Published: 05/28/2024

Project Term: 2010, 2013

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Salvaged Landscape

Salvaged Landscape is the curated demolition of an arson home to create a new room in the house– made possible only through the criminal existence of a fire. Using existing material from the house as the palette and existing spaces as formwork, Salvaged Landscape exploits the beauty of the charred wood and the spatial implications of a house. Demolished by hand, the existing house was carefully reconfigured into a new volume through processes of reversal and reconstruction that should never have existed. When the back half of the house was fully torn down, and the remaining portion stabilized in a perfect section cut, the collected and sorted wood was thrust back into the house as long cantilevers, positioned to create spatial passage and containment. This new, dense room with limited and aggressive occupancy was revealed to the city on Devil’s Night, a night in Detroit historically notorious for arson. The work is as much about the process of demolition and loss, as it is about what was made possible. Salvaged Landscape is embedded deeply into many harsh realities of the city, from arson, to historical policies, to conspiracy, to the deep social setting of the transient population. The extended site of Salvaged Landscape makes it clear that a project is not simply a standalone, and instead needs this struggle to exist. 

The scars of aggression are proof that time has already passed. When the timescales shift from a slow inheritance of an ailing city to an immediate impact of violence, disregard or indifference creates an unbearable silence. When tragedies are so harsh, so unthinkable, that their extensiveness is numbing, it is right to mourn and honor a space. Salvaged Landscape does that by taking on the disheartening and unbelievable presence of arson throughout the city. Though now diminishing in number, at the time of its making, the average number of arsons in the city was 15 per day. Insurance fraud, hate crimes, drug targeting, forced demolition, revenge and deranged forms of play all contributed to the strange normalizing of this dreaded event. 

This project was only possible because of the fire.

*AD Magazine article: Extenuating Circumstances.

*For a walk-thru; see Stephen McGee’s Rough Cut. 

*Also, glimpses of Salvaged Landscape can be found in the tHE iMAGINATION sTATION film by mK(e) hOSTETTLER. 


Catie Newell

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