You're using an unsupported browser. This site may not look optimal.

Shrinking Cities

How can we empower cities in decline?

While international urban discourse has focused on the growing megalopolises, zones of shrinkage have been forming and are generally ignored. Shrinking Cities a four year initiative project of the German Federal Cultural Foundation, investigated the worldwide phenomenon of urban shrinkage by focusing on four metropolitan regions: Detroit (USA), Halle/Leipzig (Germany), Manchester/Liverpool (Britain), and Ivanovo (Russia).

The initiative comprised two phases, during which a network of more than 200 artists, architects, academics, and local initiatives approached the question, “What do we do with cities that are in decline?” The results were presented in two exhibitions, several books, digital publications, and numerous public events. With a combined exhibition space of 4,000 square feet, our space and Pratt Manhattan Gallery simultaneously hosted the Shrinking Cities exhibition in New York. The New York exhibition included 32 contributions by artists, architects, filmmakers, journalists, and researchers including AMO, Nikolaus Brade, Sergei Bratkov, Mitch Cope, John Davies, Jeremy Deller, interboro/CUP, Cedric Price, Bas Princen, Isa Rosenberger, Christoph Schäfer, O.M. Ungers, and Ingo Vetter.


Our space hosted part one of the exhibition, Shrinking Cities—International Research, which examined the phenomenon of urban decline. The four focus cities were explored and represented in the form of documentation by artists, architects, filmmakers, journalists, and researchers. Themes of decay, impact of deindustrialization, suburbanization and the development of innovative subcultures were investigated.

Pratt Manhattan Gallery hosted part two of the exhibition, Shrinking Cities—Interventions, which presented strategies for action with a focus on Eastern Germany. This section was framed within five themes: Negotiating Inequality, Self-Governance, Creating Images, Organizing Retreat, and Occupying Space. Commissioned projects ranged from artists’ interventions to self-empowerment strategies through architectural, landscape and media interventions in the form of video, performances, and documentation of strategies.

Shrinking Cities was a project (2002-2005) of the Federal Cultural Foundation, under the direction of Philipp Oswalt (Berlin) in cooperation with the Leipzig Gallery of Contemporary Art, the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation and the magazine archplus.

Following the New York exhibition, Shrinking Cities traveled to the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit in conjunction with the Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, after which it continued its international tour with shows in Tokyo, Japan; Liverpool, U.K.; Saarbrucken, Frankfurt and Dortmund, Germany; St. Petersburg, Russia; Eiserners, Austria; and Rousse, Bulgaria.