Detroit, in most people’s minds, is Blight at its best, with houses so cheap they do not even begin to compare with student loans. At school and amongst other design professionals, I always found an “indiana jones” planner or architect who ventured down there, only to come back with horror stories about drug abuse, abandoned houses and police desertion, or alternatively some cynical admiration for an American dream gone wrong, with a scenery that competes with Armageddon scenarios.
So it was quite nice surprise for me when I heard about the Imagination Station, a new local non profit organization dedicated to community well-being and artistic intervention. Founded very recently by a bunch of social entrepreneurs and design professionals, their first initiative was to invest 2 run down properties and to transform them into a community media center and a public art space, with of course, a green focus. These kind of projects that actually come to life are quite rare – I myself spent a year and half working for a Montreal non-profit hoping to create a greener community and residential building.
On a branding level, what could be better for Detroit than some news about – albeit small scale – change in the air? Okay, it might be a leftover dream from the 70’s utopian art community concept, and it might not bring back business, but it will certainly be picked up by the 2.0 generation of alternative tourists, the ones that choose visiting surrealistic post industrial landscapes over spring break in Cancun.
So maybe this initiative could be considered as a “spot-branding” effort that will speak to creative classes. I’m not saying that it will be enough to turn around a neighborhood over night, but maybe Detroit won’t necessarily fall off the map the way urban studies guru Richard Florida predicted not too long ago in The Atlantic.
I’ll leave you with the video that focuses mainly on the architectural process :