During a recent interview with Cynthia Canty on Michigan Radio, Press author Andrew Herscher discussed his new book, The Unreal Estate Guide to Detroit, a guide to the emergence of alternative urban cultures in the wake of Detroit’s economic decline.
Herscher describes unreal estate as “urban space that has lost economic value to the point where it can support other sorts of value,” and becomes valuable in other ways. While intense attention has been paid to Detroit as a site of urban crisis, this crisis, Herscher asserts, has not only yielded the massive devaluation of real estate that has so often been noted; it has also yielded an explosive production of seemingly valueless urban property that has facilitated the imagination and practice of alternative urbanisms — “other ways of imagining and inhabiting the city.”
“What I’m interested in are the conditions of possibility to live in the city differently,” Herscher told Canty. He added, “I think it’s all too easy to see signs of hopelessness in a city like Detroit. At the same time I think it’s all too easy to be naively hopeful about Detroit. I see Detroit as a very distinct phenomenon.”
The Unreal Estate Guide to Detroit documents art and curatorial practices, community and guerrilla gardens, urban farming and forestry, cultural platforms, living archives, evangelical missions, temporary public spaces, intentional communities, furtive monuments, outsider architecture, and other work made possible by the ready availability of urban space in Detroit. The book includes more than 100 color photographs, as well as an enlightening Glossary of terms like “Demolitionism,” “Detroitification,” and “Prozac Tour.”