The Hanging Gardens of Detroit

25 Aug

Abandon buildings are a byproduct of the rough times that have hindered Detroit. But there are some dedicated Detroiters that can see beyond the fire-tarnished brick, dissolving porches, and broken windows. They see potential. Potential for renewal and beauty. I want to share the amazing work that some groups are doing to rehab Detroit’s abandoned buildings. One of those projects is the Hanging Gardens Project. Put on by Team Detroit, The Greening of Detroit, and UCCA, the Hanging Gardens is a project that touches on the beautification of Detroit, urban gardening, and the restoration of Detroit architecture.

Ryan Schirmang came up with the idea for a vertical garden to hang in the windows of the remains of the Forest Arms building in the Cass Corridor. In 2008, a fire destroyed the interior of Forest Arms, took the life of one resident, and took the home away from 100 others. Ryan and the 75 volunteers from Team Detroit saw this beautiful abandoned building as a canvas to project their hopes for Detroit.”Project” was a word that Ryan used while discussing this project with me and I think it’s a great concept that helps support the artistic efforts of so many people in the city. It’s about more than just making Detroit look nice, its about the hope they have of inspiring real action. In an email, Ryan explained to me some of their motivations for building the Hanging Gardens:

“Public art is the way that a city lays down its identity. From that respect, Detroit has such a rich past- it got rich off cars and built that into its city fabric. Add to that the history of sports here, Motown and R&B before it, the birth of techno after it- and you’ve got a strong potent mixture of broth to work with. At the same time, while you walk around downtown, under the shadow of those ornate old buildings that still stand- there’s the space made by what’s been torn down. That space extends out to 8 mile. And it can be filled up with whatever you want it to be. That’s why the artists are having such a field day – it’s the rich past and wide-open future.

I think the Hanging Gardens is a way to say- you know what- Detroit’s the place for urban farming. And not in the sense that we’re all going to be farmers, but in the way that says the people who’ve started growing food are getting the ball rolling and they’re not going to stop. It’s contagious.”

The hanging garden was “planted” in May of this year and will be decorating the face of Forest Arms during its reconstruction.


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