Things That Look Like Other Things: Iced Houses


What do you get when you mix an architect, a photographer, a deep freeze, and the leading foreclosure rate in the nation? A web project called Ice House Detroit. Gregory Holm (aforementioned photographer) has teamed up with Matthew Radune (the architect in question) to document an architectural installation they’ve undertaken in the city of Detroit, a quickly fading urban center with approximately 80,000 abandoned houses. Their focus is social change: in exchange for the use of an abandoned house for the Ice House Detroit art project, the pair raised enough money on Kickstarter to pay back taxes on a different foreclosed house, allowing a local family to move in. And oh, the pictures.

Photo: Rosie Sharp.

The abandoned house was sprayed with water in subzero temperatures, gradually building up layers of ice over the course of several weeks. Holm explains that as “building materials are reclaimed from the many abandoned houses in Detroit, so to can the affected neighborhoods themselves be repurposed through the creativity, spirit, and sense of community clearly demonstrated by the residents themselves.” After the project’s end date on February 7, Holm and Radune are inviting community groups to disassemble the structure, recycling the wood, metal, glass, and concrete materials to local urban farmers for public use.

Byproducts of the art installation will include photo prints, a limited edition art book, and documentary film.

Funny enough, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen a house under deep freeze in the name of art, though not quite social justice. Minnesota artist Chris Larson, represented by Magnus Muller Gallery in Berlin, debuted the series “Deep North” at the Pulse Art Fair during Miami Basel in 2008. Similarly, after encasing the house in ice from eaves to floorboards, Larson filmed a performance within its walls, then displayed the photographs in the gallery’s booth.

Stills from “Deep North” (2008) by Chris Larson, courtesy of Magnus Muller.

The Ice House Detroit, before the freeze.

For updates on the Ice House, visit the project blog.