RJ Koscielniak is a scholar, educator, and activist specializing in the study of urban decline. His research critically examines the capitalist and racist determinants of contemporary urbanization. He focuses on the policies, pathways, and pipelines that undermine neighborhoods and the built environment. By concentrating on logistical and environmental processes, and how markets and institutions mobilize both to extract value, he has contributed to reinvigorated theoretical and empirical approaches to shrinking cities, depopulation, and disinvestment. He completed his dissertation – Ground Forces: Dirt, Demolition, and the Geography of Decline in Detroit, MI – at the University of Michigan. Employing mapping, qualitative, and quantitative methods, he investigated the Detroit Demolition Program and its relationship to regional environments, property regimes, and public policy. The project studied the 10 million cubic yards of dirt needed to fill empty holes after demolishing abandoned houses, with special attention to the markets, supply chains, and speculative suburban development patterns benefitting from the city’s destruction. His research has appeared prominently in The Detroit News on the demolition program and he has contributed to ongoing federal investigations into demolition contractors and city regulatory practices. He is now developing a Detroit Backfill Atlas that will collaborate with neighborhood inhabitants to reconceptualize land and value in the aftermath of demolishing Detroit.
RJ grew up all over the American Midwest (moving over 13 times), but now calls St. Louis his official hometown. Over the last fifteen years, he has worked in St. Louis, Portland, OR, and Baltimore, MD as a planner and community development practitioner. He has experience working within the public, private, and philanthropic sectors, whether in public housing or housing demolition. He holds a strong belief that critical and radical approaches to urban planning have an important place in the stabilization and revitalization of the cities he has called home.
Black Lives Matter.
He currently lives in Detroit, MI.