For three days in mid October, a group of florists and growers turned an abandoned house in Detroit into an unlikely work of art. Known as Flower House, it was exactly the kind of dilapidated landmark Detroit has become known for. The large-scale conceptual plant and flower arrangements were set on and among the building’s grey, weathered exterior, rotting walls and broken windows, and the effect had a stillness to it that was almost post-apocalyptic.
Flower House was the brainchild of Lisa Waud, a florist who purchased the home at 11751 Dequindre St. for just $250 (U.S.). Initially inspired by the full immersion of experiences like the fabric-covered Pont Neuf Wrapped in Paris by the artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, it wasn’t until Waud saw the floral explosions at Raf Simons’s runway debut for Christian Dior in 2012 that her idea really blossomed. Three years later and Waud had a team ready to transform this former home into a flower-lover’s paradise, including a group from the Toronto area.
“From the beginning, what I loved about the Flower House was the transformation aspect,” says Natasa Kajganic, founder of the Toronto Flower Market, a monthly event where Toronto-area growers can sell their local blooms and bouquets in a temporary pop up-style space. After reading about Flower House online, Kajganic shared the project on Instagram, drumming up enough interest to bring a troupe of eight Flower Market participants down to Detroit.
They were given free rein in a room on the top floor of the house, which they named A Common Ground. A large hole in the ceiling provided the initial inspiration as a point of entry into the space for matter and light. “Think about walking into a forest, when the light peeks through the canopy and the tree tops,” says Kajganic. While the rest of the house was a colourful medley of vibrant flowers, Kajganic’s team covered the walls of their room in lush green plants that pooled onto the floor, peppered with little surprises like twigs and cherries for an unreal enchanted-forest effect.
About 3,400 people, including one wedding party, visited the Flower House over three days. While the structure is slated for demolition, Waud has plans to repurpose the land as a flower farm. “Detroit is nothing and it can be anything, so they have this opportunity,” says Kajganic. A statement-making floral transformation is a concept this visionary hopes to bring to Toronto, but only when the timing and the inspiration is right. “The idea works brilliantly in Detroit – the destruction, rebirth and what flowers can represent in that space. It’s about transforming the city and moving it forward.”
The team behind Flower House aimed to create an immersive art experience in a weathered property in Detroit. Toronto Flower Market’s Natasa Kajganic assembled a group to recreate a forest on the house’s second floor (top), which they did by adorning the walls and floors with lush plants and other greenery.