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Distinguished University Professorship Lecture: June Manning Thomas, "Critical Needs in Planning the 'Good City': Lessons from Detroit."

Distinguished University Professorship Lecture: June Manning Thomas, "Critical Needs in Planning the 'Good City': Lessons from Detroit."

Professor June Manning Thomas will give a lecture in honor of her recognition as the Mary Frances Berry Distinguished University Professor of Urban Planning with a reception to follow in the Rackham Building Assembly Hall.

Can reflection on urban planning in Detroit teach us anything about what’s needed to plan for the “good city,” as a more modest variation of a “great” or “world-class city”? The first, reflexive response to this question might be no. What could we learn about planning a “good city,” a term defined by several key thinkers, by studying a place that has so obviously struggled, for so many decades, under such a complex environment? We can learn quite a lot, by looking historically at how a series of actors struggled to help make of Detroit a “good,” well-planned city through the limited but essential lens of “redevelopment.” This talk will discuss briefly three periods of struggles to plan for city redevelopment — the 1950s, the early 1990s, and the 2010s — to consider how needs evolved during these periods. In spite of the variation in approach and results, key issues arose throughout, and in some form these issues continue today. We will highlight in particular the ongoing challenges of territorial control, racial equality, and economic inclusion. Such considerations force us to re-evaluate traditional ways of judging cities “good,” either in terms of material progress, growth, or physical form, and push us toward a more human-centered narrative concerning success, unity, and progress. 

About the Award: Established in 1947, Distinguished University Professorships recognize full professors for exceptional scholarly or creative achievement, national and international reputation, and superior teaching skills. Each professorship bears a name determined by the appointive professor in consultation with her or his dean. Manning Thomas chose to be named the Mary Frances Berry Distinguished University Professor of Urban Planning. Centennial Professor of Urban and Regional Planning June Manning Thomas will give the Mary Frances Berry Distinguished University of Michigan Professor of Urban Planning Lecture at Taubman College. As one of nine faculty members university-wide to receive this top faculty honor this year, Professor Thomas is also the first faculty member at Taubman College to receive this prestigious designation.