Monday, 15 August 2011


I’ve read and watched quite a bit about Detroit and I was sceptical about whether the tales of a dying city that was practically abandoned were exaggerations created to fuel an ongoing myth. I was expecting to find a city that is partially decaying, but still in the most part a large modern day city. The tales are true, Detroit is pretty much dead, few parts of the city that we visited felt like they had any future.

Once one of the richest and most prosperous cities in the States, Detroit made the mistake of putting all its eggs in one basket by relying solely on the car industry for income. Following recession after recession and competition from Japanese markets, the car industry could no longer support the city and its inhabitants. This has led to a spectacular amount of urban decay choc-a-block with photographers capturing everything from the Michigan State Station to the Model T Ford Factory. And whilst I can’t help but feel a little guilty as I stick my camera towards a row of empty houses, which is still a few people’s neighbourhood, this place is a phenomenon that needs recording.

We parked inside the old Michigan Theatre that has been filled in with 3 levels of parking space but with  the grand ceiling largely intact. The downtown area has been pretty much evacuated except for Lafayettes Restaurant which serves “Coney Island Dogs”, hot dogs covered in chilli that bear no resemblance to the hot dogs on Coney Island. Down by the waterfront the Renaissance Centre gives off that Evil Multi-National Corporation vibe that was probably at least partially intentional. Further down is Detroit’s version of the High-line, the Dequindre cut; a sunken railway route turned into a park.

We cruised around the vacant districts that criss-cross the city, all with a kid rock concert going on in one of the distant downtown stadiums, trying to find the Heidelberg project. The Heidelberg project consists of several blocks of vacant houses that have been turned into art installations including a polka dot house and a building covered in teddy bears. I’m not entirely sure if the artists intended it, but this has become a surreal area, other areas of the city have been used to grow food, creating some kind of subsistence way of life for the people.

Before we left the city, seeing as it is Motown, we went to a drive-in movie. The spectacular array of screens surrounding us with the lightning of a thunderstorm going on in the background more than compensated for the shitness of Captain America.

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