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Lunds universitet

Excavating Detroit: Archaeological Research Center, Detroit, MI

Hannes Frykholm

Examiner: Christer Malmström  
Tutor: David Garcia 

Due to domestic recession and structural changes in the global economy, the city of Detroit has undergone a radical transformation during the last three decades. As the automotive industry, the traditional engine of Michigan’s economy, is in decline, the city is being abandoned at a pace exceeded only by hurricane stricken New Orleans. Entire neighborhoods are turning into post-urban prairies, with scattered remains of housing and industry as the only traces of this once bright harbinger of industrialism.

In the light of these conditions, Detroit can be read as a case study of a possible future to come for industrial and oil-based urban systems in general. Is Detroit turning into a ghostly monument of Fordism? If so, what happens to the memory of Detroit as entire parts of the city disintegrates? In a greater scope, the urban blight of Detroit allows an analysis of the environmental and cultural footprints of our society, and how these could appear when seen through the lenses of future microscopes.

This project is a speculation on a future archaeology for Detroit. Using the empirical methods of archaeology and the analytical design process of architecture, the project intends to speculate on how remnants from Detroit can be excavated, analyzed, displayed and interacted with. The intention is to highlight the heritage of modernism and industrialism on a global level.

The thesis project is divided into three separate parts, each an autonomous and tentative research module, as well as part of a coherent body of work. The first part is a written essay on the urban, economical and social history of Detroit. The second part of the project consists of three archaeological excavations in Detroit, where data and artifacts are collected using archaeological methods of field work. Using the data and observations from the first two parts, the third part of the project proposes a design intervention.

The design intervention consists of a series of excavation stations along an existing railroad, combined with a research center located in the disused Packard Automotive plant. Partly adding new structures, partly using the existing buildings of the auto plant, the center combines archaeological research with curated exhibitions and training for archaeological volunteers wanting to take part in the remote excavations. Hence, the future archaeology of Detroit is turned into a public spectacle, activating the local community as well as generating globally relevant research on the heritage of 20th century industrialism.




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Senast uppdaterad: 2015-11-06