We have responsibilities as designers to bring awareness to the problems and causes in the world most important to us. In William McDonough’s TedTalk, he talks about the human intention of design – simple things like putting wheels on luggage or more the extremely challenging like our search for the end of an oil-dependent society. He asks why we destroy trees – things that make oxygen, distill water, change color in the different season, self replicate, etc. Why we would we tear down something so amazing just to write on it?
When listening to McDonough, I started thinking about my generation and the perpetuating problems we will need to fix, and where design is a crucial ingredient of course. I began to think about a huge problem, close to home (or atleast my school.) Since the 1960s, Detroit has been on a rapid decline. What was once a thriving city based around the automobile industry and motown music is now known world wide for its poverty and despair. Driving down the main streets of Detroit is like driving through a ghost town that was once something amazing – big half empty sky scrapers and blank store fronts. The signs are still handpainted, the homes decaying, and the majority of residents are squatters. It’s an urban wasteland.
The Heidelberg Project started in 1986 to raise awareness of this decay in a dangerous and abandoned neighborhood. Tyree Guyton, a native Detroiter, began to use vacant lots and abandomed homes as the blank canvas for his art installations. The work is crazy – full of found object from all over the city like shoes, stuffed animals, car parts, household objects. The messages behind the work bring awareness to the problems in this community and enrich the lives and development of the people most effected by the struggles of the Detroit community.
In a neighborhood full of abandoned homes, squatters come in create more trouble in the neighborhoods. Heidelberg is awareness through art. It is a project that stops people in their tracks, that brings thousands of visitors to Detroit and specifically to 3600 Heidelberg St. where the installation speaks for itself. The visitors keep the neighborhood safer and give people a reason to connect with Detroit and foster its rebirth.