Detroit in Michigan was once a boom town in the US. With a population just under two million in its ‘MotorCity’ heyday in the 1950s, the area was once a post-modernists’ industrial dream. Reliant upon major car manufacturers for the success of the city, it garnered a culture of music, most famously through Motown, sports and architectural greatness with breathtaking art deco and post modern neo-gothic featured buildings.
It is common knowledge now that the city is an absolute ghost town.
During the 2008-2009 Global Financial Crisis, supporting manufacturers collapsed and the already conflicted city went into even further decline. Its population has now fallen by 25% in the last ten years, and by 60% if you compare it to the boom times of the 1950s.
While the city is dealing with strong violence and economical issues (with the latest reports by Ernst & Young showing that the city’s debts will reach $200 million next year) it is in its architecture and infrastructure that the true state of the city is most easily seen.
Crumbled buildings, national treasures and empty lots separating houses in what are now known as ‘urban prairies’ show a city that is so dilapidated, so fallen from grace that you can’t look away. There is also a terrible sadness in the architectural decay of the city, for both residents and industry members alike. Detroit does not rely on a slum foundation. Its population has been built on an industrial past, therefore the housing and infrastructure is, underneath decay, graffiti and damage, of a high standard.
Heartbreaking pictures as published by photographers Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre in their photo book ‘Ruins of Detroit’, show Central Michigan Station standing grey and dilapidated, its Beaux-Arts classical style covered in grime and beautiful arched windows smashed through.
In fact, the entire city looks like the leftovers of a apocalypse.
Perhaps the saddest is the romantically devastated neo-gothic United Theatre of Art, with its beautifully moulded ceiling and walls chipping and cracking reflecting the chaos in the city that surrounds.
This is not just decay. This is destruction.
Homes sell for $1. Big family homes. And while they sit rotting it is impossible to feel too much empathy, as all along the streets houses have been burnt down, pillaged and ripped apart.
While plans have been made, they are in the extreme. Bulldozing up to 10,000 homes seems to be the go to plan by government heads, as a way to save money and for environmental reasons. Both of these seem at odds with what they are trying to achieve. Redevelopment may or may not be the answer, but bulldozing a city that is host to so many beautiful and historical architecture feats seems like a sure way to take away away the area’s rich cultural past. It is this sense of culture that creates a feeling of respect, respect that could have stopped the destruction of such a wonderful city.