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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
First of all I'd like to say hello to everybody, this is my first post to this great board. I've spent countless of hours travelling virtually around the world here, and now I'd need your help with my thesis in masters in contemporary history!

To cut the long story short, I've been interested in urbanistics and preservation of historical layers since high school, thanks to my hometown Turku. The old capital of Finland has some nice architechture (you can see some cherry-picked pictures here), but this is how it looks like nowadays - full of commie blocks from ~1955-1975.

http://www.vastavalo.fi/albums/userpics/11547/harmaa_turku_klein.jpg

I've been wondering ever since how it was possible to turn this beautiful, historical provincial town into the chaos what you can see in the photo above. I tried to get into that question in my bachelor's thesis but the evidences of construction companies bribing the city council (a well-known fact here in Finland) can't be shown, so basically all I got was that it was because of the age of modernism itself mixed with our weak presevation laws and the lack of interest in local urban environment from the people who moved into cities in masses during that era. (Finland was one of the least urbanized countries in the western world before the 1960's.)

I spent 5 months in Bologna as an exchange student earlier this year, and attended to the courses of history of urbanistics. I already had in mind that I'd like to compare Turku to some italian city, and my professors thought that Bologna would be a perfect counterpart as an european city because its effort for preserving the historic centre is well-known around the world.

I have this idea that Turku choosed the North American way of town planning instead of the european tradition. The idea was to create a CBD-type area in the very center of the city and move the people to the suburbs, and the transfer inside the city would be done with cars which every family would have. As you can see from the picture, this plan never realized fully and instead of a proper CBD, our city center is a mess of everything.

So, what I'm asking here from you fellow sscers is a North American (or why not Australian etc) counterpart for my thesis! I've been trying to search for a city which would fill these criteria:

- midsize, lets say around 300 000-1 000 000 inhabitants in urban area
- university city (every fourth in Turku and Bologna are university students inside the city limits)
- has or has had some historical layers and buildings and growth in the era that I'm studying (1950-1970)
- has urban sprawl and the density is not too high (shouldn't be a problem when searching for an american city :D)
- preferably the capital of its region, Turku and Bologna are both the capital and most imporant cities of their provinces.

The cities that I've been thinking the most are Providence, New Haven and Ann Arbor. I've understood that Providence had most of its growth before WWII, and I'm not sure if Ann Arbor is that important in its region and if it has that much history. It would be nice if the city had trams too because Turku and Bologna both got rid of them in the 1970's, and for what I know Turku did it because the americans did it too, the council members visited St. Louis and Pittsburgh for that reason if I remember correctly.

Thanks for your time, I hope I made any sense - I've noticed that often I don't get my ideas out of my mouth too clearly, no matter the language! Naturally all of the tips, hints, critics and ideas for my thesis are more than welcome. As said above, atm my idea is to compare the history, structure and the plans of these cities, the preservation laws of the three countries and modernism as a phenomenon and how the cities dealt with its pressure.

If the moderators think that the topic is not in the right place, feel free to move it where it belongs! A dopo everybody! :)
 

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I agree Austin would be a good choice. Pop: about 750,000. It's the capital of Texas and home to a large university (U. of Texas). Lots of sprawl, but also a nice urban core. Not sure if it ever had trams, though.

Good luck with your research!
 

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Madison, Wisconsin would be great. It has around 500,000 in the area, it's a huge university town, it's the capital of Wisconsin, it has urban sprawl, and it grew from 170K to 290K of growth from 1950 to 1970 in the immediate area.

It had a streetcar system, but it was shut down much earlier than most. There was a huge snowstorm in the 1930's that brought down all the wires - and it never got running again. It was the depression, then WWII took over most priorities, then the car took over as the main way of getting around.

There are around 50,000 students in the of 230,000 residents.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madison,_Wisconsin
 

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So, what I'm asking here from you fellow sscers is a North American (or why not Australian etc) counterpart for my thesis! I've been trying to search for a city which would fill these criteria:

- midsize, lets say around 300 000-1 000 000 inhabitants in urban area
- university city (every fourth in Turku and Bologna are university students inside the city limits)
- has or has had some historical layers and buildings and growth in the era that I'm studying (1950-1970)
- has urban sprawl and the density is not too high (shouldn't be a problem when searching for an american city :D)
- preferably the capital of its region, Turku and Bologna are both the capital and most imporant cities of their provinces.
I'd say Halifax fits all of the criteria. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks heaps for all your help! :) I would have never found these cities by myself. Now I have a positive problem, don't know which one to choose! Austin seems to be the most "american", it looks like Madison and Halifax have surprisingly dense downtowns.

From Wikipedia (Halifax)
Urban renewal plans in the 1960s and 70s resulted in the loss of much of its heritage architecture and community fabric in large downtown developments such as the Scotia Square mall and office towers. However, a citizens protest movement limited further destructive plans such as a waterfront freeway which opened the way for a popular and successful revitalized waterfront. Selective height limits were also achieved to protect the views from Citadel Hill. However, municipal heritage protection remained weak with only pockets of heritage buildings surviving in the downtown and constant pressure from developers for further demolition. Selective height restrictions were adopted to protect views from Citadel Hill which triggered battles over proposed developments that would fill vacant lots or add height to existing historical structures.
This sounds perfect for my research, do you Madison and Austin people know if they did destruct historical buildings there too? Or did Madison and Austin have lots of historical architechture before the 1950s? For what I've understood, the downtown of Madison works pretty well and its pretty lively because of its density. How is it in Halifax and Austin, is the downtown dead after office hours?

Thanks again for your replies, much appriciated! :cheers:
 

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This sounds perfect for my research, do you Madison and Austin people know if they did destruct historical buildings there too? Or did Madison and Austin have lots of historical architechture before the 1950s? For what I've understood, the downtown of Madison works pretty well and its pretty lively because of its density. How is it in Halifax and Austin, is the downtown dead after office hours?

Thanks again for your replies, much appriciated! :cheers:
I'm not from Austin, so I don't know for sure. I've only visited a few times. I would imagine there were some historic buildings destroyed to make way for all the newer developments downtown.

Downtown Austin is fairly lively after hours. There are lots of bars there, though there is concern that gentrification is ruining the bar scene.
 

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Downtown Halifax is not dead after hours, but the Scotia Square Mall is (it isn't as busy as people hoped at any time). Halifax has a fair amount of nightlife, but there is less retail in the deep downtown (we differentiate between the downtown on the hill going down toward the harbour and the Spring Garden Road shopping district). There are no major department stores downtown, unlike in pretty much every Canadian city, and there are a number of vacant buildings on the main street (Barrington).

It makes me really angry that there are huge suburban developments happening such as the new Dartmouth Crossing retail park, but little has been done to improve downtown recently.
 

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Yeah, I think Halifax might fit the bill. It's one of north America's oldest cities, so there's lots of historical building stock. There's sprawl, it's a college town, and the capital of a region. Halifax has a metropolitan population of 400,000 so it's also of similar size to Turku.

Btw, I was in Turku in the summer of 2009. My grandmother lives there!
 

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First of all I'd like to say hello to everybody, this is my first post to this great board. I've spent countless of hours travelling virtually around the world here, and now I'd need your help with my thesis in masters in contemporary history!

Here's my 2 centers worth of advice:

Whatever city you pick for your thesis, just make sure its a place that you'd actually want to spend LOTS of time in.

Good luck!
 

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Victoria, BC could also fit the bill. It is by far the most historic city in BC, has a metro population of around 350 000 people, has many heritage buildings, is a University Town (UVIC), it is the Capital of BC, and while it does have a dense and relatively busy downtown core (considering its population) it does have some bad sprawl, especially north of the city.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Again I'd like to thank everybody for contributing into this thread :) I had a first talk with our professor of urban studies about the subject and although he liked the idea very much, he thought it sounds more like a subject for a doctoral thesis. Lets see where I end up after I have an actual meeting with him, one thing he proposed in his e-mail was that I could compare the urban renewal in North America and Southern Europe with my example cities and then see if Turku had any similiarities and differences with those processes.

Yeah, I think Halifax might fit the bill. It's one of north America's oldest cities, so there's lots of historical building stock. There's sprawl, it's a college town, and the capital of a region. Halifax has a metropolitan population of 400,000 so it's also of similar size to Turku.

Btw, I was in Turku in the summer of 2009. My grandmother lives there!
Yeah Halifax seems to be almost perfect because of the facts you said, and also because it has had its share of controversies in urban renewal in my era and you can't really cope without a car if you live outside the downtown area if I've understood correctly. How did you find Turku? The riverside and the archipelago are pretty swell in the summertime but the weather can still suck, the nr.1 downside of living here in the north :)

Victoria, BC could also fit the bill. It is by far the most historic city in BC, has a metro population of around 350 000 people, has many heritage buildings, is a University Town (UVIC), it is the Capital of BC, and while it does have a dense and relatively busy downtown core (considering its population) it does have some bad sprawl, especially north of the city.
I really got interested partly because of

Here's my 2 centers worth of advice:

Whatever city you pick for your thesis, just make sure its a place that you'd actually want to spend LOTS of time in.

Good luck!
this, Victoria is not too far away from Vancouver which I absolutely adore! I even have this as a wallpaper on my computer and a picture of Yaletown as a wallpaper on my Galaxy S hehe :) I'm also thinking seriously of applying the Valle Scholarship to the University of Washington in Seattle for the next semester and I think I'd actually have a pretty good chance to get it, so I would live close to Victoria for some time.

Victoria looks really beautiful, but the pictures I've seen make me think more of an european city than a north american one. Maybe the threads here on ssc are more focused on the historic center, do you know if it has a proper CBD area with highrises and if it has a concentric model like the most North American cities? Finns tend to consider a 20-story building as a skyscraper so it doesn't have to look exactly like Vancouver or Chicago :)

Austin may be a bit too big for my research, but whether it'll be Halifax, Madison or Victoria, I think I will be sorted. The next step is to check how much there has been written about my themes in the cities but since all of the three are university cities, I think there's plenty of material from each of them.

Thanks again for reading this, you people are my nr.1 source of my american cities because our prof told me in the beginning that he really doesn't know north american cities that well :)
 
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