A guide to the emergence of alternative urban cultures in the wake of Detroit's economic decline
Intense attention has been paid to Detroit as a site of urban crisis. This crisis, however, has not only yielded the massive devaluation of real estate that has so often been noted; it has also yielded an explosive production of seemingly valueless urban property that has facilitated the imagination and practice of alternative urbanisms. The first sustained study of Detroit’s alternative urban cultures, The Unreal Estate Guide to Detroit initiates a new focus on Detroit as a site not only of urban crisis but also of urban possibility.
The Guide documents art and curatorial practices, community and guerilla gardens, urban farming and forestry, cultural platforms, living archives, evangelical missions, temporary public spaces, intentional communities, furtive monuments, outsider architecture, and other work made possible by the ready availability of urban space in Detroit. The Guide poses these spaces as “unreal estate”: urban territory that has slipped through the free- market economy and entered other regimes of value, other contexts of meaning, and other systems of use. The appropriation of this territory in Detroit, the Guide suggests, offers new perspectives on what a city is and can be, especially in a time of urban crisis.
Andrew Herscher is Associate Professor of Architecture at the University of Michigan. He also co-founded the Detroit Unreal Estate Agency, an open-access platform for research on urban crisis using Detroit as a focal point.
"Andrew Herscher's book provides a critical framework to understand Detroit as a city that operates outside of the all-pervasive model of economic growth. This guide offers alternative ways of understanding Detroit as a place of tremendous creativity, ingenuity and self-reliance: a place we might look to in an era of reduced economic and environmental resources."
—Lee Rodney, University of Windsor
"Andrew Herscher helps us to re-imagine Detroit by showing us the places where Detroit is being re-imagined—the places where new values, politics and solidarities are forming a new city of hope."
—Grace Lee Boggs, activist, community leader and author of The Next American Revolution
"This book fills a need for a comprehensive perspective on the projects that form a concerted effort to rethink the urban in the United States' most prominent deindustrializing city."
—Martha Rosler, artist and writer
"Detroit is the current leader in the competition—U.S. division—for most well-known shrinking city. According to Andrew Herscher, Detroit also leads the way in producing creative adaptations to the ruins and abandonment for which the city is famous. This book reveals a dimension of the city that planners, policymakers, elected officials and urban scholars too readily ignore."
—Robert Beauregard, Columbia University
"Andrew Herscher's book provides a critical framework to understand Detroit as a city that operates outside of the all-pervasive model of economic growth. This guide offers alternative ways of understanding Detroit as a place of tremendous creativity, ingenuity and self-reliance: a place we might look to in an era of reduced economic and environmental resources."- Lee Rodney, University of Windsor
—Lee Rodney, University of Windsor
Listen: Interview with Andrew Herscher on "Stateside with Cynthia Canty" | Michigan Radio | December 10, 2012