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Hollow Cityby Rebecca Solnit
Synopses & Reviews
California’s Bay Area is home to nearly a third of the venture capital and internet businesses in the United States, generating a boom economy and a massive influx of well-paid workers that has transformed the face of San Francisco. Once the great anomaly among American cities, San Francisco is today only the most dramatically affected among the many urban centers experiencing cultural impoverishment as a result of new forms and distributions of wealth.
A collaboration between writer-hiostorian Rebecca Solnit and photographer Susan Schwartzenberg, Hollow City surveys San Francisco’s transformation—skyrocketing residential and commercial rents that are driving out artists, activists, nonprofit organizations and the poor; the homogenization of the city’s architecture, industries and population; the decay of its public life; and the erasure of its sites of civic memory.
Written as a tour of the city’s distinctive characters and locales, Solnit’s text grounds the current evictions in earlier histories of urban renewal and the economic geography of artists, from Haussmann’s impact on the Paris of Baudelaire, to the relationship between the Beats and San Francisco’s African-American community during ‘negro removal’ of the 1950s. She investigates the ways wealth is now clear-cutting the cultural richness of American urban life, erasing space for idealism, dissent, memory and vulnerable populations.
Schwartzenberg’s photo-essays document the profusion of construction and demolition projects in the city, the imperial spaces of dot-com businesses, the proliferation of retail chains, and the rapid disappearance of areas in which artists can live and create. They feature works by more than a dozen San Francisco artists.
Hollow City surveys San Francisco's transformation--skyrocketing residential and commercial rents that are driving out artists, activists, nonprofit organizations and the poor; the homogenization of the city's architecture, industries and population; the decay of its public life; and the erasure of its sites of civic memory.
Drawing on architectural history, contemporary urban studies, and vivid, first-hand description, Solnit projects the end of city life for Bohemians and its baleful consequences for American culture. 50 photos.
In a recent letter to the San Francisco Bay Guardian's sex column 'Ask Isadora' a masochist wrote in to ask whether he really had to obey his dominatrix by sexually servicing their ancient landlord. Though the letter was on the surface about the extent to which a bottom's erotic obedience must go, it was really about what so much of here is about nowadays--rent." Reporting from the front line of gentrification in San Francisco, Rebecca Solnit examines the consequences when artists' love for space and authenticity in working-class areas, and rich peoples' love for the fashionable bohemia of artists' neighborhoods, are combined. The Mission, for instance, with its easier access to Silicon Valley, has become a standoff between hi tech's nouveaux riches and existing residents under threat from spiralling rents, including supporters of the Yuppie Eradication Project who advocate vandalizing expensive cars and restaurants in retaliation. Solnit is rueful about the decision by cities like San Francisco to increase their admission charges so that poor people, artists, and writers like herself can no longer afford to live in the inner city. Drawing on architectural history, contemporary urban studies, and vivid first-hand description, and enriched by the telling images of Susan Schwartzenberg, a photographer who weaves together her own work with older pictures to create complex portraits of place. Hollow City projects the end of city life for bohemians and its baleful consequences for American culture.
About the Author
Rebecca Solnit is author of, among other books, Wanderlust, A Book of Migrations, A Field Guide to Getting Lost, the NBCC award-winning River of Shadows and A Paradise Built In Hell. A contributing editor to Harper’s, she writes regularly for the London Review of Books and the Los Angeles Times. She lives in San Francisco.
Urban archaeologist and artist Susan Schwartzenberg is the author of Market Street, a visual study of San Francisco’s main artery, as well as photo-essays in several books, including Reclaiming San Francisco.
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Arts and Entertainment » Architecture » Cityscape