Artists Plan to Encase Detroit Home in Ice

In this handout photo provided by photographer Gregory Holm, architect Matthew Radune (not seen) is holding a mockup of the Ice House Detroit project in downtown Detroit on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2009. Radune and Holm plan to freeze one of the city's thousands of abandoned homes to draw attention to the foreclosure crisis that's battered the Detroit area. (AP Photo/Gregory Holm, AP Photo/Gregory Holm

A photographer and an architect plan to freeze one of Detroit's thousands of abandoned homes this winter, encasing it in ice to draw attention to foreclosures that have battered the region.

The project from Gregory Holm and Matthew Radune, dubbed Ice House Detroit, is the latest example of the remnants of Detroit's population loss and industrial decline serving as both artistic inspiration and canvas.

"I've been really fascinated by the whole mythology of Detroit and the structures and what they represent," said Holm, who grew up on the city's east side and lived in the suburb of Hamtramck from 1997 until moving to New York City four years ago.

Holm, 38, plans to photograph the transformation of the house, which will be sprayed with water and gradually covered in ice. In the spring, crews will salvage what building materials can be reused and demolish the home. The lot will be donated, probably for a community garden.

The Detroit area has a foreclosure rate that's among the nation's highest, and Radune said the city offers a unique backdrop for the artists' work.

"It's a project that couldn't be done in the same way in New York City and it wouldn't necessarily make the same sense," said Radune, a 32-year-old freelance architect in Brooklyn who also is a DJ. "Detroit was a place where we could make it into more than architectural installation."

Holm and Radune are working to raise $11,000 online to fund the project, mostly for costs related to demolition, and hope to soon figure out where in the city they'll freeze a home.

Detroit, which has shrunk from a population of 1.8 million in the 1950s to half that now, has tens of thousands of vacant homes and buildings.

"It's Detroit's distinctive history that makes it so resonant for this kind of work," said John Beardsley, an adjunct professor with Harvard's Graduate School of Design. "It was a go-go city that in recent years has been identified as gone.

"This is not to say that Detroit can't come back, but there is a particular poignance to this history."

One deteriorating Detroit neighborhood became the outdoor art gallery for Tyree Guyton, whose more than two-decade-old Heidelberg Project has drawn international attention. Guyton transformed the houses, streets and lots with his colorful polka-dot art and collections of stuffed animals, shoes and old appliances.

More recently, a group calling itself Object Orange painted the shells of crumbling Detroit buildings bright orange to call attention to the city's blight and decay.

Radune developed the idea for Ice House while studying architecture at Rice University in Houston. After talking it over with Holm earlier this year, they decided to collaborate. A book and film about the project also are planned.


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