Although it is small consolation in the face of overwhelming economic strife in Detroit and elsewhere as the foreclosure crisis continues, this story gave me a real feeling of hope and renewal. To me, this example and other corresponding cases – like the artist-driven re-imaginings of shopping malls and big box stores seems symbolic of an even larger cultural shift. The arts community isn’t just moving into one downtrodden urban neighborhood; rather, they’re taking on the ruins of the unsustainable. They’re taking on big box stores, shopping malls, and grid-connected homes in the car capitol of North America. And they’re not just creating new art. They’re seizing the opportunity to turn old shells of buildings into independent, renewable energy-powered, 21st century-ready spaces.
What I’m most eager to hear next is that creative pioneers are conquering McMansions in the suburban hintersprawl. As Bryan Walsh wrote recently for Time Magazine, “The Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech predicts that by 2025 there will be a surplus of 22 million large-lot homes (on one-sixth of an acre [675 sq m] or more) in the U.S.”
Will subdivisions be turned into workshops and performance spaces? Or possibly into small-scale agricultural communities, or enclaves for artisan food-production? At the very least, will they become denser, transit-connected and less car-dependent … and what will drive that?