One city has endured a long downward slide from its days as an industrial powerhouse; the other suffered a sudden catastrophe. What can Detroit and New Orleans, respectively, learn from each other? In the session "From New Orleans to Detroit: Reinventing in the Wake of Disaster," held on Thursday afternoon, Reed Kroloff, AIA, director of the Cranbrook Academy of Art and Art Museum outside Detroit (and formerly the dean of Tulane University's School of Architecture), contrasted the two cities' situations before giving the floor to Toni Griffin, AIA, a noted urban planner who has been working in Detroit. Griffin described the process by which the city decentralized before offering some new ways of thinking about its future, such as conceiving of vacant land as a new kind of ecology, and seeing Detroit as a hub of the Great Lakes region.
R. Allen Eskew, FAIA, then talked about New Orleans' experience of, and rebuilding after, Hurricane Katrina, which he described as "a huge wake-up call" for residents. He outlined many post-disaster and regional challenges (like the degradation of the Louisiana wetlands) but pointed to strong progress the city has made in rebuilding, with replacement schools going up, a new Veterans Administration hospital on the boards, and 6 miles of riverfront being rethought.