Round the Decay

Michael pointed me to The Fabulous Ruins of Detroit. I haven't seen such a striking combination of the art and the politics of decay since David Macaulay's Motel of the Mysteries. Lowell Boileau, the site's creator, combines wonderfully beautiful photographs of collapsing buildings with social commentary.

The result, curiously enough, is an odd vindication of hypertext: as you click around through the site willy-nilly, Detroit's troubled history starts to take shape. History is the interweaving of local narratives, perhaps, and Boileau's architectural approach assembles the story of Detroit and its inhabitants through the evidence of its lived landscape, the spaces they have constructed, abandoned, destroyed, and rebuilt.

A few gems from the collection:

  • The Michigan Theater, now a parking garage. The developers, looking to build on the cheap by reusing the abandoned structure, left the ornate celings and balcony intact. Even more incredibly, the Theater itself stands on the site where Henry Ford created his first car, so that its paved interior represents a particularly grotesque form of revenge.
  • The Book Tower, a 36-story skyscraper built in 1913, now more valuable as a site for communications dishes than as office space.
  • The Heidelberg Project. We needed to destroy the village in order to save it . . .
  • The Lost Synagogues, in which the demographic transformations of Detroit are inscribed.
  • An inexplicable concrete mushroom.