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    imageMagical Urbanism, a website about urbanization, design and social change, is maintained by Mike Ernst. I'm an urban planner and designer based in New York City. I graduated from the Masters of City Planning program at UC Berkeley.

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    Tyree Guyton’s Heidelberg Project

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    I recently visited Detroit and got the chance to check out the Heidelberg Project, an ongoing, block-long outdoor art piece created by Tyree Guyton.

    Started in 1986, the Heidelberg Project (named so because it originally constructed on Detroit’s Heidelberg Street) began as a political protest against the decay of the neighborhood Guyton grew up in. The projects consists of found materials adorning abandoned houses, trees and empty lots, often covered with Guyton’s signature brightly colored polka dots.

    Says DetroitYes,

    Throughout the years controversy grew between the artist and the city who held title to many of the abandoned properties on Heidelberg. The decorated houses, which first become a tourist attraction and then won the artist international acclaim, carried an implicit criticism of the City of Detroit’s failure to seal, demolish or maintain its properties.

    The City has twice demolished parts of the project due to complaints that the piles attracted animals and posed a safety and fire hazard. But the project remains in its diminished form.

    Despite its critics, the project has gained an international reputation and won numerous awards. In 2004, the project was part of the Shrinking Cities exhibition in Berlin, and, in 2008, the project was one of 15 projects representing the United States at the 2008 Venice Architecture Biennale.

    Said Guyton in this article by Model D Media,

    It’s all about the people, who deserve a better community and a better world. In my own way, I’m trying to make that happen.

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