Galleries / Skylines - Detroit /

Winter 2009

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Icicles hang ominously over the Detroit skyline at the top floor of the Packard Plant, March 2009. I remember the winter of 2009 in Michigan as a particularly bitter one. I was attending my capstone classes at Wayne State University, thus making frequent trips between their facilities and my apartment, and became perpetually frustrated with Detroit's timeliness as far as plowing roads and sidewalks. In early March when things were starting to thaw out, a friend of mine who had been begging for a tour of the Packard was granted his wish. I was hoping to catch massive puddles on the factory floors and do some work with the reflections, much the way I did with my first visit to Fischer Body but I neglected to account for how these larger structures retain a cooler temperature due to all of the concrete. What resulted were massive Icicles all over the factory, formed by several brief thaws from when the sun temporarily heated an area enough to melt the ice and then moved away allowing the water to freeze again. I shot this photo with the intention of checking the light later, but was greeted by a crashing sound immediately after my shutter snapped. One of the guys that had tagged along with the friend whom I was showing the place to had thrown a rock at the ice formation in a juvenile act of thrill seeking, reminding me of my disdain for photographing in groups. I did not appreciate the true danger in his act until about a year later, when this very section of roof collapsed five stories to the ground in April of 2010. Much the way Michigan roads deteriorate over time, the clogged drainage on the roof, combined with countless cycles of freezing and thawing, had broken apart the concrete until its equilibrium had failed and the structure collapsed. It was an unsettling sight for me, as I had been standing on that very section of roof less than a week earlier. As a result, I now advise people not to enter abandon structures during a thaw or the few weeks following.