Chapter 9

Approaches to Sustainability in a Shrinking City: A Collaborative Urban Design Studio in Toledo’s Civic Center Mall

Sujata Shetty and Andreas Luescher


Once a flourishing manufacturing center closely linked to the auto industry, Toledo and its region are struggling with a number of challenges, among them the long-term decline in the manufacturing sector and the recent economic downturn. Over the past four decades, the city has lost about a quarter of its residents. This is reflected in the physical fabric of the city in the increasing numbers of vacant and abandoned homes and buildings, as well as vacant land. By many definitions, Toledo is a shrinking city. Although they are found all over the world, shrinking cities are concentrated in old industrial regions and are challenging conventional approaches to architecture, urban design and urban planning. These disciplines have historically been framed by narratives of growth and a reluctance to speak about shrinkage or decline. This is true of urban policy as well, where even when focusing on the sustainability of cities, the underlying presumption has always been of growth. We use this chapter to explore what sustainability means in a shrinking city and how we can prepare students of architecture and urban planning to work in this context. We begin by examining policies used in shrinking cities in the old industrial belt, then focus on Toledo's history of dealing with this challenge. We discuss four urban design ideas proposed by students of architecture and urban planning working collaboratively. These proposals deal explicitly with the challenges of vacant land in a shrinking city and based on these, offer some lessons for a sustainable future.

Total Pages: 163-187 (25)

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