21st Century Reconstruction

Quick: Name a city, anywhere in the world, that has successfully navigated a course from de-industrialization to re-energized economy without war-related intervention.


7 Responses to "21st Century Reconstruction"

Anonymous said... 12/19/2006 5:44 PM

Vancouver, BC

Vancouver is quoted as being one of Canada's largest industrial centres. It is a large trading port and is home to several forest product and mining companies. In recent years, it has become "an increasingly important centre for software development, biotechnology and a vibrant film industry."

Mike Madison said... 12/19/2006 6:04 PM

Interesting. Was Vancouver ever a manufacturing center? I usually think of it as mostly resource-oriented (timber and mining) and even then, more as a port than as an industrial center. Like San Francisco.

Obviously, the point of the question is whether there are precedents for what Pittsburgh is trying to do. Pittsburgh got rich and famous because it made stuff for the rest of the world. Pittsburgh doesn't do much of that any more.

What other cities used to make stuff, and now succeed doing other things?

How about Seattle?

Harold D. Miller said... 12/19/2006 6:27 PM


I think your basic premise here is flawed. Pittsburgh is still a manufacturing center. In fact, manufacturing is still the largest contributor to regional personal income (other than retirement benefits! -- see my Post-Gazette column on this a while back: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06218/711323-28.stm). In fact, I think one of the biggest problems in the region is that people erroneously think we're NOT a manufacturing center any more, and so we don't place a priority on the kinds of policies that will retain what we have and grow more of it. Moreover, I think that Pittsburgh has already gone through a process of shedding the lower-wage, lower-value manufacturing jobs that other regions have yet to go through (we lost our jobs to the sunbelt, and they will now lose them to Asia). Because of that, if we don't screw it up, manufacturing can become even more significant here in the future relative to other regions.

Harold Miller

Anonymous said... 12/20/2006 10:36 AM

Manchester, England. The powerhouse of the Industrial Revolution, and the center of the industry at the core of that revolution: cotton textile manufacturing. When the mills died, medicine and financial services grew up in their place. Like Pittsburgh, Manchester also has a vibrant university community. Unlike Pittsburgh, Manchester has done a good job of re-purposing their downtown buildings for loft apartments etc., to build a dynamic 24-hour downtown.

Mike Madison said... 12/20/2006 10:58 AM

Lynne -
Great suggestion. How much of Manchester's revitalization is organic; how much has been policy-driven; how much was catalyzed by terrorism (see http://www.arc.cmu.edu/cmu/student_work/featured/manchester.jsp)?

Jim Russell said... 12/20/2006 1:14 PM

What about Chicago? Toronto is another example that comes to my mind.

Lynne K said... 12/21/2006 1:25 PM


Good question. I think it's a combination of the three, although I don't know how much of an effect the 1996 attack had. I lived in Manchester in 1990 and then again in 1994, so I haven't been there since the 1996 attack. An earlier IRA attack prompted the construction of a new shopping mall (the Arndale Centre) in the 1970s, which to my mind rises to all of the mediocrity of Pittsburgh-style top-down urban planning. The Arndale Centre is more a shopping bunker than anything else, and it's soulless.

Bottom-up urban redevelopment predates the 1996 bombing. When I lived there many of the Victorian buildings had been renovated or were in the process of renovation. The Town Hall has gorgeous Ford Madox Brown Pre-Raphaelite murals, and two statues (Joule and Dalton) that signify the scientific and industrial history of the city. Between 1990 and 1994 the construction of a new orchestra hall meant that the Hallé Orchestra moved out of the old Free Trade Hall (the home of Cobden and Bright's Anti-Corn-Law League), which is now a chic hotel. The new Orchestra Hall is built over an old canal that had been a main part of the transportation network in the 18th and 19th centuries, had been built over, and was re-opened during construction. The foyer of the hall has a plexiglass floor that allows you to see the canal and its walls, and has a display discussing the canal and its importance for Manchester's commerce and growth. That's an indication of their simultaneous reverence for their city's history and willingness to keep moving on and being dynamic.

Like all places in England, Manchester's town council has strong planning power, but it also has to abide by the historical registration of "listed buildings". Lots of the industrial buildings in Manchester are listed, not just the gorgeous old offices and residences. So I think it's the combination of the formal enforcement of the respect for the city's industrial history with the kind of creativity displayed in the link you posted that gives central Manchester a nicely organic feel. I also think that local planners in England shy away from massive developments in downtown areas; the soulless Arndale Centre must haunt them! I don't think a town council in Manchester today would have countenanced a Fifth & Forbes style top-down uber-development, much to their credit.

Those new buildings in the link you provided are all clustered near the main train station, and since I haven't been there lately I don't know if there is other new architecture scattered throughout the city. Oh, you're making me want to go back! As a Pittsburgh girl who's lived in Chicago for as long as in Pittsburgh, I think now you can see why I love Manchester too. There is a common thread of the expression of human striving and creativity through industry as well as through architecture. I'd just like to see my hometown let it happen a little more bottom-up organically, at which I think both Manchester and Chicago have been more successful in the past two decades.

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