Visualizing Isolation

A photo essay by David Schalliol, currently featured on Gaper's Block, highlights the effects that sprawl at the edge of Chicago have had on some of the inner parts of the city.

I am fascinated by photos like these -- images that highlight the destructive effects of suburbanization by focusing on the remains of once-vibrant urban neighborhoods. There is a painful irony in seeing urban buildings in seemingly suburban settings (the image above of the six-flat with its massive "yard" is the most blatant example.) While I fully support the idea that people should have the right to live wherever they want to, these images illustrate the stark and very real consequences of what happens when people do not invest themselves in their communities. When no credence is given to the built environment, a place becomes easily abandoned, because it is easy to desert a place to which you are not tied at the first hint of a problem.

I recently read a post about gentrification on an architecture message board that pointed out the central problem with this phenomenon: people want to live in urban places and have the amenities that they offer without having an urban mindset. They want the easy access to retail and restaurants and museums without having to get involved in the community that they are moving to. This requires them to move to an area that is already squeaky clean and problem-free -- hence the line about artists being the stormtroopers of gentrification. The photos in Schalliol's collection, then, are frighteningly immedeate in that they show what could easily become of currently gentrified areas in the future if the tides of trend change. If you find this absurd, consider the fact that the South Side of Chicago and The Bronx in New York were once some of the wealthiest areas in their respective cities.

Isolated Buildings (Gaper's Block)

David Schalliol (Flickr)

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