Object Orange was birthed from the context of Detroit’s steep economic decline. More than 100,000 homes (nearly 1/3 of the total residences) lay empty. Unsurprisingly, the housing market isn’t doing well, either. In 2003, the average price of a house was $98,000; as of October 2009, average prices had fallen to a mere $15,000. Combine this with a 28% unemployment rate and the city’s $300 million deficit and you’re looking at a “world of hurt.”
But what’s with the orange? How could making the homes (arguably) even more of an eyesore help this barren city? The idea, according to the DDD Project, was to jump-start the city’s efforts toward positive change. Thedetroiter.com posted DDD’s manifesto of sorts, some of which I’ll quote here.
Rallying around these elements of decay, we seek to accentuate something that has wrongfully become part of the everyday landscape. In addition to being highlights within a context of depression, every detail is accentuated through the unification of color. Broken windows become jagged lines. Peeling paint becomes texture. These are artworks in themselves. Our goal is to make everyone look at not only these houses, but all buildings rooted in decay and corrosion. This brings awareness. And awareness brings action.
Indeed, awareness has brought action to at least these neon houses. Of the first four painted homes, two were demolished in the first month. In a public statement DDD considered, and ultimately rejected, the theory of coincidence. Instead, they question Detroit’s motives behind ridding the landscape of newly-oranged buildings: “Do they want to stop drawing attention to these houses? Are the workers simply confused and think this is the city’s new mark for demolition? Or is this a genuine response to beautify the city?”
DDD also questions whether the tearing down of these homes is entirely positive. They often serve as shelters for the homeless, and without new buildings erected in their place, what is truly gained? As the group states in their “manifesto”: awareness. And action. So many positive changes are needed and they cannot all be made at once. But, one orange house at a time, Detroit can take those challenging, promising steps toward the future.