Detroit Factories – Cathedrals of Industry

The Packard Plantjlehrler 

(From the Detroit’s Sacred Places Flickr Group)

When artist Charles Sheeler visited Detroit to photograph the Rouge factory (another Albert Kahn designed factory complex in the Detroit area) in 1927, he referred to the it as a “Cathedral of Industry.” It is always interesting to hear an artist from Detroit refer to our industrial complexes as churches and sacred places. I am not surprised at all at this impression as these old historic sites are representative of our local culture particularly in regard to the automobile – a venerated object and symbol that will always be connected to Detroit’s history. But unlike Sheeler’s photographs of gleaming smokestacks, conveyors and machinery throughout th Rouge, this photograph tells a ghostly story of the transience and impermanance of tangible sacred monuments which may begin crumble and return to the earth. It is very similar to the manner in which Kenro Izu views and interprets ancient temples and other spiritual sites all over the world.


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