I’m Back/The Abandoned American City

A sort of formless post to mark returns:

I’m returned to the states, to my house (which Scott refers to- inaccurately- as a tenement), back finally to some semblance of a real schedule, and back to this blog.

Will soon be updating with thoughts on readings/writings/world events. For now, I will mark my return to Ghost Island with some thoughts on new project.

Have been thinking a lot about this ‘Abandoned Cities’ book-thing I’m starting work on. Please continue to send links/resources/possible interviewees my way. Please help make this real. Other Ghost Islanders are most welcome on board as collaborators. So far have worked up a kind of preliminary introduction/mission statement/course of research:

The Abandoned American City: A Primer for Reinventing the Urban Environment


This book is not a comprehensive study, a how-to guide, or a manifesto. It is a response, tentative and exploratory, to the condition of massive over-building in many American cities, particularly those in the Rust Belt region.

The focus is on the American context not because of a discounting of similar situations in other countries, but simply because 1) it is a way of keeping the scope of the project more manageable and 2) my personal experiences and contacts better qualify me to address issues in the US than elsewhere.

The situation described here is of a particular moment in history, but is hardly without precedent. There have been abandoned structures since the inception of permanent architecture. The phenomenon of converting old lofts, factories, and warehouses into living, performance, and retail spaces is also well established. Still, in cities like Cleveland and Detroit, the availability of large amounts of extremely inexpensive real estate gives rise to the potential for creative and social experimentation on a scale and at a budget that is completely unthinkable in traditional cultural capitals like New York or San Francisco. With the pace of economic decline in many rust belt cities being quickened by financial crisis, in combination with the large number of unemployed people and free-lancers being priced out of more traditional creative hotbeds, the abandoned American city offers a possibility for radical life change and experimentation.

Concrete numbers help to illustrate the prevalence of abandonment or near-abandonment of large sections of American cities. (numbers/facts)

discussion of the commune and the history of the commune/communal space as radical dream in the US.

Why the Urban?
– Subtracting one’s self from society (self-sustenance) as a goal is, at the very best, a subtractive and neutralizing gesture. To live entirely off the grid and make your impact zero is, at the end, essentially of a logic equivalent to suicide. The building of utopia- the meaning of which is, of course, literally ‘no-place’- is the eventually self-negating logic of the traditional commune. The spaces explored in this work are instead hetero-topias, alternative and experimental ‘other spaces’ that exist within a transformative rather than subtractive logic.



– Abandoned Cities (places, prices, projects)

– Squatting/Renting/Buying

– Gentrification/Problematic Aspects of Engagement

– Projects (Real & Proposed)


4 Responses to “I’m Back/The Abandoned American City”

  1. 1 Todd
    September 5, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    have you heard of california city? some dude brought city planners to like the middle of the desert and built all these roads and parks and shit. it was supposed to be huge bc it was so cheap but basically no one moved there and its like a ghost town now. really weird

  2. 2 Adam
    September 6, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    I’m interested in collaborating. I recall from some other posting, perhaps in another place, you have an interest in urban farming and gardening, or at least were interested in examples of these ideas in practice. If so, perhaps you should emphasize this a bit more in future manifestations of this guide/outline/introduction because I feel like it’s an important component to a workable urban heterotopian vision, especially as it strengthens your stance against off-the-grid style “communities”. I have some contacts in Portland for this sort of thing — and in general, Portland is a place where this sort of community/living experiment has been successful.

    i look forward to seeing your developments and to contributing.

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