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Cyclical City

Five Stories of Urban Transformation
Jill Desimini

BUY Cloth · 294 pp. · 8.5 × 10 · ISBN 9780813946320 · $42.50 · Dec 2021
BUY Ebook · 294 pp. · ISBN 9780813946337 · $32.00 · Dec 2021

As cities evolve and resources shift with time, spaces within those cities are often left fallow and abandoned. Cyclical City tells the stories behind these sites, from Philadelphia’s Liberty Lands park to Lisbon’s Green Plan, and it looks at the ways in which these narratives can be leveraged toward future engagement and use. Jill Desimini posits a fundamental role for spatial design practice to transform abandoned urban landscapes through time. She argues for approaches that promote the specific affordances of the land itself (hydrology, vegetation, topography, geology, infrastructural capacity, occupation potential); the importance of cyclical change; and the particularities of the cultural, political, and physical context. These themes are explored in five cities—Philadelphia, Berlin, Lisbon, Amsterdam, and Saint Louis—and across centuries, from periods of great upheaval to ones of relative stability and even economic growth. Desimini considers what landscape-driven design can bring to cities losing people and economic resources, how design practice can be more inclusive in a context of market failure, and the ways in which abandoned landscapes can become our commons.


Cyclical City is original and substantial in its approach to urban landscapes and to their capacity to address the challenges of growth, decline, vacancy, and neglect—issues that face most cities in the twenty-first century.

Thaïsa Way, University of Washington · The Landscape Architecture of Richard Haag: From Modern Space to Urban Ecological Design

Desimini’s work provides a clear view into the role of landscape in the future of regressive urbanism through the specific case studies. As cities shrink due to climate change and market forces, it will be necessary to imagine how landscape systems reauthor capitalist notions of development. Cyclical City captures Desimini’s important body of research developed over the past decade and is a critical resource for designers interested in working in the complicated and often messy milieu of contemporary urbanism.

Bradley Cantrell, University of Virginia · Modeling the Environment: Techniques and Tools for the 3D Illustration of Dynamic Landscapes

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