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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Local Architecture Goes to Detroit

Local Architecture Cincinnati goes to Detroit


While every post thus far on Local Architecture has dealt with urban decay as it is experienced in Cincinnati, a recent trip to Detroit put things into a perspective that had to be shared here.


The study of abandonment must convene upon Detroit at one point or another. No other city in the United States has undergone such a dramatic level of population decline, abandonment, and urban decay over the past few decades.


Detroit: Abandoned Michigan Central Station
Detroit's infamous Michigan Central Station has been completely abandoned since 1988. This building will be the subject of another post coming later this week!


As many of the posts under the research section of this site convey, industry in America has toppled and left behind an amazing amount of abandoned and decaying architecture. Detroit, the nation’s most industrious city, reflects this in a unique way. The failing industry was met with social, racial, and political tensions. Hundreds of thousands of people fled the city, and today the population is less than half of what it was in 1950 (For a detailed analysis of Detroit’s fall, visit this page). Such a dramatic “un-densification” affected every realm of the city. Factories closed doors, jobs disappeared (to this day, Detroit has over 17% unemployment) and soon after, residents left. The middle and upper classes vanished in search of suburbs and other cities, leaving behind a massive lower class with no means to maintain a city that quickly became twice the built size it needed to be.


Detroit: Abandoned Houses
An example of abandoned housing stock in Detroit.


Today, not only is nearly half of Detroit’s 138 square mile area vacant, beautiful architecture is left with no hope of use. There is simply not enough demand to sustain the amount and character of architecture. The city is a case study for methods of dealing with shrinking cities. As famous American boomtowns once existed, their counterparts exist today; cities such as Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, and Pittsburgh have all lost around 50% of their population over the past 50 years. The commonality that exists is the industrial based economy, the variable being the social adaptation to industrial decline. Detroit has fared worst in terms of this variable, and the photos here illustrate that..


The photos below are a few examples of urban decay in Detroit that I recently visited, along with Seicer, Gordon Bombay, and a friend and guide from OhioUrbex. Click on the images to launch the related galleries, and head over to the Photography: Detroit section for more information, and some previews of upcoming posts!


The sheer volume of abandoned homes in Detroit is the focus of the first few galleries. Some estimates put the number of vacant homes from anywhere between 10,000 to almost 50,000. Between rampant foreclosures, demolitions, and arsons, the actual count is difficult to keep. These images show that some city blocks are completely empty, some contain a few vacant homes, and still some remain occupied amidst the backdrop of urban decay.


Abandoned houses in Detroit
Urban Meadows: The abandoned and demolished neighborhoods of Detroit, MI.
Detroit has over 10,000 vacant homes. The combination of prevalent abandonments and rampant arson has led the city to purchase entire blocks and raze them. An eerie landscape of urban infrastructure dividing overgrown meadows is all the remains in some neighborhoods, like the one this gallery depicts.


Abandoned houses against the Detroit skyline
City Streetscapes: The abandoned street and cityscapes of Detroit, MI.
Similar to the “Urban Meadows” gallery above, these shots show the stark contrast between the glitzy skyline of Detroit and the abandoned neighborhoods that surround it.


Remember to check back later this week and next week for more Detroit galleries, including Michigan Central Station (pictured at the top of this page), an abandoned police station, a church, skyscrapers, factories, warehouses, and more...

3 comments:

Dan said...

Wow. That and 'holy crap' is about all I can say to the abandonment. Great photos though.

Queen City Discovery said...

I can only hope my images from this trip turned out as good as yours. Well done Zach!

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