not all those who wander are lost

This is the “Ice House” project on McClellan Street, a very poorly kept secret location.

Here is the website of the artists involved:

Apparently the idea was to cover the entire structure in ice, to conceptually highlight the housing issues of Detroit. Well, aside from the concept, let’s talk a little about execution. It seems they never figured out how to encapsulate the structure fully. In the end they used the fire hydrants to spray it with water.

Next time guys, rent yourself a demolition mister. Much less water with much better results.

These are from the Lafayette demolition, notice how the misted ice highlights details and coats everything. This would have been more effective and less wasteful of water pressure.

Here is where I stopped thinking any of this was cute, they left the structure open. People were going in and out the back door here. Liabilities ? Biohazard anyone ? Here is a hint about going into a structure like this: you can not smell it in the cold air of winter – but the stink will stick on your shoes forever after you leave.

Multi dwelling humans nest, complete with bodily fluid stains.

Indoor plumbing, via re-purposed coffee pot.


Basically my impression of this installation is that the ghetto really isn’t a toy, so you probably shouldn’t play with it.

Reaction was full spectrum from observers: older black people stopped and asked out their car windows why everybody was so interested in a water main break. (lol)

Older white people clicked pictures and proclaimed things like “yes, it does highlight the condition of Detroit, I just wish it was in a better neighborhood” (you have to whisper the word “neighborhood”….).

A car of young black teens stopped and asked me “why did you do that?”. I laughed and said “I didnt do it”. Before I could explain what was happening, all 6 teens in the car became transfixed with their individual cell phone conversations, and then drove away. ahahaha !

16 Responses to Ice House

  • To be fair, part of the agreement to let them use the house was that the artists paid for a nearby residents tax bill so the woman could stay in her home. I think thats cool, but the art idea still came out stupid.

  • Artists and ‘community organizers’ or whatever people who do crap like this like to call themselves really, rather than expressing art, express the uselessness of their minds.
    Here’s a thought for next time. Rather than attempting to encapsulate a broken house in ice, go to a broken house (pick a neighborhood that isn’t yet totally decrepit!) and spend the weekend fixing it up. Wire it. Plum it. Clean it out. Paint it and roof it. Then, you will have accomplished something that will directly benefit one family and indirectly benefit the neighborhood.
    Or, go back next year and cover another house in ice. Do that every year for the next 500 years. See where it gets you. My guess? A frozen house. Nothing more. Nothing less.

  • Awwwww thanks! :D Been a fan of your site and photos for ages so that made my day.

  • hahaha ! – well comment that got you a link on the blog roll. you have some great photos on your site.

  • “Basically my impression of this installation is that the ghetto really isn’t a toy, so you probably shouldn’t play with it.” ~ Kinda sorta love you for this. Just sayin’

  • Thats a real good point hairysasquatch – its one thing to puzzle over an abandoned house, but another to consider that it was home where children played and meals were eaten by a normal family.

  • Always struck by the occasional family photos and abandoned personal possessions (for some reason the kids’ toys really get me) that you manage to work into your photos – a reminder of the human cost of all this wreckage…

  • Born in Detroit. Living in Philly. I read your Blog daily. As an architect and a photographer, and a lover of the city of detroit, this project is crap. Just a poor attempt at art for selfish reasons. This had nothing to do with helping detroit, or raising awareness of urban blight. It does not contribute anything to the city or community it is in. These two probably read time magazine and thought they would be original to do a project here. Complete crap, and completely for themselves. Just an effort to get attention.

    The orange houses were far more successful. I would not even put these two in the same league.

    Keep up the good work.

  • I would think that some simple investigation into atmospherics would have solved their lack-of-ice issues. You can see they are fighting against the design of the structure, with the attic space keeping the roof ice free. (even post mortem)

    Trick is to have the water vaporized so that ice forms before it hits the surface. Like when fog freezes – its called a “hoary frost”. That sticks to anything, right at borderline freezing temps.

    Otherwise known in dETROITfUNKland as “Frogst”

  • stoo-pid

  • Really loved your commentary on this one. “The ghetto is not really a toy…” HA. Amen.

  • I’ll echo the comments here… this “art” was a shaky idea from the get-go, and poorly executed as well. I never appreciated Guyton’s work either, but at least he was so over the top with his stuff that the visuals hit you between the eyes, even if whatever “message” he was trying to convey was lost.

  • This reminds me of those guys who would paint abandoned houses completely in orange. The Orange Paint people didn’t make too much of an event of it though.

  • Who is out with their 4″x5″ film camera?

  • Demo mister, looks like a snow gun (ski resort). Good thinking on your behalf, far easier I bet…At the resorts, they always stive to use a pond or a river because it contains ‘silt’ particles that ‘seed’ the water so snowflakes form, as compared to ice globs…
    If I has the misfortune of living next to this, it would anger gotta know it’s some well-to-do spoiled white guys..but it’s neat to look at, thanks for posting pics and location

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