FINE ARTS

Postindustrial DIY: Recovering American Rust Belt Icons

Fordham Univ (Polis: Fordham Series in Urban Studies). Nov. 2023. 384p. ISBN 9781531504687. pap. $24.95. ARCH
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For this book of architectural case studies, urbanist Campo (built environment studies, Morgan State Univ.; The Accidental Playground) spent 10 years visiting five Rust Belt sites, where he met with people involved in officially (or unofficially) saving or reusing them. The five locations—Central Terminal and Silo City in Buffalo, NY; the Carrie Blast Furnaces in Pittsburgh, PA; the Michigan Central Station and the Packard Automobile Factory in Detroit, MI—followed different paths but share grassroots and DIY commonalities. Campo argues that sites like these have architectural and social value in their industrial history and postindustrial present, and he is critical of historic preservation and development practices that either focus on fully rehabilitating or razing postindustrial structures. Instead, he advocates for gentler interventions that stabilize rather than fully restore and more “organic” development that supports the type of local involvement, knowledge, and skills that fueled the DIY and grassroots efforts to save and reuse the sites. The book is a set of case studies, not a handbook, but it will nevertheless be useful to both professionals and amateurs working with similar postindustrial sites.
VERDICT A readable, accessible, comprehensive account of the stories of defunct factories, grain silos, and train stations that focuses on their possibility and promise as postindustrial sites.
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