Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Heidelberg Project

The Heidelberg Project is an outdoor art environment that was developed by artist Tyree Guyton on Heidelberg Street, on Detroit’s east side. Guyton started the project as a response to the deterioration of his own neighborhood, as well as many other Detroit neighborhoods after many years of decline. Through the project, Guyton hoped to raise awareness of the decay of inner-city neighborhoods and the effects of urban sprawl.

Guyton grew up on Heidelberg Street and returned in 1986, starting the project by cleaning up vacant lots with his grandfather. Using the discarded items they collected, and with the help of the neighborhood children, Guyton and his grandfather transformed abandoned houses and vacant lots into massive pieces of art. Guyton also integrated the street, sidewalks, and trees into an enormous work of art, officially calling it the “Heidelberg Project.” The Project initially received unfavorable critical reviews and the City of Detroit ordered him to remove his installations. Guyton persevered and has since received many awards for his efforts. Throughout the years, Guyton continued to update and expand the Project, which eventually grew to encompasses two city blocks.

Support for the Project among neighbors was mixed. Some disliked the attention drawn to their neighborhood, while others simply thought of the project’s installations as junk. In November 1991 Mayor Coleman Young, gave an order to demolish three of the project’s houses, the Baby Boy House, Fun House, and Truck Stop. Eight years later, in 1999, Mayor Dennis Archer also ordered three more houses to be demolished, Your World, Happy Feet, and Canfield House. Unfortunately, a series of unsolved arson fires between 2013 and 2015 destroyed 12 of his artistic houses on Heidelberg Street. Only two of the original project houses remain, the Dotty-Wotty house and the Numbers House.

The Heidelberg Project also promotes urban revitalization and the arts through tours, a shop, and the Young Adults of Heidelberg program. The Heidelberg Arts Leadership Academy offers in-school and after school arts education to empower students through artistic, cultural, and academic enrichment.

In 2017 the Heidelberg Project announced a new vision called “Heidelberg 3.0.” The goal is to create an art community and "culture village," beginning with the renovation of the Numbers House, which will feature an artist-in-residence program, a new studio and gallery for emerging artists, and an education and event space for neighborhood events and youth programs.



Heidelberg Project brochure

 View all items related to the Heidelberg Project