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Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Impulsive Traveler: In Detroit, ruin porn and an incipient renaissance [Washington Post]



(Michelle Figurski/ HEIDELBERG PROJECT ) - Tyree Guyton created this the “Motor City Lot” (taxis and cars) as part of the Heiderberg Project in Detroit, MI. The artist asks “Where are we going?” referring to the city of Detroit and Detroit auto industry.
In Detroit, there’s room to ride.
I spent my last day in the city on two wheels. The light traffic on downtown roads makes the Motor City surprisingly accommodating to visiting cyclists who don’t really know where they’re going. (Okay, there were a few times when somebody yelled “Get the [expletive] off the road!” from a passing car, but those were the only exceptions to the cheerful welcome we got from most locals.)
Had I known about the show the city would put on, I would have gotten on a bike much sooner. I rode Grand Boulevard into the city’s eastern neighborhoods, turned north into Hamtramck (a two-square-mile municipality that’s technically separate from Detroit but sits smack in the middle of it), then traveled back west through the tree-lined streets of the historic districts of Arden Park and Boston-Edison.
The city is a visual feast: urban farms, derelict houses, art deco skyscrapers, 19th-century churches, industrial ruins and vibrant murals declaring, “Detroit Lives!” Above all, there’s a lot of space.
It’s a more eclectic picture than I’d imagined. After years of stories about population loss, bad government and auto industry bailouts, it’s a safe bet that the overwhelming view of Detroit among those who’ve never visited is one of decline. Yet as of late, the city is undergoing a revival, however nascent, led by creative types and entrepreneurs attracted to the low cost of living — and all that space to do stuff with.

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