Design99's camoflauged Neighborhood Machine pictured next to the Power House. Image by Design99.
Mitch Cope and Gina Reichert run Design99, the Detroit-based, husband-and-wife collaborative bent on improving their neighborhood and engaging their community through art and design. In the past, they operated a retail storefront space in Hamtramck, MI, offering affordable architectural and design services and artist-produced objects. Now, the Power House, a community space and sculpture made from one of the neighborhood's previously empty houses, is one of their primary ongoing projects.
Over the past few months, they've developed the Neighborhood Machine, a repurposed, freshly-painted Bobcat, extending the concept of the Power House. Part-sculpture, part-community tool, the vehicle can be hooked to a series of "project trailers," each specific to a task performed in the neighborhood: collecting found material, gardening (Design99 maintain a tree nursery in an empty lot), power generation with photovoltaics, and, of course, moving stuff around.
The HoodCat's project trailers: from the top: GMC Harvest Trailer (named after Gordon Matta-Clark), Light Box Trailer, Garden Trailer, and Collecting Trailer.
Securing empty houses to prevent them from being vandalized, burnt or abused is a problem common to many Detroit neighborhoods. Boarding them up not only preserves them for future use (many go up for sale at a yearly foreclosure auction) but also offers a feeling of security in neighborhoods that are only partially occupied. In addition to the traditional plywood, nail and bolt method, Design99 have devised a sculptural security device to fill voids in windows and walls. In an attempt to discourage squatting, Razzle Dazzle, a hinged, brightly painted plywood assembly, creates a pointy obstacle at easy access points and signifies that someone is interested in looking after the property. Garden Wall Blockades, made from piles of found material and vegetation work the same way.
The Neighborhood Machine and Sculptural Security are on display at Too Much of a Good Thing at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, alongside work by Jeff Geys and Latoya Ruby Frazier. The title refers to the misconception that Detroit is "too much of a bad thing," pointing out the numerous opportunities to thrive and contribute. At the same time, it wonders how many of these opportunities should be seized and to what end. If you're in the area, visit the pieces in person through July 25th.
Razzle Dazzle Sculptural Security. Image by Design99.
Garden Wall Blockade. Image by Design99.
The opening event at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit.
The Neighborhood Machine
Detail of the collecting trailer.
Sculptural Security - Razzle Dazzle
A video collage from a camera mounted on the Neighborhood Machine showing the neighborhood's residents helping out on various projects.