Pop-Up: The Ghost City
Wall Street Journal
Everybody knows what went wrong with Detroit.
The early 20th-century boom town went bust as U.S. auto makers struggled through a half-century of retrenchment; whites fled and the civic order exploded. More than half the city disappeared: It's now home to just over 700,000 people, down from its 1950s high by more than 1.1 million. Urban planners have blamed a lack of public transportation. Businessmen have blamed bloated unions and sclerotic corporations. Good-government types have blamed corruption. The races have blamed each other. Everybody knows what went wrong with Detroit because everybody sees in the city problems that trouble the rest of the country.
Detroit serves as a metaphor for broader societal problems—it seems to register the ravages of civic decay like an urban Portrait of Dorian Gray. Every once in a while, we sneak into the attic to gawk. This grim fascination has inspired several recent books of photography.
Andrew Moore's 'Detroit Disassembled' (Damiani) concentrates primarily on the factories that formerly drove the economy, now falling apart or gone back to nature, like the Ford office (bottom right) whose floor has grown over with moss. 'The Ruins of Detroit' (Steidl) by Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre provides a slightly broader view, documenting abandoned hotel lobbies, office towers, schools and apartment buildings: Once vibrant, these public sites are now filled with abandoned furniture and broken fixtures.
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