A few years ago, in the development of a project called This is Later with Aaron Davis, I became rather obsessively interested in the smaller towns of rural Spain. As a late-industrializing nation, certain policies of the first half of the twentieth century pulled young people out of these regoins toward the city as necessary labor in new factories. Disinvestment in agriculture created a condition without incentive for them to ever return. Today, these towns are quickly becoming ghost towns -- depopulated and decaying ruins of the twentieth century. They represent the flipside of an urbanizing world. They represent the forgotten despite having thrived for centuries before the last hundred years. Further, they represent a fate ready to befall so many regions worldwide, as populations migrate to cities and the replacement rate in rural areas is simply not being met.
My last few days in Spain spurred a conversation that at once reminded me of these ghost towns and reminded me of the soon-to-be-ghost-town suburbs resulting from the American foreclosure crisis. (The above photos represent "Foreclosuretown" (i.e. Cleveland, OH) and Soria, Spain.) Despite the history and ocean that separates them, they share both an apparent future and interconnected economic causes.
Given my research on The Buell Hypothesis and the upcoming Foreclosed show based on that research, I had been necessarily focused on the phenomenon of suburbs failing for having been built on speculation and supported by an unsustainable building industry boom and the financial structures that enabled it. What I hadn't yet considered is the global extent of the same phenomenon. And now I have learned that while long-standing towns of Spain are quickly disappearing (in population only, of course), so too are brand new satellite suburbs ringing around Spain's major cities. The global financial crisis seems to have similar manifestations in the built environment despite the differences in structure and place.
I feel new comparative research emerging.