The Triumph of the Urban, Gentrification and Sprawl

Robert Bruegmann

November 8, 2011 - 12:00pm to 1:30pm

Harris School of Public Policy Studies
1155 E. 60th St.
Room 289B

Robert Bruegmann, Professor Emeritus of Art History, Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Illinois at Chicago

In recent years there has been much talk about the fact that for the first time in history over half the population of the world lives in urban areas. This news has been accompanied by a wave of celebratory literature and commentary about the supposed benefits of high density cities and the creativity they are supposed to unleash.

However, this supposed triumph of the urban has taken place during a period in which virtually every central city in the world has been declining in population or at least seeing a decline in its share of population in the larger urban region. In fact, the simultaneous lowering of density, cleaning up and sorting out of functions that has accompanied gentrification at the urban core and the boom in population, jobs and diversity at the suburban periphery has thrown into question many of the most venerable assumptions about what it means to be urban. At very least these urban transformations suggest that policies based on preserving traditional ideas about cities may be out of date and counter-productive.

Robert Bruegmann is an historian of architecture, landscape and the built environment. He received his BA from Principia College in 1970 and his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1976 with a dissertation on late 18th and early 19th century European hospitals and other institutions. In 1977 he became assistant professor in the Art History Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he is currently Professor with appointments in the School of Architecture and the Program in Urban Planning and Policy. He has also taught at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia College of the Arts, MIT and Columbia University. He has also worked for the Historic American Buildings Survey and Historic American Engineering Record of the National Park Service.