I recently met a young architect and artist named Catie Newell who is doing amazing things at the intersection of urban architecture and art. Last year in Detroit, Catie created a ‘salvaged landscape’ art piece with materials from a most unlikely source: the charred boards of an arson-burned house. The new structure was re-inserted into the framework of the original house resulting in a beautiful, haunting space of volume, unique textures and natural light that challenges conventional wisdom and opens the heart: when is a burned house not just a burned house? How do our own lives become like an arsoned house and, more importantly, what happens after that?
Here are two videos by filmmaker Stephen McGee about Catie’s work (by permission)
FYI- That entire new space she created was actually relocated by crane and truck to Grand Rapids last month, for the annual Artprize show at the Grand Rapids Museum of Art.
I was captivated by Catie’s description of her work before I actually saw it in this video. A fan of ‘repurposed’ building materials myself (I built my backyard hermitage with 90% used lumber from the local Habitat ReStore)…I had never heard of anyone doing anything with an abandoned, arsoned house other than tear it down. Let alone turning it into art.
Thanks, Catie, for showing us that there’s more to a burned inner city house than meets the eye. Or the heart.
(Catie Newell is professor of architecture, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.)