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Return to Nature: Detroit’s Feral Houses

Return to Nature: Detroit’s Feral Houses
Arts & Culture
Dan Gould
  • 3 august 2009

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Detroit is in a very interesting state. It’s simultaneously decomposing, and evolving into a new city. The Sweet Juniper blog has documented some of the evolution of Detroit in a series of photos they call “Feral Houses”. The images show how the yearly summer plant growth overtakes the many abandoned structures around the city, seemingly reclaiming them for nature.

Sweet Juniper explains:

I’ve seen “feral” used to describe dogs, cats, even goats. But I have wondered if it couldn’t also be used to describe certain houses in Detroit. Abandoned houses are really no big deal here. Some estimate that there are as many as 10,000 abandoned structures at any given time, and that seems conservative. But for a few beautiful months during the summer, some of these houses become “feral” in every sense: they disappear behind ivy or the untended shrubs and trees planted generations ago to decorate their yards. The wood that framed the rooms gets crushed by trees rooted still in the earth. The burnt lime, sand, gravel, and plaster slowly erode into dust, encouraged by ivy spreading tentacles in its endless search for more sunlight.

Like some of the dogs I’ve seen using these houses as shelter (I followed a whole pack into #9 last week), these houses are reverting to a wild state, as from domestication, a word derived itself from domesticus (the Latin for belonging to the domus, or house). Now these houses are feralis. They belong only to the dead.

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Sweet Juniper

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