Detroit Brief – 100 Churches and a Skilled Criminal Economy

While on our trip to Detroit, my approach in addressing a kind of ‘user group’, as described in our unit outline, was to make a study on the diversity of church architecture around the city. This interest was manifested in a photographic study of 100 churches, which were to become the driving architectural substance of the city from which I would begin to develop a proposal to intervene. Using the high amount and variety of churches within the city, my proposal is rooted in the speculation that since Detroit’s buildings, both residential and commercial, are in such a state of disrepair, it is the institutional network of churches that retain the prevailing power, by their architectural prevalence in this crumbling city,  with which they may influence the psychology and behavior of the population.




The speculation is further developed by the presence of a particular criminal population who, in response to the city’s administrative complications with supplying electrical power, specialize in illegal power ‘hook-ups’. These ‘Hook-up guys’, as referred to in a channel 7 special news report in Detroit from 2010, represent a kind of spatial mediation, in which they adapt to the city’s infrastructural obsolescence and the pockets of isolated areas within the massive urban territory.

hook up guylink to news media

My project, then, takes as its originating context the relationship of the prevailing institutional power of the churches and the specialized skills of the ‘Hook-up guys’ to propose that, in exchange for their labor, the ‘Hook-up guys’ may be absolved of their sins by hooking-up the 100 churches from the initial study so that they may empower – physically and spiritually – the congregational communities to leave Detroit in search of a new Promise Land. The symbolism of the electric power and ecclesiastical reference in the proposal is derived from (1) the historic migrations to Detroit, from the underground railroad to the 20th century industrial boom, (2) the romantic depictions of movement across American landscapes during the 19th century, and (3) the 19th century industrial appropriation of scientific analogies relating the human bodily functions to a motor.

Westward Ho! - emanuel gottlieb leutze 1860

‘Westward Ho!’ by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze, 1860