David Tribby, of David Tribby Photography has spent the past few years documenting the abandoned and decaying architecture of Gary, Indiana and has shared his collection of work with us. Considering his work, Gary’s past and Gary’s present allows us to discuss a broader topic, the possible outcomes for abandoned architecture and their role in today’s urban centers. More of David Tribby’s photographs and a brief narrative after the break.
Urban disinvestment and subsequent urban renewal is an unfortunate American reality that many rust belt cities have struggled with over the last fifty years. The current state of Gary, Indiana is an all too familiar one, sharing a fate similar to much of its larger neighbors. Tying themselves too closely to specific industries sealed their regression, with only the varying levels of devastation left behind for those who attempt to rebuild. David Tribby , has built a volume of work from his photography of Gary, Indiana’s historic (and abandoned) architecture.
Much like many individuals with strong ties to Gary, David comes from a family of steel workers whose profession has been the city’s economic driver since its inception as a company town over one hundred years ago. During the height of steel production in Northwest Indiana, Gary reached a peak population exceeding 200,000 and was a bustling urban center just twenty five miles from downtown Chicago.
However, as international competitiveness in the steel market raised in the 1960s, the manufacturing sector of Gary began to down size and force much of its blue collar workforce to search elsewhere for jobs. The result was a 50% population loss within thirty years and a density loss that dis joined many neighborhoods, underfunded city services and forced the shuttering of many prominent destinations within Gary.
While the attraction of many of David’s subjects is caused by his family’s relationships with the now abandoned structures, he has developed a connection between the historic decaying architecture littering Gary with the city’s current identity loss.
“I believe architecture is a strong way a community identifies itself. Other countries use their buildings for hundreds of years, they seem to care more for their history. Simple preservation techniques could of kept these buildings viable, but now most are too far gone to renovate or too expensive to tear down. …I believe if preserved several of these buildings could still play a key role in Gary’s revitalization.”
This connection leads us to an interesting set of questions to ponder. What role should abandoned architecture play in the reinvestment and rebuilding of today’s decaying urban centers? Should these pieces of architecture be preserved in their current state as monuments to the past? Modern day ruins? Or does the future of urban environments such as Gary necessitate the costly restoration of these community icons to their former glories? Such an image would surely do wonders for the community, but how can cities with so many pressing concerns viably place costly preservation and restoration projects ahead of basic infrastructure or basic city services? Or are abandoned works of architecture like these in Gary too damaging to the rebuilding efforts to warrant their protection? Would demolishing them and starting with a clean slate allow the city to move on and rewrite its own history?