Detroit Barbers Style Empty Lots

Motor City, start revving your clippers.

(Flickr user

With over 90,000 vacant lots, Detroit has some of America’s most ramshackled landscape architecture. Now, the city is looking to turn those wild urban spaces into works of quasi-topiary by asking imaginative barbers to shave down the rebellious underbrush.

It’s all part of a plan called “The Buzz,” by urban planning initiative Detroit Future City. Program manager Erin Kelly is betting that the skills of Detroit’s cool, experimental barbers can rub off on landscapers in the city and inspire more work that turns these vacant lots into unique parks and quirky green spaces.

Kelly and her group plan to hold a series of workshops where landscapers can meet local barbers and learn how to apply their counterparts’ skill to mowing intricate designs into grass and prune delicate shapes out of big, sprawling bushes and trees. The latter half of the workshops will center around team-based projects, which will be showcased in a “vacant lot mowing pageant” in September as well as a video series about “The Buzz.”

“A barbershop is a place of conversation, exchange and dialogue,” Kelly told the Smithsonian. “In Detroit, because we are about 85 percent African-American in our population, there is a larger culture around hair. True barbery is a form of design.”

“The Buzz” seems like an excellent way to empower a city that’s been through so much hardship in the last decade; and a fantastic means of revitalizing communities that haven’t had the money or resources to keep Detroit looking as great as it can. Best of all, it’s a great opportunity for the city to show off its own local creative talent to the rest of the country, and prove that it can still throw a powerful artistic punch.

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