Holm and Radune both live in New York, but Holm is a Detroit native and has watched the city evolve (or devolve) over the years. The pair were insired to freeze the house after seeing an image of another house that had been completely enveloped by icicles after a pipe burst. Naturally, the idea of freezing a foreclosed house speaks to the state of housing and the economy, but the creators were as interested in this approach for its visual effect and practical challenge as for the symbolism of the medium. They worked in 24-hour shifts during the coldest weeks of winter, continuously spraying the two-story structure with a firehose to build up the layers of ice.
The cost of producing this installation has not been negligible. In order to raise the funds they needed, Holm and Radune utilized the relatively new Kickstarter—an online crowd-funding system that allows internet users to make micro contributions to projects they find worthy of support. They raised $11,000 through the contributions of 53 backers, with final costs rounding out a bit higher than that.
Last week, Holm and Radune did a photo shoot of the Ice House and now they have scaled back their round-the-clock work schedule and resigned themselves to the effects of warming temperatures. They don't purport to have instigated a groundswell of change in Detroit's housing crisis but they did gain attention for their work and they also gave back, not only through the forthcoming demolition of the home but by also paying the backtaxes on another house in foreclosure, allowing a Detroit resident to hold onto her home.
We spoke with Greg Holm and Matthew Radune about the project.
All photos were taken by Holm, with the exception of his portrait, which was taken by Jeff Williams.
You grew up in Detroit and only moved away fairly recently. Can you tell me a bit about how the decline of housing in Detroit looked and felt to you, as a native and someone who watched it happen gradually? GH: One of the most interesting aspects of visiting a place like Detroit every three to five months is that you have just enough time to notice the changes. I feel that sometimes the full time occupants miss the gentle collapsing which happens all around them. I was lucky enough to be standing at the old Tiger Stadium a few months back when the bulldozer was piling that last few square yards of concrete in a pile from the site. And although I have seen a greater dilapidation in the last two years than ever in my time in the city I call home, I have been astonished by an equal sense of resilience in terms of the community efforts which have come together to reinvent the modern grid which remains. I have been living in Brooklyn for several years now, and this last stay has really made me reconsider moving back to Detroit. The possibilities are endless right now.What prompted you to want to freeze the house as opposed to, say, letting it grow over with wild foliage or wrapping it in some other material or any number of other things? What is it about freezing and ice that is significant? MR: Freezing a house in solid ice was an idea that I came upon years ago while doing research at Rice Architecture School. I have always been fascinated by images of architecture at the mercy of nature (frozen houses sprayed by the fire department in the winter time), or architecture intermingled with nature in extreme ways (abandoned houses grown over with kudzu, greenhouses). Modernist architecture and much contemporary architecture has had the goal of placing glass buildings within beautiful natural settings and setting them apart. I was always interested in challenging this dynamic - creating combinations of architecture and nature that were more messy, to put it simply. In the end it was also an ecological decision. The ice would disappear after the project was complete, leaving no waste for us to dispose of.
When not working in design, Sarah Rich writes, talks and forecasts about food and consumer culture.