Building a Sanctuary: Urban Industrial Land, Transformation in the City of Cleveland

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Project Team

Author: Zhelin Li

Institution: University of Michigan

Instructor: Lisa DuRussel

Studio: Climate + Community: Exploration of Rustbelt Futures; Graduate Landscape Architecture, Fall 2020

Project Description

This site is a 339.81 acre waterfront underused industrial land located in the City of Cleveland, OH. Cleveland used to be one of the most prosperous business centers in the U.S. However, after both worldwide and nationwide markets change, Cleveland as well as other steel cities have now become rustbelt cities that shared several difficulties, for example population loss, lack of education, high unemployment rate. Climate change seems to be bringing these cities new opportunities. Studies have shown that the surrounding area of big water bodies tend to experience milder impacts from climate change, which would probably make rustbelt cities the destinations of climate migration. Revitalization under climate change seems to be the new future of these cities. Brownfields as well as other underused industrial lands are widely-existed in rust-belt cities. If we could replan them wisely, it is possible that more people could have jobs, food, shelters and a more stable life under climate change. Therefore, this project was intended to find a systematic way of transforming industrial lands or brownfields into a real “sanctuary” that both human and nature could benefit from in 2050.


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Project on JSTOR

Studio Description

This offering of Metropolitan Studio will explore design at a community scale. We will use aspects of the “Green New Deal” as a focus of understanding how design is shaped by policy, and thus how we design for ecological and social reality given the dynamic drivers we find within the urban realm. The goal of this studio is to allow you to design creative, ethically robust and functional community environments and associated public spaces within complex political, socioeconomic, and physical contexts. Thus, I am challenging you to create proposals that re-envision four midwestern, rustbelt cities through the lens of the landscape: City 1: Detroit; City 2: Buffalo; City 3: Cleveland; City 4: Toledo

These cities have all experienced population decline since the 1950’s, but are considered “climate havens” due to their location. They all sit within the Great Lakes Basin, on or near the banks of Lake Erie, which has its own environmental issues. You will find that each city comes with their own complexities, opportunities and issues. The ideas presented within the Green New Deal narrative will require innovative design thinking, especially as we consider the past, present and future of these places and communities. This type of innovative design thinking will require fresh and forward-thinking ideas which we we express and explore throughout this design studio.