July 27 2012

Detroit, Michigan Heidelberg Project: A Different Image of the City


“Every citizen has had long associations with some part of the city, and his image is soaked in memories and meanings.” Kevin Lynch, The Image of the City (1960)

Twenty-seven years later, a young Tyree Guyton reflected on his associations to the city of Detroit, Michigan.  Poverty, drugs, crime, racism, and violence shaped his world. Guyton was determined to re-brand this image, starting with his street. What began as a neighborhood clean-up on Heidelberg Street, quickly became a dynamic art installation, as Guyton discovered the beauty of found objects and the power of bold color.

Guyton’s art transformed the block with massive sculptural works created by blanketing the houses, streets, sidewalks, and trees with layers of visual delight. Layers built of everything from stuffed animals, toy cars, and baby dolls, to luggage, vacuums, and school buses. It’s as if a giant magnetic draws these disclaimed objects there to be reborn as part of something bigger. Guyton’s art is not only social, but sustainable.

“In 1988, supporters of Guyton helped to organize his efforts and the Heidelberg Project was officially incorporated.” After 25 years, the Heidelberg Project (HP) remains  a landmark to Detroit’s East Side, one of my most depressed neighborhoods in the country.  HP has not only survived criticism and controversy, it has provided sanctuary and inspiration to its residents. HP was not an initiative of schooled architects or urban planners, and yet it activates this sense of place and continues to engage the community in a positive way.

HP youth programs

Today, the Heidelberg Project is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, which runs several programs to educate youth on art, community, and environment. HP utilizes social media to network with partners and promote a myriad of special events, including artist talks and emerging artist exhibits. Follow HP on Twitter (@HeidelbergProj) for more information on their 9th Biannual Detroit’s Got Talent Competition.

What is your image of the city? What can you do to change it or enhance it?

Credits: Images and data linked to the sources.

Alexandria Stankovich

Alexandria Stankovich graduated from The University of Michigan with a B.S. in Architecture. In order to gain an authentic understanding of the urban context through the lens of education, she became a Denver, Colorado corps member with Teach for America, teaching elementary Special Education. Returning to metro-Detroit, Michigan, Alexandria writes about the innovative design projects and urban programs taking place in the Motor City. Fueled by her passions for the triple bottom line - environment, economy, and social equity – Alexandria is now working on her Masters in Urban & Regional Planning. She is specializing in Physical Planning and Real Estate Development.

Website - Twitter - Facebook - More Posts

This entry was posted on Friday, July 27th, 2012 at 3:00 pm and is filed under Community/Economic Development, Education and Careers, Housing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


Leave a Reply

five + 9 =


Follow US