Honoring the forgotten: Melbourne-based artist Robbie Rowlands makes Detroit’s abandoned houses come to life
The deteriorating floorboards and walls of abandoned homes appear to defiantly reassert their existence in artist Robbie Rowlands’ exhibition, Intervention. While on residency in Detroit, Michigan, the Melbourne-based artist drew attention to abandoned houses by ripping out certain sections and creating track-like extensions of their fixtures—so that the otherwise nondescript wall seems to implore, “pay attention to me.”
Like a lone pea out of its pod, the desolation of a solo row house waxes stark in Baltimore-based photographer Ben Marcin’s new series: Last House Standing. Often painted in garish colors at variance with their boarded-up windows and battered brickwork, the row houses are an architectural quirk of certain cities along the eastern seaboard.
What can you do with a vacant lot? Urban activists in Louisville have set out to show just how much with an ongoing pop-up festival of sorts at 615-621 West Main Street, an empty plot of land in the heart of downtown where REX‘s Museum Plaza skyscraper was once set to rise.
In January Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer implored local designers and developers to propose ideas for 250 of the city’s several thousand vacant lots. Last week they announced four winners, which included gardens of dye plants for local textile production; a Habitat for Humanity–style homeownership program; environmental remediation via lavender fields; and meditation gardens made of recycled materials.
Detroit Mayor David Bing is making good on his pledge to demolish 10,000 derelict buildings in the city by the end of his first term in 2013—his administration has already taken down 4,500 abandoned structures, with another 1,500 demolitions planned by the end of September. (Five more came down this morning, and Curbed Detroit was on the scene to document the demolition.) Now the governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, is expected to announce state support to help raze more buildings in the name of public safety.
With an initial focus on Detroit’s east, southwest, and northwest sides, the governor’s administration is currently identifying neighborhoods for a pilot program. The Michigan Land Bank, Detroit Public Schools, and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority are among the many agencies and private sector actors involved in the effort to reclaim Detroit’s wealth of abandoned and unused land.
Neighborhood stabilization and economic development have been at the core of many of Bing’s proposals as mayor. But with Wayne County facing a $155 million budget deficit, efforts to transform Detroit’s well-documented decline will have to do more with less.