Monday, April 4, 2011

Putting a Capital "P" in Place or The Old Train Station Down Michigan Ave.

The Five Themes of Geography brought clarity to school teachers everywhere in an otherwise sprawling set of geographic concepts.  While I maintain that geography, in a broad sense, can include anything, I've concluded that the CONCEPT of place is not given adequate consideration in our geographic lexicon.

My field, Urban Planning takes consideration of Place to the next level.  I'd like to begin capitalizing Place in this sense. I've always wanted to create new conventions anyway.

We're taught that humans interact with the environment and that there are numerous cultural considerations that go with that, but what is rarely discussed is the emotional interaction with places.  The thoughts, the history, the sense of being one gets as they exist as PART of a Place.  It's also important to think of a Place over time and that ones existence in that Place is perpetually fleeting. The idea is that a Place is the sum of the parts of the people that create it.

So what the heck am I talking about?

The Michigan Central Train Station is one of the most beautiful structures around.  Its majestic art deco lines jump up at the sky leaving an indelible impression on those who sit in its shadow.  Paradoxically, the building is a shadow of its former self.  Gutted, rotting, broken and dilapidated, it sits with the threat of its demise and with that, the loss of it as the cornerstone of a true Place, existing as it did through the ups and downs of the City of Detroit.

For me the station is special.  It makes me think, yearn, learn and wonder. When I am near it and when I think of it I become connected to the Place. Not the location, the Place.

Here's to hoping this Place will see better days. I encourage you to look up more information on the station. It's quite the soap opera here in Southeast Michigan!


  1. Photo's from inside

  2. There's always been a soft spot in my heart for Detroit. It almost certainly has to do with the fact that the cable company that came in when I was a kid out here in BC decided to use the Detroit channels rather than the ones just across the border in Spokane (it also meant I could watch everything three hours earlier before I went to bed). Detroit news at 8pm was a nightly ritual, so even three time zones away I grew up with all of these landmarks. I remember how great it was when the Fox Theatre was saved all those years ago, and I remember how angry I was when the final demolition of Tiger Stadium occurred. Hopefully something as cool and historical as Michigan Central can be saved.