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Art among the Ruins

It's a project like no other -- Ice House Detroit is happening!

Thanks to some unseasonable weather (known as the January thaw), the project had a slight delay. Now, the water is flowing. The ice is covering the house and it is surrounding the area in amazing ways. Thanks to the Ice House blog and the Detroit Free Press, there are some stunning pictures of the frozen structure available online.

Maybe this wasn't such a bad idea...

In addition to the one embedded in the blog, the Detroit Free Press posted a gaggle of great photos here. My favorite is the panoramic one with the water sound effect.

Background: Gregory Holm, a photographer, and Matthew Radune, an architect, are collaborating on this architectural installation. The project, which involves working with Detroit-area organizations, "aims to uphold concepts of neighborhood integrity, material reuse, public art, social empowerment and urban farming," according to its organizers.

Here is the mission statement: With the current freeze in the housing market, Detroit is leading the nation in foreclosures. Ice House Detroit references this contemporary urban condition, and involves the acquisition and recontextualization of one of the 80,000 abandoned houses in the city. The house will be sprayed with water in subzero temperatures, gradually building up layers of ice over the course of several days or weeks. Once it is frozen, the common architectural and urban references of the house will be temporarily obscured, providing a period of reflection.

The project may turn out to be one of the more interesting sites happening in our city right now. The two organizers seem really touched by what they are seeing and experiencing. A sample from their blog:

During my time here I have explored the surrounding neighborhood extensively and I would estimate that nearly 1 in every 4 homes is either in a state of disrepair or completely abandoned. And although many have chosen to view these conditions with apathy, my point of view is one of optimism for the future driven by a sense of nostalgia for this neighborhood's past beauty. Amidst the soaring oaks that line these spacious blocks remains a modern and organic grid filled with possibilities that perhaps the fresh eyes of a new generation will bring to fruition. The Ice House project seeks to demonstrate that in much the same way -- as building materials are reclaimed from the many abandoned houses in Detroit, so to can the affected neighborhoods themselves be repurposed through the creativity, spirit, and sense of community clearly demonstrated by the residents themselves.

They also did a food and clothing drive on Martin Luther King Day with United Peace Relief Detroit. "By all estimates we fed 250 homeless in just a couple hours," Radune wrote.

I'm going to drive by and see it in person if I can find it. Impressions to come...

Update: The location, still hidden as of now from most inquiring minds, will be revealed soon. From the blog:

As of this morning, I am finally confident that our project will not melt by our Feb. 7 date of completion. This is when we will make our location public.

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Comments (6)
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  • 1

    I hate to be negative, especially when someone has made a, presumably, honest constructive effort but there is just too much effort being made, and pride taken in our slums. We glorify them. We promote them. We are proud of them.


    RIP THEM DOWN! They are nothing to be proud of. They represent failure. It would have been so much more commendable if Matthew Radune had directed his efforts toward designing and constructing an ice fountain - beautiful in form which would catch the glittering sunlight. Something to be proud of for a change.

  • 2

    Who gave Tyree Guyton a hose? Maybe I'm too philistine to understand conceptual art but I really don't understand this stunts purpose. I would prefer that all the resources used in freezing this house donated to a freezing family whose heat has been shut off. Good on him for getting food for the homeless but I think he'd have been better off devoting his entire time to helping and not grandstanding. I guess it's mission accomplished for the "artist" though since he's getting the media attention he so clearly craves.

  • 3

    I don't think it is art in any sense. Just a house that was sprayed down with water and it froze. Man made poo really. A silly stunt that really took little thought if any on the part of the two that thought of it. Shame that this gets more press then the DIA, or any of the truly other artistic venues here in and around Detroit.

  • 4

    I think the Ice House is fantastic. it's beautiful, it's conceptual, it's unique and for the most part the assets are free. I think a huge factor in the rebuilding of Detroit is that the city is a prime canvas for artists in every aspect of design, from artists to scientists to entrepreneurs, to lead the way in the rebuilding of the city. Using assets like abandoned houses, a sign of the times very much associated with Detroit, to create art whether it appeals to your tastes or not as well as to make a statement whether you agree with it or not brings well-deserved attention to Detroit. Attention stimulates interest and investment, two things without which the city can never reconceive itself as a leading city if not THE city of this century. Never underestimate the power of creativity even though it may not be your taste.

  • 5

    Try going to the Ice House Blog, check out the first entry of archived blogs, (2009) and you will see that these guys are doing so much more than icing a house. For one, in exchange for the use of the abandoned house they have offered to pay the back taxes on a foreclosed house, that allows a local Detroit family to move into it. The guys have made a significant effort to get out and learn more about other homegrown, alternative, creative means of celebrating Detroit and its people. Maybe it's because they are not from Detroit that is so disturbing to people. The fact that they came to this town, have put a beautiful image out there in the press which is going pretty far and pretty wide, says a whole lot more about their energy to promote than many people that live in Detroit are willing to give. They have had nothing but good things to say about the people they have met and have brought to light some the amazing creative efforts that are being done locally. Criticizing them from a far, making judgments about their intentions without having met them is discourteous, and I hope they do not read the attacks above and feel that these represent the feelings of appreciation that many people do have for their sharing in the creative spirit of Detroit.

    • 5.1

      Being that art is in the eye of the beholder, and all art is open to debate on its merits or detractors, i still feel that it is not art in any sense at all. It is a frozen house. Now if the house was frozen then sculpted to look like a castle, with the old house showing thru.... that could be considered art.

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