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Inclusive Recovery

Five years after Detroit’s bankruptcy, design fuels recovery
Could Detroit be pioneering a new type of gentrification? It is possible. The recovery—with its innovative experiments in revitalization—is set to become a laboratory of ideas that will redefine gentrification, learning from the urban renaissance of the last 20 years in other cities. The Detroit of the late aughts was a desolate place: The municipal government had all but crumbled in the wake of a depopulation that saw the city go from over 2 million residents to around 700,000. With the loss of people and jobs came the loss of density and infrastructure, which left Detroit the poster child for apocalyptic Rust Belt landscapes. During this period of the late 2000s to the early 2010s, steep real estate discounts allowed artists and entrepreneurs to buy houses and commercial buildings extremely cheap. This legendary scenario led The New York Times to publish an article titled "Last Stop on the L Train: Detroit,” in 2015.  And it certainly feels that way, with vibrant music, arts, food, and design scenes in the city that seem to be linked together by a small community of like-minded people working on a host of cultural projects together. However, much of the buzz about Detroit in the national media has died down. How is Detroit doing five years after becoming the largest city ever to go through a structured bankruptcy, and how is design helping to speculate on new future urbanisms? Today’s Detroit is a different place than five years ago. The days of $500 houses bought at auction and dark, empty landscapes are becoming a thing of the past. Developers and speculators have bought up much of the land around the city center, with Dan Gilbert’s Bedrock Ventures owning almost 95 percent of the downtown area. This area could now pass for a street in downtown Chicago, with high-end boutiques and chains like Warby Parker and lululemon. In other neighborhoods, such as the more industrial Milwaukee Junction, near the Russell Industrial Center—an icon of gritty urban reuse—land and property have been claimed by those waiting to sell or develop it. Other neighborhoods like Corktown and Midtown have seen a resurgence in development, an increase in market-rate housing, and more traditional forms of urban revitalization. Infamously abandoned sites have been bought for eventual redevelopment or reuse. Most strikingly, a Ford-branded security Ford Escape is parked outside the Ford-emblazoned fence at Detroit Central Train Station, a ruin-porn poster child now slated for redevelopment as the auto giant’s “innovation” hub, focusing on autonomous vehicles. Now the challenge will be to deliver on some of the potential that has been so evident over the last decade. Detroit’s municipal government has long been seen as incapable of addressing the city’s problems, such as abandoned buildings, vacant lots, lack of infrastructure, and general disinvestment. Since declaring bankruptcy in 2013, the city has implemented a series of initiatives that have in many ways stabilized it. These include basic things like improving emergency services and transportation. Perhaps most important, new LED streetlights were installed, ending the days when residents carried flashlights in their cars. Perhaps the most dramatic change in Detroit’s governance has been in the city planning department. Architect and former Charlottesville mayor Maurice Cox has been tasked with overseeing the recovery. His first step? Hiring a diverse, interdisciplinary team of 36 planners, architects, urban designers, and landscape designers to rethink how a city can incentivize investment, rebuild infrastructure, redensify targeted neighborhoods, and provide services to new residents while preventing displacement of existing residents and cultures that have endured the city’s darker times. Cox calls it “inclusive recovery.” This comprises measures that harness one of the unique things about Detroit—a high level of community engagement. As a majority African-American city, it is an especially promising place to pioneer these ideas. At a recent event at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD), the artist Tyree Guyton sat down for a talk at the closing for a show about his Heidelberg Project, a self-started community art project he has developed since 1986. Rather than a typical artist’s talk, the event was more like a community town hall, where residents of the nearby neighborhood spoke in detail about how they see the neighborhood changing, and how the evolution could be better. This kind of community-led development will be key to making sure that Detroit can innovate without displacing people or local cultures. The most important priority of the plan is to recover while preserving both local neighborhood culture and affordable housing. Cox’s initiatives include framework plans for targeted neighborhoods that have strong residential numbers and some active housing stock. The planning department identified weak spots surrounded by higher-density areas that could be tied together with coordinated investment, resulting in—thus far—six quarter-mile-by-quarter-mile areas where recovery could be easiest. The proposed Joe Louis Greenway will be a 31.5-mile bike-pedestrian loop that passes mostly through neighborhoods with a median income under $27,500 a year and a 30 percent rate of access to a car. The greenway will incorporate existing routes, such as the Dequindre Cut, a below-grade rail-line-turned-pedestrian-promenade that is being used as a gentrification vehicle to spur development of a mix of affordable housing embedded in market-rate developments. Development group The Platform will be developing a housing complex at the north end of the cut. This could lead to displacement, but because the city owns so much land along the path, it will experiment with ways to provide affordable housing and transportation without driving people out. Local housing research includes a joint venture between the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning and the City of Detroit. In studios led by Lars Gräbner and Christina Hansen, students generate ideas about what housing might look like in Detroit, some of which are displayed in exhibitions such as 2017’s A City For All: Future Housing Models for the City of Detroit. These studios also helped produce a series of design guidelines. For example, one line reads: “Impress the value of design on all projects and all audiences—emphasizing equity, design excellence, and inclusion.” As design thinking ramps up, so too will design excellence. Detroit has a long legacy of designers and architects who have called Michigan home, such as Eliel and Eero Saarinen and Albert Kahn. But in recent years, there have been fewer high-quality projects. This is changing, however, with firms such as Lorcan O’Herlihy, SCAPE, Walter Hood, Adjaye Associates, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, and others signing up to design housing, parks, and urban farms. O’Herlihy, for instance, is working on a housing study for Brush Park, the first of Cox’s targeted neighborhoods just outside downtown, designing a 24-building, 410-unit densification plan. And design is baked into the new planning department goals and regulations. What could be design’s biggest impact is the preservation of existing cultures, which includes the existing building culture, one of the goals for “inclusive recovery.” To prevent the loss of the visual character of the neighborhoods, incentives such as a double density allowance are offered for projects that preserve the existing shell of a building. Layering history in this way will inevitably lead to interesting new adaptive reuses. These building refills are a good metaphor for the new type of gentrification being pioneered here: They redensify the abandoned fabric with useful infill, but do not take away the texture that makes Detroit unique. As part of VolumeOne, Gräbner and Hansen’s private practice, the pair is working on a redevelopment of the historic Stone Soap Building, an historic 1907 factory. The structural concrete frame and brick infill will be preserved, and a minimal, floating addition will be clad in a galvanized metal panel system. The strong visual contrast between old and new will articulate a strategy of respect for the existing structure while implying continuity through the use of industrial materials. Imagining new uses for vacant land will also play a big part in making the future of Detroit, and nature is integral to the next image of the city. There are about 24 square miles of vacant land that are very costly to maintain. In collaboration with developers and designers, the city is programming many experiments in urban agriculture and self-reliant landscapes. The ad-hoc, community-initiated urban farming pioneered by projects such as Oakland Avenue Urban Farm has become a staple of Detroit urbanism and is becoming part of larger, city-led projects as well. Walter Hood Studio’s Rosa Parks Neighborhood Master Plan does not propose any new buildings but rather infills vacant lots with tree nursery gardens that will provide jobs and act as productive landscapes. In the Fitzgerald neighborhood, local developers Century Partners have set out to rehab 20 acres of 100 vacant houses and 200 vacant lots. The strategy included some 28 community meetings and 50 neighborhood meetings that resulted in creating a park—a connective tissue—for the neighborhood, as well as flowering meadows in vacant lots. Cox sees it as a success in testing the idea of using design to create a place and restore beauty and community. Detroit is not without its issues, of course, but the future looks bright for the city. Its unique problems, such as the over-the-top reliance on the car built into the city’s planning, and its sprawling, vacant lots, could become assets when coupled with its strengths: relatively cheap land, strong communities, diverse leadership, and many cultural artifacts that have survived the dark times. Five years after bankruptcy, it is an exciting time in Detroit, and there is reason to believe it will provoke a new kind of urban revitalization: one in harmony with nature and existing cultures, informed by the urban progress made over the last few decades.
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Emerging Voices 2019

SCHAUM/SHIEH experiments with architectural tools to produce surprising spaces at every scale
Every year the Architectural League of New York recognizes eight dynamic young firms as Emerging Voices that have the potential to become leaders in the field. Historic winners like Morphosis (1983) and Toshiko Mori (1992) have become today's lions, and practices like Johnston Marklee (2007) and Tatiana Bilbao (2010) have jumped to new heights after recent wins. This year's crop was selected in a two-stage portfolio competition where a jury of architects selected the winners. The deciding jury included several previous winners like Dominic Leong (2017), Fernanda Canales (2018), and Marlon Blackwell (1998), giving the process a familial feel. Laureates for 2019 come from across North America and almost all are partnerships or collaboratives—capital letters feature prominently, too.  SCHAUM/SHIEH will lecture at the Scholastic Auditorium at 130 Mercer Street, New York, New York, at 7:00 p.m. on March 21, as part of the Emerging Voices lecture series.

For SCHAUM/SHIEH, the city is not a mere backdrop for designing buildings. Instead, it is a source of productive potential and a platform for theoretical and built experimentation that has informed the firm’s relationship to design from its founding in 2010.

The studio’s founding partners, Rosalyne Shieh and Troy Schaum, first explored this interest in speculative projects for Detroit and the Taiwanese port city of Kaohsiung. Their early urban proposals for Detroit led to an installation at the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale of a room that was also a staircase and public seating, one of many prototype structures they envisioned could infill the spaces between vacant homes in the city. This design, part of a larger project called “Sponge Urbanism,” challenged the divide between domestic and public space and confronted the broader narrative about vacancy in Detroit.

This intersection of urbanism, form, and identity is something that the studio has carried into its commissioned work, especially for cultural institutions and spaces with hybrid programs. These include the Judd Foundation’s buildings in Marfa, Texas; White Oak Music Hall in Houston; and most recently, the Transart Foundation, also in Houston.

While its Judd Foundation work is an exercise in restraint, aimed at preserving and restoring the artist Donald Judd’s vision for more than a dozen buildings in Marfa, projects like White Oak show how the designers play with form, massing, and landscape to create a distinctive destination for Houston’s music lovers and a new open space for the city as a whole. The main two-story concert hall, which contains multiple stages for different types of music and audience sizes, is part of a larger 7-acre complex which includes a lawn for outdoor performances and an open-air pavilion and bar, converted from an existing shed on the site.

Across the studio's diverse range of projects, abstract representation and diagrammatic processes are essential tools to generate concepts and collaborate with partners and clients. But, as Schaum explained, “We always like to come back to where that kind of set-making and pattern-making starts to break down and question its own set of possibilities, where the sets open up new possibilities for inhabitation rather than where they complete themselves in perfect studies of pattern or complex assemblages.”

This is evident in SCHAUM/SHIEH’s Transart Foundation (a 2018 AN Best of Design Awards Building of the Year). The project includes two structures comprising a private residence, art studio, and exhibition space, and is located across from the Menil Collection within a largely residential neighborhood.

Transart's white stucco facades, with their thick massing, look substantial, but are peeled away at the edges and corners, giving the overall appearance of lightness, like curled paper. The sculptural massing of the main building, juxtaposed against its relatively compact size— closer to a large house than a museum—also makes the foundation appear more monumental than it is, demonstrating the way SCHAUM/SHIEH works with scale to blur the lines between private and public space. This exercise in form and material produces unexpected moments and transitions that serve the multi-functional art space well.

But ultimately, the practice is most interested in its ongoing dialogue with the broader world. As Shieh explained, “I want the buildings that we make to belong to the world, and not to architecture. We don’t necessarily put them out there in a way that we hope that they tell architecture what they are, but that they somehow produce some kind of surprise.”

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A beacon for DIA

Finalists present bold visions for the future of Detroit’s museum district
The future of Detroit’s museum district—an area within striking distance of the city’s revitalized downtown that has 12 cultural institutions—received bold ideas and insights into what urban architects and landscape designers would do if given the chance to unite Motown’s Midtown during an all-day series of presentations Wednesday at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA). The DIA Plaza project hopes to create cultural, community, and city connections between institutions like the classical art museum and its illustrious neighbors, which include the main branch of the Detroit Public Library, Detroit Historical Museum, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History, Wayne State University, and others. Three teams with international and national resumes as well as Detroit partners gave what observers called insightful and innovative pitches Wednesday on how their ideas about mobility, technology and a revived infrastructure around the art museum could unite not only the buildings in the up-and-coming Midtown district but to the city and the region as a whole. The DIA and its local partners will select a winner from the three presentations by spring, officials said. Insiders say the final decision should come before the end of April. The DIA and its partners, including development organization Midtown Detroit Inc., started this process of building a “heart” for the cultural and educational district in spring 2018. The two also hosted a student competition, led by communications and urban-planning students from around Michigan. The winning team from Wayne State University created a vision of a large cultural campus that removed one of the DIA’s existing parking structures and created an open campus with food trucks, a performance stage and additional signage. The three presenters at Wednesday’s event had a few items in common – they suggested narrowing Detroit’s legendary Woodward Avenue to make it more pedestrian friendly, closing off little-used streets to create a cultural campus and developing additional “living rooms” and outdoor installation spaces to bring art outside the walls of the major institutions involved. The initial 44 submissions to the competition RFQ from more than 10 countries and 22 cities were narrowed down to eight firms, each of which presented their ideas to a panel of jurors at a public event at the DIA in June 2018. Each of the three design teams presenting as finalists in the competition include Detroit-area firms as partners. The three design teams and their partners are: Agence Ter, Paris, France, with team partners Akoaki, Detroit; Harley Etienne, University of Michigan; rootoftwo, metro Detroit; and Transsolar | KlimaEngineering, Germany; Mikyoung Kim Design, Boston, with team partners are James Carpenter Design Associates, New York; CDAD, Detroit; Wkshps, New York; Quinn Evans, Detroit; Giffels Webster, Detroit; Tillett Lighting, New York; Cuseum, Boston; Transsolar | KlimaEngineering, Germany; and Schlaich Bergermann & Partners, New York; and TEN x TEN, Minneapolis, with team partners MASS Design Group, Boston; D MET, Detroit; Atelier Ten, New York; Local Projects, New York; HR&A Advisors, New York; Dr. Craig Wilkins, University of Michigan; and Wade Trim, Detroit. Detroiters who attended the event said they appreciated the attention to reforesting the area with more trees and landscaping as well as the connections to Detroit-based artists, who could benefit from the additional performance spaces. However, there were concerns about removing parking in an urban center already struggling with having enough space for cars alongside its relatively new tram system known as the QLINE. “I'm seeing a great deal of investment in branding and design vision but not so great a connection to cultural/community impact,” said Nick Rowley, a local activist who attended Wednesday’s presentations. The actor, voiceover artist and events planner said his much of his favorite proposals came from Agence Ter, which focused on developing projects and installations that centered on Detroit issues, such as how to commemorate the 1967 riot/rebellion, as well as local artists. “I like hearing ‘Biennale’ and ‘Afro-Futurist’ being evoked in the same presentation,” he noted. The judges questioned the three groups for their attention to details like how they would blend walkways with the planned structures, how they proposed to develop the projects over time and whether they had given enough attention to Detroit’s unique artist and resident communities, which all wanted a voice in the final proposal. When asked whether their proposal was too audacious, Anya Sirota, co-founder of Detroit-based architecture and design studio Akoaki, responded by noting, “Detroit deserves an ambitious project,” and that they worked extensively with community groups, artist communities and event planners to learn about the city, how it hosts events and what it needed to attract both suburbanites and urban dwellers to the cultural center.
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Crushed Hopes

Detroit’s Packard Plant pedestrian bridge collapses after ice storm
Detroit’s Packard Plant pedestrian bridge collapsed Wednesday following an ice storm, creating despair among the city’s historians who had hoped to see it restored and resignation among local photographers, urban explorers and city admirers who anticipated the collapse. The Packard Plant has been undergoing a massive restoration in recent years, going from one of Detroit’s most photographed pieces of “ruin porn” to a possible symbol of its resurgence. But the bridge collapse Wednesday just reminded people on social media and local news outlets of the challenges of renovating structures that have long been neglected. For decades, Detroit’s automotive history and its declining population came together symbolically in that pedestrian bridge along East Grand Boulevard. The Packard Plant once served as a sign of the city’s manufacturing might. But the city's fall from a population of 2 million to about 673,000 in recent years showed how Motown’s reliance on the automotive industry proved challenging at best, disastrous at worst. Arte Express, whose owner, Peruvian developer Fernando Palazuelo, bought the plant in 2013 at a Wayne County tax auction, told the Detroit Free Press that the ice storm combined with warming temperatures throughout the day Wednesday were the pedestrian bridge’s final straw. According to an Arte Express spokesman, the city owns the building at 1539 E. Grand Blvd. that connects to the bridge, and the bridge is jointly owned by the city and Arte Express. The city of Detroit released a statement about the collapse, indicating that there were no injuries and that the affected portion of East Grand Boulevard was closed by the Detroit Police Department: "Our first priority is to ensure the area is made safe for the public and the roadway is reopened as soon as possible,” the city said in a statement. “The City is taking the lead on clearing debris (and) we are making plans to bring in a contractor to remove the debris as quickly as possible."
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Much Latergram

Detroit Institute of Arts brings the city’s past to life in found photo show
The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) is putting fresh faces on the past with the found photography show Lost & Found: Photographs from the DIA’s Collection, up now through March 3. Coming from a range of sources, some "rescued from attics, resale shops, online sources," and DIA archives, according to the institute. Subjects are both architectural and social, originating from the 1860s to the 1970s. Some of the more recent snaps are from local photographers Allen Stross and James Pearson Duffy, who documented the city frequently from the seat of his car, according to DIA. The institute is also soliciting contributions from the public via social media, asking participants to use the tag #LostAndFoundatDIA. Both the show and admission to the museum are free for residents of Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties.
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More Parks Please

Michael Van Valkenburgh is slated to design a 77-acre linear park for Buffalo
Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) is slated to transform Buffalo, New York’s old yet beloved waterfront park into a sweeping linear landscape and cultural destination along Lake Erie’s edge. The design team will reimagine the city’s 77-acre LaSalle Park as the new Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park, named after the late owner of the Buffalo Bills. The redesign is part of the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation’s big push to improve parks and trails in Western New York and Detroit. In October, the Foundation announced a $200 million investment it would split between the two locales, which includes the build-out of a new 22-acre waterfront park in Detroit also designed by MVVA. Though the New York–based landscape architecture firm had already unveiled renderings of the Motor City’s proposed park earlier this year, no firm had been chosen for the Buffalo project.  To Bob Shibley, dean of the University of Buffalo (UB) Regional Institute in the School of Architecture and Planning, who’s helping to spearhead the project, MVVA was a natural fit. The university helped form the Imagine LaSalle Focus Group, a team of 22 community stakeholders who toured successful park projects in Cincinnati, New York, and Chicago to gain inspiration for their hometown’s goals. “People were overwhelmingly enthusiastic about those projects,” said Shibley. “When the announcement was made that Micahel Van Valkenburgh would do Detroit and that both of our parks would be named after Wilson, it was obvious the parallel between the two cities was important.” This “paired park” idea isn’t an explicit design decision, said Shibley, but a nice nod to the Wilson Foundation and its commitment to improving the well-being of people living in both Buffalo and Detroit. MVVA will now take on the challenge of bringing those two separate community visions to life. Even though the parks will be sharing the same name and touch the same body of water, both are inherently different landscapes to Michael Van Valkenburgh.   “The two assignments have quite different challenges about them, more contextual differences,” he said. “In some fundamental ways, they mirror each other, but topographically, they’re totally different. LaSalle is twice the size and literally grades right into Lake Erie, while the Detroit side is perched up with a sea wall. The aspirations are similar, but we’ll have to input quite different interventions on each site.” The UB Regional Institute released a comprehensive report detailing the community’s expectations for the project, which MVVA will use as a guide during the initial design phase. MVVA will have to consider how to integrate the history of the near-90-year-old parkland, its connection to the Olmsted & Vaux–designed Front Park, as well as its role as a sports and recreational space. One of the biggest challenges, according to Shibley, will be buffering noise from the adjacent I-90 highway that runs north toward Canada, as well as creating better access, points of transition, and more localized design details for the five diverse districts that surround LaSalle. While the end result will likely resemble a signature MVVA-designed parkland complete with terrain changes, innovative playscapes, and stunning vistas, Van Valkenburgh said it will retain its most important charm. “The flatness of LaSalle is very defining,” he said, “and it’s also a little relentless to me. I think we don’t want to lose that flatness because there’s a kind of wonderful, almost magical concept of playing at the edge of a lake. At the same time, we’ll likely want to add some topography the landscape to allow people to get to a higher level over the water to see Buffalo’s famous sunsets.” Renderings for the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park in Buffalo have not yet been released, but a conceptual design and physical model will be presented to the public in May 2019.
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A Year in Sports (Architecture)

Let’s kick it: Here are the top sports architecture stories of 2018
Is the United States becoming more serious about soccer? We think we have evidence to say that it is. AN’s most popular sports stories of 2018 center around the world’s greatest sport, telling us that this year’s uptick of soccer-related architecture news signals a newfound appreciation for the game in our country. Read on for several developments you should pay attention to, and other stories about why sustainable stadium design is also on the rise. David Beckham’s Miami soccer village reveals Arquitectonica’s designs Miami is set to receive its first Major League Soccer (MLS) team, backed by soccer superstar David Beckham who plans to build a 73-acre campus for the city called “Miami Freedom Park.” Arquitectonica revealed new renderings of the sports village, complete with a sweeping, 25,000-seat soccer stadium. In November, local residents voted to approve the project and its projected location on the city-owned Melreese Country Club golf course, meaning Beckham’s vision is one step closer to breaking ground. Nashville’s new $2 million soccer stadium takes shape In December 2016, MLS announced a major club expansion to four U.S. cities including Nashville, Tennessee. Though the southern city wasn’t sure it’d be awarded a new team, plans for a multimillion-dollar stadium project had been in the works for over a year. This February, HOK released its first renderings of the new stadium, which will be constructed inside the Fairgrounds, home of the Tennessee State Fair. Selecting the central site was a contentious process throughout 2017 when a lawsuit was filed citing the city had violated its charter by proposing the project on public grounds. 2026 World Cup preview: Which U.S. cities will host? As Qatar preps for the 2022 World Cup, the United States is on deck to host the 2026 games alongside Canada and Mexico. That’s exciting news for a country whose national team rarely makes it into the World Cup lineup—the joint bid automatically ensures us a spot. But what’s not yet official are the 10 cities that will host events. We know that 60 of the 80 planned matches will be played in the U.S., including those from the quarterfinals onwards, but currently, 17 cities are still in the running. Which top towns, along with their state-of-the-art stadiums (which are an integral part of the individual bid), will make the cut? We’ve listed all the contenders here from Atlanta’s new Mercedes Benz Stadium by HOK (host of the 2019 Super Bowl) to the classic Rose Bowl in Los Angeles. Naturally-ventilated Louis Armstrong Stadium debuts at US Open Ahead of this September’s US Open, the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center finished a five-year, $600 million renovation project of its campus in Flushing, Queens, New York. The massive update included the buildout of the new Louis Armstrong Stadium, the world’s first naturally ventilated tennis arena with a retractable roof. Designed by Detroit-based firm Rossetti, the 14,000-seat stadium replaces the former Louis Armstrong Stadium, which was demolished after the 2016 championship. The new structure features the same stacked seating style as its predecessor but serves up extra sustainability with the exterior overlapping terracotta louvers that act as horizontal window blinds. New home of the Texas Rangers has a climate-controlling, retractable roof HKS has designed a new 41,000-seat baseball stadium for the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas, set to replace the old Globe Life Park in 2020. The aptly named Globe Life Field will be a glass- and brick-clad structure featuring new climate-controlling infrastructure and a retractable roof. HKS’s design for the 1.7 million-square-foot ballpark was inspired by the vernacular style of Texas farmhouse porches. BIG unveils designs for new Oakland A’s stadium featuring a rooftop park Late this November, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) and the Oakland Athletics unveiled plans for a new baseball park and mixed-use campus in Oakland, California. Complete with a literally diamond-shaped stadium, the project is being pitched as a double-play for the city. It will feature an open and accessible landscape situated within Oakland’s underutilized Howard Terminal and will also include housing, recreational spots, and a business hub. Gensler and James Corner Field Operations will work alongside BIG to build out the mega-green space by 2021.
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Shin On

Detroit’s Shinola Hotel flaunts finished interior photos
The first hotel from Detroit’s luxury watchmaker Shinola and developer Bedrock is open for business. The adaptive reuse project in Downtown Detroit, which has placed three new buildings as connective tissue between the former Singer Sewing Machine store and the Meyer Jewelry Building, is now taking reservations for stays beginning January 2, 2019. To celebrate the project’s completion, Shinola and Bedrock have released a batch of new photos detailing the hotel’s interiors, and the Shinola touch is prevalent throughout. The 129-room Shinola Hotel was a collaborative design effort between the New York–based Gachot Studios and the Detroit-based Kraemer Design Group. The end result features 50 different room configurations, ground-floor retail, and a line of Shinola products specially made for the hotel (including a desk clock, alpaca throw blanket, and a candle) across the complex’s five buildings. 1400 Woodward Avenue, built in 1915 and expanded in 1925, has been described by the Kraemer Design Group as “Detroit’s best example of art nouveau Sullivanesque-style architecture.” The former department store is the largest building in the full-block hotel, and a 1,600-square-foot Shinola store opened at the building’s base on November 23. The other existing building, a much shorter neo-classical storefront at 1416 Woodward, was built in 1936. Two of the new buildings, one five stories tall and the other eight-and-a-half stories tall, will open on Woodward, with a final, retail-oriented building on Farmer Street. A multi-story sky bridge will cross the alley at the back of the development and encourage circulation throughout the complex.
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Jury Perspective

Jean Lin of Colony talks the future of independent furniture design
When Jean Lin founded Colony in 2015, she established a new kind of platform for New York City’s thriving community of independent furniture, lighting, textile, and object designers. The multihyphenate creative—a fashion designer, editor, trend forecaster, professor, entrepreneur, and consultant—set up the gallery based on a co-op fee system rather than the standard commission model. This made it a more feasible and attractive option for many of the city’s emerging talents. Today, Colony’s roster includes design studios like Fort Standard, Allied Maker, Moving Mountains, Vonnegut/Kraft, Earnest Studio, and Hiroko Takeda, to name a few. Lin has also spearheaded initiatives such as the charitable design organization Reclaim NYC and the Tribeca Design District event. She is also a member of the NYCxDesign Steering Committee and on the board of the Female Design Council. As a member of this year’s AN Best of Products Awards jury, Lin spoke to The Architect’s Newspaper contributor Adrian Madlener about the current state of furniture and product design while touching on the issues facing the industry and changes that have taken place in the past few years.
The Architect’s Newspaper: What are some of the challenges for independent designers today?
Jean Lin: Independent designers are the most prone to the impact of a changing economy—it affects them on a micro level. For many of the talents that show at Colony, the difficulty is in determining whether they can grow while staying true to their initial goals. Right now, they might be manufacturing their own furniture. If they decide to hire new people or outsource production, how will they be able to maintain the identity of their practice?
AN: Are these talents addressing or shying away from some of the larger problems society is currently dealing with, such as sustainability, the pace of technological advancement, or gender-based, racial, and economic inequalities?
JL: What these small companies do is personal. It’s hard to miss what they’re about. The designers I work with are very socially and environmentally conscious. A lot of the causes that are getting wide, mainstream attention now have been addressed by this community for a long time. Seattle-based duo Grain had a ten-year anniversary exhibition at Colony in September. They are sourcing materials responsibly, and their entire practice is based on sustainability. It’s inherent to what they do, and so they don’t need to promote it as something radical.
AN: Can these issues also be addressed through aesthetics and form?

JL: Good design is always about the interaction between an object and the environment it occupies—the people it interfaces with. There are ways that we can talk about social and ecological issues through form and aesthetics. Is the product masculine or feminine? How long does that piece last versus how long will that piece seem appealing? However, I wouldn’t say that what’s coming out now is a direct visual or formal reflection of everything that’s going on in the world. What designers are now taking into closer consideration is how they source material, what companies and vendors they decide to collaborate with, and how they run their businesses. Sometimes, it’s simply a question of being active and not apathetic toward the things that are changing in the world around them. That awareness seeps into everything they do.

AN: How do these changes in the way talents work affect trends?

JL: The talents that are leading the way are now pushing themselves to create timeless pieces. This is a reaction to Instagram culture, the latest and flashiest designs that often look the same, go viral, and get all the attention—but only for a fleeting moment. I love trends and believe they become popular for valid reasons, mainly because they are approachable at the given time. Right now, monolithic forms and earthen jewel tones are all the rage, but next year we could be talking about much more delicate shapes and a different color palette. Trends get pushed to their threshold and spark antitrends that then take over. The designers that show at Colony are using material, but in an aesthetic and formal language that can last much longer. 

AN: Do the collectible and art design markets create economic conditions that give independent designers the time and space necessary to develop these types of designs? 

JL: I don’t see the collectible design market as something that has a great impact on the wider design industry. It’s aspirational and only targeted to the 1 percent of people who are able to afford a luxury item that isn’t necessarily functional, and perhaps it’s more reflective of artistic expression. What truly pushes designers to innovate is a different kind of high-end market that is educated in the quality of craftsmanship and the value of good design. Emerging designers are finding a comfortable place in the market. The upper middle class, interior designers, and the hospitality industry are starting to appreciate the quality of this output. In turn, there is a demand for beautiful, functional, and well-crafted work that doesn’t have to sit on a shelf to be acknowledged. 

AN: You mentioned that interior designers are important clients. This is especially true in New York City, where a strong surge in real estate is keeping the industry busy. How are independent designers faring in other parts of the country?

JL: This summer, Colony and Design Milk launched an initiative called Coast to Coast to help dispel the misconception that the only design market in the United States is New York. I think that this city is an amazing commercial and creative center for design. I also think that the sentiment that people never have to leave because all the best talents come or sell here is too insular and no longer accurate. We visited Detroit, Nashville, New Orleans, and Santa Fe to get a better understanding of how the independent design movement has expanded. Many local or transplanted talents are becoming a force for good in their communities, helping to change the market and creative landscape. I’m now planning to orient Colony with a broader focus and to incorporate design from different parts of the country.

AN: The independent design or maker’s movement has been going strong for the past 15 years or so. Is there a potential for autonomous talents to collaborate with larger manufacturers and the contract market?

JL: It would be a challenge. A lot of independent talents have altogether discounted the possibility of collaborating with big companies. The gap between these two areas of design is wider than ever. Unlike in Europe, major manufacturers and design brands in the United States don’t have the time to dig in and find talents who aren’t on a top 10 list. They’re always going to go with the star designers they’ve worked with before. This reality forces and facilitates independent design companies to grow, out of necessity. However, large companies definitely look to young and emerging talents as a resource, even if they don’t give credit where credit is due. As independent practices become a stronger commercial force, this will happen even more. The good news is that consumers are also seeing the value of well-made furniture and product design, even if it has to be sold at a higher price point.

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Pompidou and Circumstance

Richard Rogers wins the 2019 AIA Gold Medal
Lord Richard Rogers, honorary FAIA, has been awarded the American Institute of Architects (AIA) 2019 Gold Medal, the highest honor the institution offers. In recognizing the English architect's storied career, which spans more than 50 years, the AIA singled out Rogers’s Centre Pompidou in Paris (a collaboration with Renzo Piano), whose massive popularity kickstarted the high-tech style. The cultural complex was praised for its functional transparency and rejection of monumentality, hallmarks of Rogers’s that the AIA notes continued throughout his career. Rogers’s continued commitment to solving social, urban, and environmental issues through design, and his political activism were also praised. His continued impact on the skyline of London and New York, and approach to human-oriented urbanism, were singled out by the jury in particular as well. “He is the quintessential builder, committed to mastering the craft and technology of construction, harnessing it towards efficient buildings, and forging an expressive architectural language,” wrote Moshe Safdie, in a show of support for Rogers’s nomination. “Before it was fashionable, he was an environmentalist, who recognized early in his career the challenges of energy and climate, developing innovative solutions.” “Richard Rogers is a friend, a companion of adventures and life,” wrote Piano, who also supported Rogers’s nomination. “He also happens to be a great architect, and much more than that. He is a planner attracted by the complexity of cities and the fragility of earth; a humanist curious about everything (from art to music, people, communities, and food); an inexhaustible explorer of the world. And there is one more thing he could be: a poet.” Rogers has seen his fair share of awards, including the 2007 Pritzker, a RIBA Gold Medal in 1985, and a RIBA Stirling prize in both 2006 and 2009. The AIA jury was composed of the following members: Kelly M. Hayes-McAlonie, FAIA, Chair, University of Buffalo, Buffalo, New York Dan Hart, FAIA, Parkhill Smith & Cooper, Inc., Midland, Texas Lori Krejci, AIA, Avant Architects, Inc., Omaha, Nebraska Dr. Pamela R. Moran, Albemarle County Public Schools, Charlottesville, Virginia Antoine Predock, FAIA, Antoine Predock Architects, Albuquerque, New Mexico David B. Richards, FAIA, Rossetti, Detroit, Michigan Emily A. Roush-Elliott, AIA, Delta DB, Greenwood, Mississippi Rafael Viñoly, AIA, LMN Architects, Seattle, Washington
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A Poorly-Driven Decision

If GM closes five North American plants, how will their towns bounce back?
Last week, General Motors announced its intention to cut 14,000 jobs and close five of its North American plants in 2019. The automaker made the decision as part of a company-wide “global restructuring” process that will trim costs, though many consider the move to be part of an effort to enhance production in Mexico. As GM aims to save $6 billion by the end of 2020, five separate cities are about to experience a major shift in their local economies and take on newly-barren industrial landscapes. The plants expected to turn idle early next year include three factories: the Lordstown Assembly in Warren, Ohio; the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly in Detroit; and the Oshawa Assembly in Ontario, Canada. Two transmission plants will also cease operations including one in White Marsh, Maryland, and another in Warren, Michigan. As the company only has 35 facilities in the U.S., this hit will be felt at the national level, but even more so in the small- to mid-size towns where many of these facilities have boosted jobs for decades or longer.  The Oshawa plant came online in 1907 while the one in Warren, Michigan, opened in 1941. The Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly, which began production in 1985, received local, state, and federal subsidies to open its doors and completely altered the city of Detroit. Jalopnik recounted the tragic story of GM’s move to the Motor City where the Detroit-Hamtramck facility’s initial development cleared 465 acres containing 1,300 homes, stores, churches, and hospitals in a Polish immigrant-neighborhood called Poletown. The youngest factory on the list, GM Baltimore Operations in White Marsh, opened in 2000. A $245 million structure was built next door just six years ago, adding 110,500 square feet to the existing 471,000-square-foot facility. According to the Baltimore Sun, it was the first electric motor production facility operated by a major U.S. automaker. The project was subsidized by a $106 million U.S. Department of Energy grant. Though former GM leadership wasn’t aware that less than a decade later this massive investment would go idle, the company’s sudden decision to shut down some of its oldest and newest facilities, begs the question: How will these towns bounce back? Some larger cities like Atlanta and New York have managed to reuse large, vacant industrial spaces, but it remains to be seen whether these smaller towns with shuttering GM facilities can pull that off given they don't have the population demand or the financial resources. As these locales transition over the next year, they’ll be forced to begin considering just how long these sites will remain unoccupied. Since opening, they’ve served as homes away from home for thousands of autoworkers who’ve helped bring steady money to their respective local economies. The closure of these plants, along with the millions of invested dollars that GM, the federal government, and these towns have made within the last 100 years, will come at a huge cost. 
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Rails to Trails

Competition opens to redesign Buffalo’s old elevated rail line
Across the country, cities are reimagining old industrial landscapes as innovative parklands and restorative ecologies as a way to connect urban dwellers with nature and protect the environment. A new design ideas competition in Buffalo, New York, aims to revitalize the city’s 1.5-mile elevated DL&W rail corridor as a multiuse urban nature trail and greenway. The project is set not only to spur economic development for Buffalo but to reshape the city, becoming a local attraction much like the Toronto’s Bentway or Atlanta’s Beltline. Organized by the Western New York Land Conservancy (WNYLC), the competition invites architects, designers, landscape architect, urban planners, and artists to submit visionary concepts of the corridor as a nature-filled connector for downtown Buffalo, its waterfront, and the surrounding historic neighborhoods. The project is backed by several major sponsors, including M&T Bank and the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr., Legacy Funds, a group that’s part of the late Buffalo Bills owner’s namesake foundation which, just last month, pledged to invest $200 million in both Buffalo and Detroit’s parks and trails systems. The corridor is owned by Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority and has long been a focal point of potential redevelopment for residents and city officials alike. Last year, the WNYLC published a community vision for the site that will guide its future design. “After listening to the community’s hopes for the DL&W corridor, we are excited to give designers from Western New York and around the world a chance to show us how they would bring those hopes to life,” said Nancy Smith, executive director of the WNYLC in a statement. “This spring we will share the designs with the community and ask the community what they think of the ideas, what they like, and what they would do differently.” The competition will be judged by a jury of architects, educators, planners, and consultants including representatives from the University of Buffalo, Stoss Landscape Urbanism, and Friends of the High Line. The proposals will be unveiled online next spring and will also be featured in several public exhibitions in Buffalo. Three winners, including the jury’s favorite as well as the community’s pick, will receive monetary awards ranging from $1,000 to $7,500. To enter the competition, participants must register for free by emailing dlw@wnylc.org. For more information on submission guidelines and the competition brief, see here. An optional site visit for applicants will be held on January 4, 2019, and submissions are due February 15.