Tuesday, 23 September 2014

The decline of Detroit grandeur


Grandeur Lost: The Modern Ruins of Abandoned Detroit is another abandonment post from WebUrbanist
The now famous pic of William Livingstone house
Detroit is arguably one of the most fascinating modern cities in the world. This is thanks to the city’s unique balance between its former identity as a manufacturing mecca and its current state of sectional abandonment and renewal. It is neither deserted nor wholly occupied, but exists in tension between destruction, creation and everyday living. 
French photographers Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre saw the abandoned parts of this compelling urban landscape and documented it in their book The Ruins of Detroit.
United Artists Theatre - talk about decayed grandeur!
Despite the empty neighbourhoods, abandoned buildings and crumbling structures. The city balances its former glory, its current semi-abandoned status, with pockets of fresh new life and creative directions springing up from the ashes.
East Side Public Library
The city, so rich with history both industrial and individual, was once the fourth largest in the United States. It housed some of the country’s brightest engineers and most promising entrepreneurs. The city grew and its residents continued to expand their living areas into planned suburbs.
Atrium of the Farwell building
But the automobile industry which played such a large part of the city’s early days also proved part in its undoing. White middle-class residents used those cars to move out of the inner city and into their new suburbs. Segregation increased steadily until the violent race riot in 1967.

Following the riot, the city continued its rapid decline. The industry that built Detroit moved on to other locations. Inner-city residents fled their homes by the thousands. Every race and every economic class was affected by this exodus; the city simply bled away until it held less than half its former population.
Lee Plaza Hotel
Unlike almost any other place in the world, Detroit’s abandoned buildings and ruined structures are not isolated in one part of the city. Grand, well-kept buildings can exist just meters away from crumbling ruins. Inhabited and abandoned homes exist side by side in neighbourhoods.
The grandeur of the multi-storey Michigan Central Railway Station
What is so compelling about the images in The Ruins of Detroit is the seeming urgency of the city’s abandonment. In civic buildings, papers and boxes still occupy offices. In abandoned libraries, books continue to line the walls. Schools still hold desks and police stations are stuffed with forgotten and mouldering mug shots. Chairs are tipped over as though the former occupants of these buildings suddenly evacuated due to an emergency. No hope of salvaging the situation.
St Christopher House Public Library
Given the slow but steady decline of the city’s population, this urgency is baffling. Surely there was more than enough time to clean the buildings out, remove anything that could be reused or salvaged and clean the buildings up. But it seems that no one cared to take the time to do so.

This state of partial ruination is ephemeral – eventually it must give way to complete ruin or rebuilding. As witnessed in my Decaying Detroit post, the photographers’ goal was to capture Detroit’s current state of abandonment before fate tips one way or the other.
The East Methodist Church
Yet more photographs at the Weburbanist site.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Schools running wild

I was out and about on the weekend searching for school sites and, late in the afternoon, arrived at Rainbow East or the Hazeldene school site.
Back when the school was open 1908-1960 it was a wide open expanse with little to revive the outlook, and it is still much the same today - a concrete plinth in the corner of a crop paddock. What surprised me was the swathe of grape hyacinths in the gutter of the road verges. The hardy little bulbs still emerging after more than 50 years of abandonment.
Grape hyacinths and a few capeweed daisies
But it does make you think about the efforts of the past pupils and teachers who planted and cared them, often in difficult circumstances.
I've come across a number of bulbs that emerge each year, typically jonquils, belladonna lilies or nerines at abandoned schools and homes, and also more rarely the beautiful yellow Autumn crocus found at both Ellam (1927-1970s) and Sandsmere (1887-1951) school sites.
A clump of Autumn crocus at Ellam







As well as a number of perennial plants: these two were found at the older Tooan site (1882-1969) overlooking St Mary's Lake. 

The site is surrounded by sugar gums, a few pines, and a herbacous plant crowding the window, and clumps of jonquils and daffodils each spring. 

The newer Highway site has a mammoth flowering cacti.






 Usually you can guess at the location of a school by larger plants: sugar gums, pepper trees, and strangely - cactus/cacti.
Boyeo School has all three
The Watchupga (variously named Watchupga North East, Watchupga Railway Station, and then Watchupga) site is almost triffid-like, under attack from invading spiky cactus. The school has only been closed since 1972.

At the Miram North East school (which featured in “Mad as rabbits”, no relationship that I can see) it is a succulent that has been running amuck since 1933, constrained it would be a great pot-plant.
Miram North East school site
The Lake Hindmarsh marker surrounded by an overgrown garden
Then there are places like Wal Wal which are still a veritable park with a specimen palm, deciduous trees, roses (desperately in need of a trim) and small plants. The school closed in 1973.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Atomspheric gothic narrative

Alison Croggon's 'Dark Spring' is a gothic retelling of 'Wuthering Heights' but with the addition of the lore as divined by vindictive wizards and ruled by generations-long vendetta.
Lina (Catherine) is the enchanting but willful daughter of a village lord. She and her childhood companion, Damek (Heathcliff), have grown up privileged and spoiled, and they're devoted to each other to the point of obsession.
But Lina's violet eyes betray her for a witch, and witches are not tolerated in this brutally patriarchal society. Her rank protects her from persecution, but it cannot protect her from tragedy and heartbreak. And ultimately to the devastation that ensues as destructive longing unleashes Lina's wrath, and with it her forbidden power.
There are differences to the Bronte classic, Lina doesn't have a brother, but the consequences in this version are similar. I also found the narrator (Emily Bronte's Lockwood) here named Hammel, is just as reminiscent of Harker in Bram Stoker's 'Dracula', and the description of his journey  and arrival at the Northern Plateau beneath the Black Mountains parallels Harker's appearance, especially as he passes the stone towers and all the grave markers - a desolate landscape of cemeteries.
It is Alison's vivid depiction of the landscape which places you in the same Bronte-esk atmosphere, the Plateau could as easily be the moors, the bleak weather, the houses a dark brooding bastion, and its remoteness from civilisation.
Whether drawn by the romantic, the magical, or the gothic, readers will be irresistibly compelled by the passion of this tragic tale - even if you know the ending, you don't know the story.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Exploring with WebUrbanist

So much to see...so little time. The people at WebUrbanist have done it again, with 'Urban Exploration Tips, Tricks & Guides'.


Especially the link to '30 Websites & Online Forums for Adventurous Urban Explorers' as the title suggests, it is a list of online resources for would-be urban explorers around the world, from urbex forums to photo sites and more, dedicated to abandoned places and vehicles worth exploring.
Gull lightship (from Derelict London)
Too many to list here, my only objection is that there are some dead-links, still heaps to observe and read about. Just do as they suggest and bookmark it.
Always remembering as WebUrbanist put it - 'Urban exploration (also known as ‘building infiltration’) is a risky sport at best and an illegal one at worst. While WebUrbanist can’t endorse breaking the law there is fortunately no law against reporting on it and some forms of urban exploration are fortunately legal, for those interested in exploring this illicit urban sport'.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Drive-by reading

Twisted Sifter's 'Picture of the Day' - a garage door painted like a giant bookcase in the Los Angeles neighbourhood of Hollywood Hills.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Hold it right there

I've been neglecting Bibliophile for a while, so here are some artistic shots of everyday objects in unusual senarios.

Sound waves are seen in ethereal splashes of red, blue, green and yellow in Fabian Oefner’s ‘Dancing Colors’ series. The movement of the coloured pigments is the result of music pulsing through a speaker, which is wrapped in thin plastic and covered in powder. When the speaker is turned on, the plastic vibrates, shooting the pigment into the air.

This bizarre form is actually liquid droplet captured in motion with a high-speed flash, micro controller and a knack for precise timing. Artist León Dafónte Fernánde uses water, cream, milk or a combination, sometimes thickened with sugar gum or glucose, tinted with food colouring to get these unusual results

German photographer Markus Reugels achieves a very similar, blown-glass-like effect in his own high-speed water droplet photography. Again, the water is slightly thickened to make it just dense enough to dance in the most unexpected of ways. Reugels creates all of these various patterns by delaying the time and amount of droplets and taking the image at just the right moment.
 
Floto + Warner momentarily make elusive forms within coloured liquid seem three-dimensional and static. Getting these dramatic images just right is no easy task; many attempts are made to toss the fluid into the air so that it looks just right against the hills and desert of northern Nevada.
 Yes it is 'Frozen in motion' by WebUrbanist.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Shadow title

Book of Shadows: 2D shape cutouts cast silhouettes on the book’s pages, taking paper cut-outs a step further.
Off the tracks
A children’s book with an interactive twist - ‘Motion silhouette’ from its Japanese creators, Megumi Kajiwara and Tathuhiko Nijima, engages readers through pop-up pieces that require lighting to animate shadow pictures on each page.
The story changes depending on where the shadows fall on the page, and shadows move around the page, as you manipulate the light source and how you hold each page. The idea is to add elements of manual animation that are necessarily subjective – each person will hold, turn and highlight the cutouts in different ways.

‘Motion Silhouette’ is actually a sequel to another book, simply titled ‘Silhouette’, a work which similarly uses slightly less-developed pop-up pages to create a more basic multi-dimensional experience.
More images at WebUrbanist.

Mobile Thing 4. Check it out


Up to "Thing 4 - Maps and checking in"
This Thing covers the uses for the GPS function in smartphones and mobile devices that locates your position on a map, and the 'real time' tracking apps (I like the Live Traffic cameras).
One of the Discover tasks was indoor maps of cultural institutions - so i visited the Google Street View, and as I'm going through a sci-fi phase at present, I checked out the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library and particularly liked their merchandising display.
Would really like to see this style of technology for confusing places like airport terminals - get familiar with the layout prior to arriving there.

Log:
"It's not just books that can be found here!"
And "Have you considered geocaching as a library program / allowing interaction with the library as a destination (eg. British Library)?"
Yes we had considered it and unfortunately had to abandon the idea as our location was considered too close to another cache by the Site Administrators, so created a Munzee instead (currently muggled & will work on it after the building works finish).

We have our branches marked on Google maps with a widget on each branch's page, just need to do the same for the Mobile Library sites.
I do prefer the layout and options of the Google Maps app to the default iPhone one, it is interesting to see the different quirks.
Getting my head around Foursquare and 'checking in' for libraries rather than coffee shops! (though I could combine both?!)
The disadvantage of all these apps which refer to your current location, is their battery zapping power.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Decaying Detroit


Most of the images you tend to see of Detroit are of the central business district - grand buildings decaying, but this series entitled 'GooBing Detroit' a tumblr blog, uses Google Street View Time Machine to follow the fast transformation of family houses from cute and cheerful suburban residences to overgrown vacant lots.
Exeter, northern Detroit, 2009, 2011 & 2013
Much has been said about the decline of a once great city, and the seemingly diminishing chances of a revival. The metropolis has lost 25% of its population in the last decade. The city’s 78,000+ 'feral houses' - abandoned, looted, burned-out - are the stuff of legend, seeming to revert back to a wild state the way domesticated animals tend to do when left to their own devices.
These Google Street View images of Detroit from 2009 through to 2013 paint a poignant portrait of decay in the city. 
Rampant growth - Healy St, north of Hamtramck, 2009 & 2013
The Street View images are often astonishing in the rapid transition in a span of just a few short years. A stretch of houses may have cars parked in the driveways, toys on the lawn and other signs of life all around in the first image, while by the third or fourth they’re barely discernible among the overgrowth.
While these images really drive home how much Detroit has lost over the last three decades, many residents aren’t ready to give up hope, despite the fact that the city’s population has declined from a peak of 1.8 million to just 700,000. There are areas of the city that still thrive, but the question of an overall plan (either to break the city into manageable pieces or reinvigorate it as a whole) remains an open one. In the meantime, it seems to almost be an industry with urban explorers and photographers recording what is left before nature claims it back.
Remove the residents and homes rapidly deteriorate, Arndt, East Side, Detroit, 2009, 2011 & 2013
Next post more of those grand decay photos you associate with Detroit.