The Fertile Soil of Ruin
When French photographers Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre, and Canada’s Philip Jarmain published their poignant photos of the ruin of much of Detroit’s iconic turn-of-the-century architecture, the reality of Detroit’s downturn was put on display to a global audience. The images – dubbed by some as ‘ruin porn’- are as strangely beautiful as they are sad; a city that was once a shining example of industry and growth is now, a century later, seen as a bankrupted and depopulated emblem of decline.
Not unexpectedly, Detroit remains a focus in the media, though more recently for the innovative efforts being used to reinvent the city. Detroit is becoming an incubator of grassroots ideas for urban renewal; its poverty and depopulation have, in some ways, created opportunities. With no shortage of land, space is available and affordable for artists, musicians and community and social justice organizations to experiment with new ways of living and doing business.
Grassroots initiatives are popping up all over Detroit, making the city more safe and beautiful. Community based urban agriculture is flourishing, providing jobs, skills and organic produce to residents, improving overall food security for many communities that can no longer sustain grocers. Entrepreneurs like owners of the Detroit Bicycle Company have started manufacturing bikes in a disused automotive factory, and artists have set up studios, galleries and large-scale art installations in abandoned storefronts disused structures.
We applaud the ideas, creativity and hope emerging from this challenging urban context. Do you believe the adage, ‘necessity is the mother of invention’? Can a state of ruin nurture more creative ideas and solutions than a state of success and stability?
[Top Image: "Ballroom, American Hotel" by Yves Marchand & Roman Meffre Photography]