March 18, 2010

Case Western Reserve Symposium Rethinks Modern Urban Development

"Tipping Points in Urban Change: Modern Perspectives on Agents of Urbanization," will offer a forum for considering the similarities and differences in the modernization of cities during the 20th century and in global cities now under construction or in the planning stages. The free, public event takes place on Thursday, March 25, at the Baker Nord Center for the Humanities, Clark Hall, 1-4:30 p.m.

The symposium looks at the people responsible for these urban plans, the dynamic role played by rebuilding, expositions and museums in changing cities, and the particular circumstances in which growth or decline occurred. Presenters will explore Colon City in Panama, Detroit and Seoul, Korea, in light of the larger historical forces of industrialization and globalization.

The symposium is directed by Case Western Reserve University historian Professor Miriam Levin and sponsored by the CWRU Department of History, the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities in the College of Arts and Sciences and the National Science Foundation.

The forthcoming book, "Urban Modernity: Cultural Innovation in the Second Industrial Revolution"(MIT Press), inspired the symposium.

Levin, the first author, developed the book from a project funded by the National Science Foundation.

According to Levin, a historian of technology, at the turn of the 20th century, Paris, Berlin, Chicago, London, and Tokyo became interconnected through international competition for industrial power and prestige. Leaders in each city relied on a combination of rebuilding, world fairs, and museums to create a society based on up-to-date science and technology and a belief in material progress.

"They became models for what a city is," Levin said. "With the decline of the industrial base of these cities in the late 20th century, many similar agendas have been floated for revitalizing old cities and/or creating new kinds of cities in emerging regions such as Asia and the Persian Gulf."

Elaborating on that idea of urban development then and now will be a panel of speakers who will present case studies on city development:

  • Marixa Lasso, Associate Professor of history at Case Western Reserve University, will talk about "Defining Modernity: Panama Canal" from 1-1:35 p.m.
  • Robert Fishman, Professor of architecture and urban planning at University of Michigan, will present "Motor City: The Rise and Fall of Detroit as the Archetypal Industrial Metropolis" from 1:40-2:15 p.m.
  • Peter G. Rowe, the Raymond Garbe Professor of Architecture and Urban Design and University Distinguished Professor at Harvard University, will discuss "The City and its Stream: Turning Points: Modern Seoul's Modern Development" from 2:20-2:55 p.m.

From 3-3:45 p.m. Robert H. Kargon, the Willis K. Shepard Professor of the History of Science at The Johns Hopkins University and a contributor to Urban Modernity, will moderate a roundtable discussion with the presenters.

For information, call 368-8961 or visit

For more information contact Susan Griffith, 216.368.1004.

Posted by: Kimyette Finley, March 18, 2010 11:15 AM | News Topics: Collaborations/Partnerships, College of Arts and Sciences, Events, Faculty, Lectures/Speakers

Case Western Reserve University is committed to the free exchange of ideas, reasoned debate and intellectual dialogue. Speakers and scholars with a diversity of opinions and perspectives are invited to the campus to provide the community with important points of view, some of which may be deemed controversial. The views and opinions of those invited to speak on the campus do not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration or any other segment of the university community.