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Cyclical City

Five Stories of Urban Transformation
Jill Desimini

BUY Cloth · 272 pp. · 8.5 × 10 · ISBN 9780813946320 · $42.50 · Oct 2021
BUY Ebook · 272 pp. · ISBN 9780813946337 · $32.00 · Oct 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, author of The Landscape Architecture of Richard Haag: From Modern Space to Urban Ecological Design

About the Author(s): 

Jill Desimini is Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture at Harvard University and author of From Fallow: 100 Ideas for Abandoned Urban Landscapes.

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