Fred Heutte on Sat, 22 Jun 2002 18:30:06 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> re: Bruce Sterling interview

Thanks to Bruce and Kristian for the fine interview.

I sent this to Bruce privately and then decided it might be interesting
to pass along to the entire list.

------ mail forwarded, original message follows ------

From: <Fred Heutte>
Subject: nettime: trees growing on dead skyscrapers in Detroit
Date: Fri, 21 Jun 2002 21:17:27 -0700

I have pictures of that.  Detroit has actually been my favored
destination resort of the last decade.  Detroit techno, certainly
one of the most vibrant and affirming cultural artifacts to come
along in the last quarter century, was born in those ashes.

Here's where I stay in Detroit, the Best Western at the foot of
Washington Boulevard where it meets Michigan Ave.  Doesn't look
like much, huh?  (It's called the Ambassador now, good place,
well run and the view up Washington from room 1012 is a compelling
reason to go to Detroit.)

The pictures here really don't do it justice.  Across the street from
the BW is the Book Cadillac, where I stayed in 1983 when the city was
running it as a last-gasp effort to keep this famed 1924-era hotel
alive.  In its prime it was one of the most famous hotels in the
world and hosted presidents, kings and CEOs who figured out how to
destroy the nest that grew their industrial fortunes, leaving behind
the world's only 40-storey ghost town -- downtown Detroit.

Running along Washington is the decrepit tourist trolley built for 
some unknown bicentennial reason in 1976.  It runs more or less once
an hour from the trolley barn up near Grand Circus down to Hart
Plaza where the Detroit electronic music, jazz and "hoedown"
festivals are held every year.  You can get a glimpse in these
pictures of the marvelous light sculpture running five blocks up
Washington.  Nobody can tell me anything about why it's there or
why, mysteriously, the cluster of light globes in the center
(programmed by some unknown genius to flash in some kind of Game
of Life sequence) actually works, unlike almost anything else in
Detroit.  It's a parklike setting that is almost entirely
deserted except for the parishioners of the Catholic church
halfway up Washington, a few office workers and the residents
of the one or two modern/ugly apartment buildings that are still

The Book building at the other end of Washington is open again, 
and has the future of Detroit locked up: it's the first telecom 
hotel downtown with an OC48, backup power and fire suppression just 
like all those fancy Silicon Valley colos.

At the far end of Washington is Grand Circus, shown in this
shot from the indispensable Fabulous Ruins of Detroit site:

The BW is also a block down Michigan Ave from Lafayette Coney Island,
the culinary capital of Detroit, where Fred "Sonic" Smith and Patti
Smith first met in 1976 and the biggest celebrity photo on the wall
is Soupy Sales.

The utter contradictions of 20th century American capitalism are
entirely present at this location.  So it's a favorite destination
of mine.  Someday people will realize that architecture and street
life are more important than cars.  They coexisted uneasily in
Detroit for its glorious era from 1920 to 1965, and then the cars won.

Or did they?


PS I guess I shouldn't be cynical or anything but 9/11 wasn't hardly
the first time someone demolished a building before its time (although
it is tacky, grotesque and anti-human all at once to do it while the
people are still inside).  What's interesting is that the Hudson's
demolition in 1998 was the exception rather than the rule in Detroit.
I don't know whether the Book Cadillac will last as long as the
pyramids, but it seems likely to outlast the American property title 
record system that defines its current frozen-in-decay status.

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