Monday, February 19, 2007

Wes on the Rust Belt

[Image: Detroit, Michigan, October 2006. Photo: Wes Janz.]

We recently posted another feature on Archinect written by a friend of mine, Wes Janz, who has been furiously traveling around the country, writing, scoping, researching, all the while teaching architecture at Ball State University. I wrote this intro for a piece he produced documenting his investigation of the shrinking cities of the midwest:
Wes Janz, author of the forthcoming book One Small Project, which will present itself in a gallery show this April, has been staying busy since we last caught up with him. Last winter, he visited several informal settlements and squatters in Buenos Aires. And last summer he scouted the Tijuana borderlands for an upcoming field study project he's planning for his Ball State students this February, where they will document the landscapes and architectures of the undocumenteds coming across the border into the U.S. In addition, his spring semester studio at the Virginia Ball Center for Creative Inquiry explores the homeless context in Indianapolis. The group will produce an installation at the Dean Johnson Gallery to depict their findings and host three discussions to bring some of their questions to a larger audience. In September, a number of his projects were featured in the “Shelter” show at the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit, and Azure Magazine will be featuring Janz and his work in their May/2007 issue. Most recently, however, he has been touring the Rust Belt of the American Midwest, where local economies are evaporating and cities are literally shrinking overnight.

What follows is a field dispatch from what he and colleague Olon Dotson called the "Midwess Distress Tour." Together, the two vanned up a dozen or so students and drove furiously through the hollowed landscape of Detroit, Flint, Gary, Chicago, East St. Louis, and Cincinnati, to chart a depressing survey of an endless supply of demolished memories, places of eviction, architectures in abandonment, and the emotionally-charged back roads of antiquated America lingering on the chopping block of redevelopment. It is an eerily beautiful but sad glimpse of urban depression, the phenomena of decay, scrap futures, and the end of one run-on symbolic deconstructed home; it is the portrait of a hidden real-estate and recycling war zone that has become an undercurrent for much of America’s future city planning strategy.

So, with that, go to Archinect and read Compared to What? (Detroit, Flint, Gary, Chicago, East St. Louis, and Cincinnati, 2006 A.D.), by Wes Janz.


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