Design After Decline: How America Rebuilds Shrinking Cities
by Brent D. Ryan
University of Pennsylvania Press, 288 pages

Design After Decline provides a clear and concise overview of the impacts of the urban renewal policies of the 1950s to 1970s, and subsequent rebuilding efforts, focusing on two similar yet distinct cases of shrinking cities: Detroit and Philadelphia. Through those two frames, Brent D. Ryan sets out to explain how it came to pass that “Modernism’s arrogance” was supplanted by failed “community-based” rebuilding efforts characterized by “generic models provided by the suburban building industry.” The book offers a critical examination into the suburbanization and development of each city, drawing lessons from past policy decisions and market conditions, which failed to bring planning and design to the forefront. Ryan concludes on a hopeful tone, by outlining five design and planning principles for cities to follow in order to “establish a new trajectory for shrinking-city rebuilding.” Through those principles, he hopes to rekindle the “future-oriented spirit of Modernism” combined with the best lessons from the last four decades of community-based planning, to leverage “the richest opportunities that currently exist for urban designers in the United States.”