Haunting photo-essay on rotting buildings in Detroit

Time Magazine's published a photo essay on the abandoned, rotting, magnificent buildings in Detroit by French photographers Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre. Detroit and Buenos Aires are probably the two most interesting places on the planet for me right now, because, put together, they answer the question, "What do you do when your industry and your economy utterly collapse? What happens when the numbers on the spreadsheets tell you that the bricks in the walls have no value?"

Detroit's Beautiful, Horrible Decline (via MeFi)


  1. They should mention that the train station, as well as the building where they found the bumcicle, is owned by Matty Maroun, the billionaire who owns the Ambassador Bridge.

  2. @AJ

    I completely agree about FRoD. About three clicks into the Time photo essay, I realized I had seen pretty much all those pictures and more on the DetroitYES site.

  3. You all should definitely check out the pictures of flickr user Sweet Juniper

    I have been admiring his work for awhile now. Many of his pictures focus on the urban decay of Detroit, just like the photo above. I am just amazed by how beautiful and, at the same time, haunting the images are.

  4. Pretty incredible photography. Reminds me of the stillness of the underwater shots taken inside the Titanic.

  5. Wait a second… isn’t the photo on this post from Doctor Zhivago?

    Okay, no, not really. It’s extremely similar in composition though.

    Well, if that doesn’t say something about Detroit, I don’t know what will.

  6. I find it strange that so much furniture and other items were left behind. Sure, the money had stopped flowing in, but the value of items such as chairs, tables and grand pianos is surely still real, and there were surely people around at the time who would have appreciated those objects. Is this the byproduct of how the system works, like when companies upgrade their computers and all the older models (maybe only two years old) are contracted to be landfilled? I can’t accept the waste.

  7. I love Detroit and I can’t wait to get back. I’ve been in Las Vegas for three years (grad school) and I return in September. I don’t know if I’ll move back to the city proper, but I hope that I can be of some use in salvaging what is left of my beloved hometown. As much as I love UrbEx and photos like this, I would much prefer to see that piano standing upright, surrounded by happy revelers, under a full tip jar and a couple of drinks.

  8. Not to be a party pooper…(it could be that I just need a history lesson) but it seems to me that these photos, yes, are of degrading buildings in Detroit, but do they truly reflect the recent decline of the auto industry? Was the old train station simply replaced by a new one? Material I found online says that the Livingstone Residence is just one of a group of residences on the periphery of a rather nice neighborhood that contains many old houses that are *currently* being renovated.

    Detroit is in trouble, that I don’t disagree with, but are these photos really representative of this decline? Or are they degradating structures that just happen to be in Detroit?

  9. Dudes, I would so love to go to that piano and make a chalk outline of a victim who got his head smashed by the corner of the piano. Oh dear- maybe I have to now. It’s a dirty job… but I just fixed my DD Rocket. This time I used a higher grade of recycled trash.

  10. You beat me to it, Al. Great site with tons of stuff but he seems to have run out of steam lately. When I was doing my M.A. in Urban Planning I flew to Detroit and did a photo essay on it.

  11. #12- Detroit has for a long time been one of the best locations for urban ruins out there. Its decline way predates the decline of the US auto industry. Most of my favourite Detroit ruin websites have already been posted. Camilo Vergara’s book American Ruins has some amazing pics.

    I was interested to see they included a picture of Old Slumpy (the Livingstone house) which famously had a major part actually fall off on film. http://fadeddetroit.blogspot.com/2007/04/slumpys-demise_29.html. Brush Park itself is a haunting place to visit. The Ransom Gillis house is one of the other famous ruins there (you see it in the opening montage of Beverly Hills Cop) and seemed doomed, but has recently been stabilized. (A good site on that house: http://www.63alfred.com/chapter1.htm) Some other Brush Park houses have been saved, but it’s still pretty precarious.

    The train station is pretty amazing seen from the Ambassador Bridge from just the right angle, with the light streaming straight through the shattered windows.

    On the upside, one rather famous ruin, the Book Cadillac Hotel, has recently been renovated and reopened as a Westin hotel.

  12. Reading through that photo-essay really put me in the mood for a few hours of Fallout 3. Do they have molerats in Detroit?

  13. I usually love photos of abandoned places, but seeing so much from Detroit is so depressing. They need to just abandon the place outright or revitalize it. This mix of humanity and ruins is just depressing.

  14. Detroit is one of the coolest places I have ever visited. It is a chilling, colossal example of what remains after hyper-capitalism has its vampiric way. Axx @ 12 – yes it is representative, from what I saw of the city. Giant shells of buildings, empty 6-lane boulevards, 3-story victorian houses for sale for $4000. The decline of Detroit dates from the collapse of the steel industry and the urban riots of the 1970s.

  15. Too sad and lovely.

    Does the Lee Plaza photo remind anyone of those early Iraq war pictures, after troops had cleared the palaces – or maybe it was Uday’s palace. Anyway — side by side I bet there’d be some similarities.

  16. I don’t get the Buenos Aires reference. Downtown BA has almost no available space, much less abandoned buildings!

    Unless you are talking about suburban factories?

  17. Sorrily the reproductions on the blog aren’t of very good quality, so the hunting quality of those pics is almost lost. They are originally more decent in their way of showing the destruction, than those boingboing referred. I think, that makes much of their suspense.

  18. Makes me cry. I was born in Detroit, have lived in or around Detroit for all but a few of my 51 years on this planet.
    Detroit has been a bell-weather for many of the problems the country faces right now. Unemployment, manufacturing jobs going overseas, housing, healthcare, obeasity and crime.
    The pictures are beautiful though. Tender loving care for a dying great lady.

  19. Years ago I had a friend who was very proud of his hometown Detroit; he often wore a T-shirt that said, “Detroit: Where the weak are killed and eaten.”

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