Call it the Floating City meets Motor City. The U.S. Department of State selected the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan to organize the exhibition of the United States Pavilion in the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale. Curators Cynthia Davidson and Monica Ponce de Leon take Detroit as their starting point. Out of the ashes of Motown and Ford comes an urban archetype that provokes the exhibition title: “The Architectural Imagination.”
Much has been made of Detroit’s “ruin porn” and the pervasive blight that has transformed the city from a dense urban fabric to a patchwork. In Venice, “The Architectural Imagination” will present new ideas for sites in Detroit that ultimately have global application, each developed and explored by a select architectural team. As such, the city, which comes with a narrative of the hopes and fears of twentieth century urban America, might prove the model for a creative, resilient, and sustainable 21st century city.
“Historically Detroit has been a place of invention from the Kahn brothers to Motown to techno,” explained Davidson. She noted that the city is a site of American ingenuity applicable to many cities, however underscored architecture as the critical component. “Architecture itself has an important role to contribute to any city through form,” she continued. “We should be speaking through architectural form not just urbanism. Detroit is a laboratory for rethinking typologies.”
The organizers are forming a committee of advisors to select four sites in Detroit. A call for participant portfolios open to U.S. citizens and residents will go out in a couple of weeks, said Davidson.
Davidson is executive director of the nonprofit Anyone Corporation, based in New York City, and editor of the international architecture journal, Log. Ponce de Leon, recently named next dean of Princeton University School of Architecture, is currently the dean of the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan and principal of MPdL Studio.