What Lies Ahead for the American Metropolis in the Age of Inversion?


The Great Inversion by Alan Ehrenhalt is, at this point, a couple of years old. The book’s outstanding virtue is that it has clearly named and defined what the author maintains is the most important high-level process restructuring metropolitan space across the United States: inversion. As he conceptualizes it, inversion is the reoccupation of metropolitan cores and favorably located inner suburbs by the wealthy, a dramatic reversal from their penchant for decamping to the metropolitan fringe for the better part of a century. Helpfully, inversion, which might be called a process of gentrification at the metropolitan, rather than neighborhood, scale, and one that unfolds in lockstep with a simultaneous devalorization of the exurban fringe, is described in terms of the type rather than the simply the number of people who have swapped their relative locations. This helps us distinguish Boston and Paris, both of which have lost population but gained economic vitality and housing units in the last 100 years, from Detroit and Cleveland, which have lost all three in recent decades.

About the Author

Jake Wegmann recently began as an Assistant Professor in the School of Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin.