.
I kept looking at the photographs, remembering or maybe imagining the future of other cities. Maybe I was
dreaming. Despite all this, it seems Detroit exists. I think I r member I was there one day.
157
Ramon Prat, is a graphic designer and director of ACTAR, a publishing house based in Barcelona,
specializing in architecture, photography and design.
Joan Roig is a practicing architect based in Barcelona.
Chr istian Rogner, a practicing architect based in London, received his Diploma from the Technical
University in Munich. He joined the Design Research Lab at the Architectural Association in
1997 where he has contributed to research on the spatial articulation of contemporary corporate
organization.
Monica Rosello is a photographer based in Barcelona.
Marili Santos-Munne is a practicing architect based in Basel. She was Muschenheim Fellow and
Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan and has taught at the University of Illinois
at Chicago.
Patr ik Schumacher, co-director of the Design Research Laboratory at the Architectural Association
School of Architecture in London, has been visiting professor at Columbia University, Harvard
University, and the University of Illinois at Chicago. He has worked with Zaha Hadid in London
and has been Partner on various recent projects. He recently completed his doctoral thesis at the
University of Klagenfurt on the economic instrumentalization of art.
lgnasi de Sola-Morales was, at the time of his death, an internationally renowned architect educa­
tor, critic, and theorist.
Leslie van Duzer, Associate Professor of Architecture at Arizona State University, has authored two
books with Kent Kleinman: Villa Muller: A Work of Adol Laos and Rudolf Arnheim: Revealing Vision.
They are currently working on their third, Notes on Almost Nothing: Mies van der Rohe's Haus Lange
and Haus Esters.
Xavier Vendrell, Professor of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago, is a practicing
architect based in Chicago and Barcelona.
Charles Waldheim, Director of Graduate Studies in the School of Architecture at the University of
Illinois at Chicago, is a practicing architect based in Chicago. He is author of Constructed Ground and
editor of Landscape Urbanism: A Reference Maniesto. His research and teaching focus on landscape
as an element of contemporary urbanism. Waldheim was Sanders Fellow and Visiting Assistant
Professor at the University of Michigan, and has taught as a Visiting Critic at the University of
Pennsylvania and the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm.
Jason Young, Assistant Professor of Architecture at the University of Michigan, is Principal of
the WETSU, a design+build studio in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He is Director of the Graduate Thesis
Option at the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning and researches conditions of
contemporary American urbanism. He is editor of Michigan Architecture Papers 7: Mack & Merrill.
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