Saving Schools: Vacancy, Ruin, and Adaptive Reuse in Detroit

  • James Macmillen
  • Trevor Pinch


This chapter follows a small team of urban planners as they tour thirteen vacant schools in Detroit. The schools were selected from a list of fifty-seven that the City of Detroit recently acquired from the Detroit Public School system. They were reputed to be “the thirteen best”—buildings for which “adaptive reuse” might be possible. Drawing on concepts of nonhuman agency, decay, repair, and folk theory, we examine the planners’ engagement with the schools’ surroundings, their affective and emotional reactions to materiality, and how they ultimately made decisions about the buildings’ fate. If the schools impressed the planners—in their historic significance or future potential—they would be “saved.” If they did not, they would be demolished.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • James Macmillen
    • 1
  • Trevor Pinch
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of City and Regional PlanningCornell UniversityIthacaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Science and Technology StudiesCornell UniversityIthacaUSA

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