From the windows of our new Detroit office, we have some unusual neighbors. A pair of little orange men stand along the skyline, one poised on the edge of the Majestic Theater/Garden Bowl and the other at the corner of the Garden Theater Block. These rooftop silhouettes are part of a larger series of sculptures that compose the Man in the City project. While the steel profiles could seem a bit imposing to some, like you are always being watched, the intent is quite the opposite; the sculptures are meant to encourage people to look around and become conscious of their place in the urban environment. All around Detroit (and across the river in Windsor as well) the orange men are positioned in 60 locations that highlight the architecture of the city.

I had a chance to talk with the artist behind the project, John Sauve, about why he chose the two Midtown sites we can see from the office. “The Majestic Theater is one of the oldest theaters in the city, it has great history to it, and great music tradition” he says, “When I was growing up, I spent a lot of time there musically.” As for the Garden Theater Block, “It also has a rich history and I’ve worked with nonprofits that are there, Midtown and Kresge Foundation,” he told me. He went on to say that many of his selections for the project are based off of his personal experiences and nonprofits that have worked with his own nonprofit group, Sauve Art Foundation.

I also asked what architectural elements drive the positioning of the sculptures on the buildings and he explained it was a combination of preserving the character, the structural integrity of the building, and affordability of access (since the project is all privately funded). For the Majestic Theater, the highest roof could not be reached without a lift, so the man was installed about the Garden Bowl façade in the middle of the building. Across the street, it was placed on the new infill building both for visibility and because the Garden Theater was being rehabilitated at the time. The sculptures were originally intended to be displayed for a two year span but have lasted many years past that by now. When asked about the future of the Man in the City, John responded, “I’m not taking them down any time soon.” At QEA Detroit, we’re glad our orange friends are here to stay. 
You can read more about the project here and follow John on Tumblr.