Detroit’s Motown Museum has reached out by releasing a flyover video that gives the first good look at its $50 million expansion in hopes that we’ll (eventually) be there. And although there ain’t nothing like the real thing, the teaser video showcases the under-construction museum in its full glory. “It’s such a thrill for us to give the world this fresh visual of what our expanded campus will look like when construction is completed,” Robin Terry, chairwoman and CEO of the Motown Museum, told Detroit News. “The dynamic format for this aerial ‘flyover’ video means you can experience the project in a way that even the most detailed plans and renderings cannot—bringing the expansion to life in a way that makes you feel like you’re there. This preview also illustrates how the museum will offer unique programming, a collaborative space for the community to gather and one-of-a-kind experiences that no other institution can match.” As previously reported, the museum expansion, which broke ground in September of last year, was designed by the late Phil Freelon of Perkins and Will. Most notably, the North Carolina-based Freelon led the design team behind the National Museum of African American History and Culture as well as other museums dedicated to civil rights and the black experience. For the Motown Museum expansion, Freelon collaborated with Detroit’s Hamilton Anderson Associates. “Motown introduced a brilliant collection of voices and stories across racial, generational, and cultural lines,” said Zena Howard, a managing director at Perkins and Will, in a statement to the Detroit Free Press. “The expansion of the Motown Museum will carry these voices even further.” When complete, the museum, which is currently located in the original Motown home offices/studios on West Grand Boulevard, will feature an additional 50,000 square feet of interactive exhibition space, performance venues, recording studios, community gathering areas, retail space, and more. The first phase will mostly involve renovating and connecting the existing museum buildings, and is the first of four. The sprawling new museum complex will be connected to Hitsville U.S.A., the name of Motown Records’ historic hit-producing compound. In effect, the expansion will create a sprawling cultural campus in Detroit’s New Center neighborhood. Currently, three of the seven original Motown-affiliated residential homes lining West Grand Boulevard make up the present-day museum. Motown mogul Berry Gordy purchased the first Hitsville home in 1959. In 1972, Gordy moved the label’s headquarters from Detroit to Los Angeles. Esther Gordy Edwards, sister of Berry Gordon and former senior vice president of Motown Records, established the Motown Museum at the Hitsville site in 1985. It remains one of southeast Michigan’s top tourist attractions. As reported by the Detroit Free Press, the Motown Museum announced it had surpassed the halfway mark of its $50 million expansion fundraising campaign on the same day it premiered the new flyover teaser.
Posts tagged with "Detroit":
The economic decline of Detroit in the second half of the 20th century is a familiar one in American history. The Motor City dramatically fell from a population of 1,850,000 in 1950 to 680,000 in 2015, resulting in an unprecedented exodus of its central historic districts. The Virginia Park district, a neighborhood lined with abandoned turn-of-the-century mansions, soon became a destination for out-of-town photographers eager to capture the ‘ruins’ as physical proof of abandonment with little interest in how the city can move on from the troubles of its recent past. Shin Shin, an architecture firm founded in 2018 by Detroit-born sisters Melissa and Amanda Shin, recently opened an exhibition at Woodbury University in Burbank, California, that offers a bold solution for the city’s historic homes through a novel form of adaptive reuse. Titled Four Corners, the exhibition dives deeply into No Vacancy, a series of redevelopment scenarios applied to a typical Virginia Park mansion. Each scenario programmatically divides the home in half, leaving the top floor as a modestly-sized private residence while transforming the bottom floor into a commercial space that generates income and provides much-needed amenities for building community. The four different family types—the bachelor or young couple, the single-parent, the nuclear family, and the empty nester—are coupled with a complementary commercial program, creative service spaces, an outdoor theater, a recreation center, and a garden cafe, respectively. Because the clash between the public and private may seem outlandish at first, the exhibition goes to great lengths to demonstrate the viability of their proposals through scaled-up construction drawings and highly detailed 3D-printed models. The models, in particular, draw the eye to the more playful aspects of each design, including silly straw-like columns, rock climbing facades, and overinflated acoustical padding. While the firm currently has no plans to make their vision a reality in their native city, they hope to come up with other, like-minded proposals to guide Detroit through its current era of revitalization and growth. Four Corners will be on display until March 6.
The former site of Detroit’s abandoned Wayne County Jail project is slated to become the new home of the 14-acre Detroit Center for Innovation (DCI), anchored by a swooping Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF)-designed research and graduate education center for the University of Michigan (U-M). The plan, and the first $300 million, 190,000-square-foot new building, was revealed by the City of Detroit on October 30 and will expand the university’s presence throughout the city. The center is only the first piece of what’s supposed to be an ambitious multi-building campus, jointly financed by the local Bedrock LLC and Stephen Ross’s Related Companies, the first Detroit project for the latter developer. In an interview with Crains, Ross, a U-M alumnus, said that the complex, which could ultimately cost over $750 million, was intended to attract companies and innovative talent to Detroit. When all is said and done, the project will include a hotel and conference center conversion for the now-empty Detroit Police Department headquarters, residential student housing, and incubator space for technology companies. In that same interview, Ross pitched the DCI as a Midwestern alternative to the similarly-sized Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island in New York. The KPF-designed center itself will be run by U-M and will contain programs for up to 1,000 undergraduate students in their senior year and graduate students. The offerings are decidedly tech-oriented; the city stated that it expects the building will house a “range of high-tech innovation disciplines, including mobility, artificial intelligence, data science, entrepreneurship, sustainability, cybersecurity, financial technology and more.” Although no specific curricula for the center have been chosen at the time of writing, the university will establish an interdisciplinary committee to decide exactly what will be taught there. A startup space, coworking offices, and business incubator are also possibilities for the center. Construction on the DCI is expected to begin in 2021, with the glass-fronted academic building slated for completion in 2023.
In 1941, the city of Detroit finished construction on a six-foot-tall, half-mile-long wall near 8 Mile Road that would keep an African American neighborhood physically segregated from an adjacent white neighborhood to “preserve property values.” This was redlining in concrete form. Almost 80 years later, “Detroit’s Berlin Wall” still stands, but when the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles asked SHAN Wallace to photograph the area for its exhibition W|ALLS: DEFEND, DIVIDE, AND THE DIVINEˆ, she discovered that the structure had taken on unexpected meanings in the interim. For elderly residents in their 90s, the wall remained an ugly embodiment of the housing loan practices of the 20th century. For those in their 50s, the wall represented a demarcation between “the cool black kids” who lived on one side and the “not so cool black kids” who dwelled on the other. “The wall was like a right of passage,” Wallace explained, relating what residents had told her about their experiences. “If you could walk the wall, you were cool, you could go meet your friend on the other side.” For children growing up in the neighborhood today, the wall has become a place to meet, a pragmatic landmark best known for its murals and proximity to a grassy park. “It was interesting to see how these different manifestations and interactions with the wall happened based on generations,” said Wallace. The Annenberg exhibition, which runs through December 2019, explores the history and varied meanings of walls throughout the world, including Hadrian’s Wall, The Great Wall of China, and the current best-known incarnation of intolerance, the U.S./Mexico border wall. Yet Wallace’s accompanying video and still photographs of the Detroit Wall, and those who live with it, are perhaps one of the most affecting surprises within the show. On an intimate level, her work demonstrates that barriers, no matter how indomitable they seem, can never contain the scope of human imagination.
An unassuming brick building in Detroit’s long-neglected Core City neighborhood was once home to a booming repair shop in the heyday of automotive manufacturing. “Magnet Radiator Works,” was emblazoned on the entrance of the facility in faded red paint and still is, except today the 2,100-square-foot structure is instead one of the hottest restaurants to pop up in the Motor City this year. Featuring an interior ambiance that feels both futuristic and chill, Magnet is the vision of Ishtiaq Raffiuddin, principal of local firm UNDECORATED, and developer Philip Kafka, both the minds behind the 2017 Thai-food sensation TAKOI. The duo transformed a former garage near downtown Detroit into a minimalistic and intimate space that aids Chef Brad Greenhill in serving up a bold Mediterranean cuisine. Read the full article on our interiors and design website, aninteriormag.com.
A curious thing is happening in downtown Detroit. An iconic building that once housed an early-20th-century local newspaper is slated for demolition and set to be replaced by 12 parking spots. You read that right, just 12 parking spots. The three-story brick structure at 550 West Fort Street initially served as the headquarters of Detroit Saturday Night from 1914 to 1929. It was designed by Smith, Hinchman & Grylls, one of the oldest architecture firms in the U.S., now known as SmithGroup. Last week, the Detroit City Council voted to deny the building its own historic designation, which in turn allows a proposal by local developer, Emmet Morten, Jr., to move forward. The building will now be razed in order to provide more parking for a luxury condominium nearby. It’s long been part of the developer’s plans to expand its work in the Fort Shelby Hotel historic district, which houses the Fort Shelby Residences on the site of a demolished 18th-century military base. Preservation groups didn’t think the city would actually allow the small news building to go down, but over the last year, the City Council and the Historic District Commission began showing signs that the structure wasn’t worth saving, as it lies just outside the historic district. Advocacy organization Preservation Detroit stepped in about 10 months ago and mustered over 3,600 signatures for a petition to protect and rehabilitate the building for future use. This morning, protestors gathered outside the old Detroit Saturday Night building to ask the City Council to reconsider last week’s vote. According to the Detroit Metro Times, the event was organized by Detroiters for Parking Reform, a group calling for a moratorium on building new parking spaces:
“We have more parking spaces downtown than ever before, with nearly 40 percent of land in downtown Detroit devoted to this use," the group wrote to city council. "But somehow, we are convinced we need 12 more spaces where the historic Detroit Saturday Night Building stands today. This is a building that might otherwise be redeveloped for housing, business, and retail space. World-class cities are not defined by how much parking they have."Detroit Saturday Night was published from 1907 to 1939. The news outlet moved into a bigger location, an Art Deco building also designed by Smith, Hinchman & Grylls, after 15 years on West Fort Street.
Detroit has always been a design-forward city, a fact made official back in 2015 when they were designated a UNESCO City of Design, the only in the United States. A center of architectural innovation, futuristic automotive design, boulevards meant to rival the Champs-Élysées, and one of the U.S.’s foremost collections of art, the city in recent years has gotten more attention for its bankruptcy, corruption, and mass foreclosures and vacancy. But, as Olga Stella, executive director of Design Core Detroit, a partner organization which “champions design-driven businesses and their role in strengthening Detroit’s economy,” points out, “Detroit is not and never has been just one thing.” Throughout its expansive 139 square miles, many are working to create neighborhoods and a city that works for them. Design doesn’t just happen at the rarefied scale of a Beaux Arts museum, it happens in and by communities who work to create a city they want to live in. These projects are being celebrated at the second iteration of Detroit Design 139 (DD139), a serial exhibition co-organized by the City of Detroit, Design Core Detroit, and developer Bedrock. Members from each organization, as well as nine others, served on the advisory board. The projects were selected by a jury of design notables, both from Detroit and other cities, including New York City Public Design Commission executive director Justin Garrett Moore and Detroit-based equitable development strategist Lauren Hood. With the main showcase at street level in downtown Detroit in a Bedrock-owned building, as well as at three partner locations throughout the city, celebrates 70 projects under five thematic headings that, according to the organizers and jurors, embody DD139’s 2019 theme of "Inclusive Futures". “All of us working on design problems and projects should be holding ourselves to higher standards,” said Melissa Dittmer, Bedrock’s chief design officer, of the ethos of inclusion ostensibly showcased in the exhibition, which features projects built in the last two years or to be built in the next three. The projects were laid out rather blandly like a well-executed science fair or a real-life PDF, with posters along temporary slatted walls and the occasional model or video. Stella said that, historically, “In a city that doesn’t have a lot of capital [the question of] ‘how are we going to pay for it?’ was guiding decisions, not design solutions,” noting that it was a developer-driven process, with Maurice Cox, Detroit’s outgoing planning and development director. (Cox was also on the advisory committee of DD139.) Dittmer says there was a need for new building to begin “prioritizing the process as much as the outcomes,” something many of the projects exhibited; for example a cafe-laundromat combo, The Commons, designed by the local firm LAAVU in a process which founder and chief design officer Kaija E. Wuollet explains, began by collectively creating a strategic plan to inform the design, building, and operations. The choice in amenities was guided by neighbor requests and they act as not only a space in their own right, but a revenue stream for the non-profit MACC Development, which provides literacy programs, coworking space, artistic opportunities, and other community resources right within the building. This was a recurring theme: neighborhood-focused and neighborhood-led design solutions are a strength of Detroit now and could be what shapes the city's future. But, another recurring theme that the MACC project implies is that due to a dearth of government support, many private organizations have had to pick up the slack. That said, some public programs were featured in the exhibition, perhaps among the most noteworthy for designers, the Michigan ArcPrep program, a public school architecture initiative led by the University of Michigan's Taubman College. Even restaurants were in the exhibition. In community engagement workshops, residents in the Jefferson Chalmers neighborhood expressed a desire for more places to eat and more Black-owned businesses. With the help of a Motor City Match grant, Norma G’s was opened by Lester Gouvia. Kaitlynn Hill, one of the project’s architects from Hamilton Anderson Associates, said she saw this as “a community-based project,” as much as a commercial enterprise. Other Detroit mainstays made the cut for the exhibition. The legendary Pewabic Pottery, whose distinctive glazed tiles that adorn high-rise facades and fireplaces alike are still made in small batches in Detroit, had recently undergone an expansion with the help of inFORM Studio. While the expansion added more workspace, it also helped Pewabic—which is organized as a non-profit—further advance their public mission. Like the original 1903 structure, this new building is close to the residential street. In addition to a shop, museum, and classroom space, there is also an open courtyard with a large mural that hosts events or allows passersby to come in and chill for a bit. In addition, Pewabic goes into communities with portable kilns, keeping design heritage alive and inviting others to participate in it. Many cultural projects were featured, including a skatepark-slash-sculpture park and public mural initiatives. One particularly intriguing project highlighted was the Detroit Historical Society’s Detroit 67, which investigated the legacy of Detroit’s 1967 rebellion in a “community engagement” project by collecting oral histories, producing an exhibition, and providing grants to “placemaking” projects. Some of the projects include an LGBT-focused community garden, an outdoor theater space focused on the Black, Latinx, and Arab communities of Detroit, and a memorial to those who lost their lives around the time of the uprising. There were a number of environmentally-focused projects, both grassroots and large scale, a balance and comparison that was interesting to see. Some included academic research on stormwater management interventions, the Zero Net Energy Center, rain gardens, and an upcycled windmill. Projects with international design pedigree also appeared: David Adjaye and New York’s Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates have designed a pavilion and other structures for the Ralph C. Wilson Centennial Park, which, when it’s open, will be part of a network of riverside parks and greenways in an area that was once home to abandoned manufacturing plants. The park is currently overseen by the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy. However, on a tour through the Dequindre Cut, a rail-trail connected to the riverfront, on a Sunday when it was clearly being enjoyed by many, it was mentioned by an employee of the Conservancy that many houseless people formerly lived on the trail. In fact, this was mentioned many places, but inquiries made into where those people went and whether these “inclusive” projects accounted for housing access for those they were displacing remained mostly unanswered. While houselessness is declining in Detroit and new projects like the short-term housing Pope Francis Center (not exhibited) are on their way to reality, police have also been known to sweep away the belongings of the houseless, even in the dead of winter. If this park is for everyone, what about those who called it home? In this second iteration of DD139, the choice was made to include projects from other UNESCO Cities of Design, like Saint-Étienne, France, and Montreal, which are using design to address many of the same challenges faced in Detroit. The organizers hope that this can help create a dialogue and show the fact that Detroit, though a unique situation, is not alone, and that everything from new elder caregiving studies in Singapore to canal projects in Mexico City could help Detroit think through its own unique challenges. However, how every project fit in seemed unclear. A project, the Ruth Ellis Clairmount Center, to help give homes and resources such as jobs and healthcare to houseless youth and those at risk of houselessness, especially LGBTQ+ kids who make up as much as 40% of this country’s houseless population, are undeniably necessary, ameliorative projects. However, on the poster for a banal mixed-use and mixed-income housing development the description of why the project is inclusive reads: “The project has gone through extensive design iterations, city vetting, and community engagement processes to ensure it captures neighborhood feedback. Meetings around the community were offered in both English and Spanish, with translators and/or translation equipment at every meeting, making it as accessible as possible for community members.” Is this not the bare minimum we should expect? Pair that with the bare minimum in architectural quick-build tastelessness by the Philadelphia firm SITIO and one has to wonder what sort of definition of “design” is at play here. Some projects are more design-y than others. Pewabic Pottery, the Symbiotic Landscape watershed restoration, a digital mapping project that proposes using architectural and urban interventions to fight Detroit’s “digital divide”—these all make design part-and-parcel of their mission, and they're realizing that mission. An entrepreneurship incubator or a bakery in a mixed-use development, Core City, which some Detroiters I spoke with expressed distrust of, might be interesting, or at least tasty, but is it necessarily a “design” solution? Is a building in and of itself using design to address these so-called civic challenges, let alone being inclusive by and through design? This vagueness of mission and indeterminate take on the role of design in some projects points out a bigger issue. The project’s main sponsor and proponent, one of the three partner organizers, Bedrock, has undeniably reshaped downtown Detroit, perhaps in ways, some residents might see as for the better. From the design-forward Shinola Hotel to the forthcoming first foray by the fast-fashion retailer H&M to the revamp of the 475-foot-tall Book Tower, a magnificent and delirious example of early 20th-century architecture that has sat unoccupied for a decade, downtown Detroit is increasingly lively (and increasingly expensive). And, fitting with the exhibition's theme, “Creating unique, inclusive experiences through real estate is Bedrock’s mission,” claims a Bedrock press release. Yet, as the Detroit Free Press has recently revealed, Bedrock has gotten huge swaths of downtown property at little cost, with many incentives and tax breaks, and with an unheard of lack of financial oversight. Also, Bedrock has leveraged their power to strong-arm Michigan’s OSHA into looking away from their safety violations while “lecturing” inspectors on how to do their jobs. Is creating buildings without protecting working people inclusive? In addition, while Bedrock has been touting their successful bid to redevelop the site of the so-called “fail jail,” turning this long-vacant lot into usable space, this deal was negotiated with Wayne County by allowing Rock Ventures, another Dan Gilbert organization and Bedrock’s parent company, to construct that county’s jail, presumably without sullying Bedrock’s name. How can one claim to not only celebrate inclusive design but create "inclusive experiences," while supporting the creation of one of the United States’ most powerful and inarguably racist tools of social and mortal death? Perhaps the theme, "Inclusive Futures", says it all: a virtuous-sounding word like “inclusive” can itself often be so inclusive as to be virtually meaningless, a rhetorical throwaway. Because what is “inclusion”—and what “inclusive futures” are possible—without equity, without reparations, without an effort to shift the balance of political and economic power? While many grassroots projects and even larger scale ones featured in DD139 are compelling, worthy, and deserve the spotlight, with the ongoing efforts of the exhibition’s primary sponsor Bedrock to stymy state oversight, build jails, and get land cheaply, you wind up not only with misplaced good intentions—you get design washing. DD139 is on view in Detroit through September 30th. You can read more about the projects here.
ODA New York has been tapped as the design architect for the ambitious and high-profile adaptive reuse of Downtown Detroit’s historic Book Tower. ODA, known for historically significant renovations like Rotterdam’s Postkantoor and New York City’s 10 Jay Street, will apply their expertise of designing a mix of residential and hospitality, retail, and office space at the Book Tower. Originally designed by Louis Kemper in 1916 in an Italian renaissance style, the 486,760 square-foot structure took a decade to build. Acquired by Bedrock in 2015, a Detroit-based full-service real estate company, the recently completed extensive exterior restoration included replacing 2,483 historically-accurate windows and full restoration of the ornamental cornice with caryatid statues. “The Book Tower has been an iconic part of Detroit’s skyline for nearly a century," said Melissa Dittmer, Chief Design Officer at Bedrock. "and throughout the meticulous exterior restoration process it became clear we needed to partner with an architect that understands how to leverage modern uses in a way that preserves the unique historic details that have endeared this building to Detroiters for generations." ODA’s strategic role is to update and expand on Book Tower’s programming and existing structures, creating nearly 500,000 square feet of mixed-use space downtown that will blend public and private. “The Book Tower will serve as a point of engagement," said Eran Chan, ODA New York’s founding principal, "unlocking its potential as a link in the heart of Detroit; bringing people, place, and events together. The Book Tower represents to us Detroit’s regeneration; how the city, standing in its unique and distinguished history, is entering a new time that is more diverse, more inclusive and more sustainable.” Detroiters will be offered a renewed take on a building full of memories, as the public has been invited to tour the Book Tower as part of Detroit Design 139, an exhibition focusing on projects in Detroit that embody “inclusive futures.” Bedrock officials and ODA will present “A Look Inside Book Tower” on Saturday, Sept. 7 from 1:30-6 p.m.
Detroit’s Director of Planning and Development, Maurice Cox, will be the next top planning executive for the city of Chicago, according to Detroit News, and will step down from his current post in September. Cox boosted the city’s planning staff from six to 36 and is credited with attracting world-renowned urban planners, designers, and architects to the city. Cox was appointed as Detroit’s planning director in 2015 to strengthen its neighborhoods and land reuse policies. His past work experience in Detroit aligns with incumbent Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot’s urgencies for affordable housing, neighborhood equity, and economic development, and the news follows the city’s recent announcement to modernize city building codes for the first time in over seventy years. Cox revitalized Detroit's planning office after decades of decline and powered a design-minded recovery. His term was marked by improving infrastructure, streets, parks, and amenities as a strategy for building communities that residents would want to live in long term. His major initiative, “20-Minute Neighborhoods,” pushed for reforms that would allow residents to walk or bike to get everyday necessities instead of driving. A New York native, Cox has previously held public office as a council member and then mayor of Charlottesville, Virginia, from 1996 through 2004. He is also a former design director at the National Endowment for the Arts in Washington, D.C, and associate dean of Tulane University’s School of Architecture and director of Tulane City Center, a city-based design resource center.
Artist Anders Ruhwald delves into interiority with the permanent installation Unit 1: 3583 Dubois. Located in a desolate area of Detroit inside of a 7,000 square foot brick apartment-building, the complete installation consists of eight full-sized rooms and corridors inside one apartment. Enveloped entirely in black, the installation is otherworldly. The interior appears engulfed by fire though upon closer inspection the space is carefully crafted. The installation embraces the transformative qualities of fire as destructive and constructive in relation to the domestic, arguably the most intimate space. Using charred wood, ash, molten glass, steel, lead, tiles, bricks with sash window weights, bombs, and a photograph among other found things in the building and neighborhood, Ruhwald creates an after-image of what once was and at the same time creates a dream-like thought of what is to come. The work is not about Detroit “ruin,” but offers the possibility to understand the city’s decline as a transformative process. Read the full story on our interiors and design site, aninteriormag.com.
Upon their arrival to Detroit, partners Anya Sirota and Jean Louis Farges took four years to understand the complex landscapes and narratives that co-exist within the city. At the time, Detroit was fully entrenched in “ruin porn” and the design interest of the city followed a fascination with degradation or a re-imagination to building new. Cultural assets (like the industrial design of cars and jazz music) once thrived in the city and continue to have national and international range. Often though, the direct impact upon the residents is nonexistent. Akoaki [pronounced ak-o-ak-i] is compelled to research fields of architecture and art and their relationships to equitable redevelopment. By embracing the power of aesthetics and form-making, the couple peels away normative tropes of social practice. Beginning with aspirations to include aesthetics, beauty, and pomp creates pieces that do not comply with age. Often feeling burdened by good taste, Akoaki’s aesthetic quality tries to be bigger and badder. Imaging Detroit Supported by a Research on the City grant from the University of Michigan's Taubman College of Architecture & Urban Planning, Imaging Detroit is, in a nutshell, an international film festival and pop-up agora. The project investigates the many ways Detroit has been portrayed over the last decade, be it film or publications. Sirota and Farges, along with a suite of collaborators, researched the way people construct narratives around the city and responses to those narratives. A major challenge of the project was how to stage an event in this context without contributing to a proliferation of ruin porn and social degradation. The goal was to create true conversation and a positive impact while staging a public debate and open speculation. The 36-hour event transformed Perrien Park into a civic space with screenings, conversations, exhibitions, food, and leisure—a true ephemeral urbanization. Detroit Cultivator In collaboration with the six-acre Oakland Avenue Urban Farm (OAUF), Akoaki is designing a master plan that combines agriculture, culture, business, and ecology to envision a landscape that is both economically and ecologically sustainable. The project required navigating through major issues regarding land ownership, pressure from developers, and water access. After working with the University of Michigan Law School and a team of “moral investors” to secure the land, a business plan was created with volunteers from the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. The plan prioritizes the farm’s productivity to create a source of income and a flexible space for neighborhood entrepreneurs. As a result, the master plan features existing structures that will eventually become public amenity spaces; for example, a shoe-shine parlor will reopen as a multi-tenant commercial space and performance venue. Rather than keeping the farm purely agricultural, Sirota and Farges sought to activate other existing uses through building and site interventions. The project is an experimental urban prototype, though Akoaki is working to ensure the farm can become a permanent fixture in the neighborhood. Jackson, Mississippi Sirota and Farges’s experience working on Detroit Cultivator has set them up to discover a similar food-related project, this time in Mississippi. Supported by a $1 million public art grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies, “Fertile Ground: Inspiring Dialogue about Food Access” brings together architects and artists with chefs, gardeners, food policy experts, and local institutions to facilitate a year of community-engaged interventions. Ultimately, the project aims to establish a nonprofit research lab on food access that will operate on a permanent basis to sustain the momentum that is created. While Mississippi is known for its agriculture, a majority of the food grown in the state leaves, and Jackson is full of “food swamps”—a plethora of fast food options as opposed to fresh food. Rather than return to the “idyllic” past of farming (an image that is not necessarily representationally positive to everyone), Akoaki has formulated a “neo-rural” environment that deserves an aesthetic value and brings together aspirations of the city. Midtown Cultural Center Detroit’s Midtown Cultural Connections organized a year-long competition in an effort to connect Detroit’s most significant cultural institutions. The winning entry includes Akoaki and their assembled team of landscape architects, urban planners, and technology-experts. The announcement of the winning proposal displays how Detroit’s participating institutions and stakeholders carry a willingness in allowing an open-ended framework a chance to succeed. The plan that Akoaki and team are working on will take issues of mobility, environmental sustainability, and stormwater stewardship into consideration. Overall, the project requires a sensitivity to placemaking in order to avoid displaced cultural queues and gentrification. When finished, the project will create a unified, dynamic, and inclusive space that facilitates connections between the Cultural Center and the Midtown neighborhood.
Detroit is known as the birthplace of Motown and techno, lauded for its thick pizzas and Coney dogs, and scrutinized as a decadent example of urbanism under late capitalism. For better or worse, the city and its reputation fascinates city-fixers, attracts artists, and galvanizes community action. Some Detroiters hope to spin a different kind of change with the first-ever Detroit City of Design Competition, an event that will bring three winning installations to select city neighborhoods. Designers from the 31 UNESCO Cities of Design, a designation bestowed by the United Nations' UNESCO on urban areas with distinctive design cultures, were asked by neighborhood organization to design "solutions" (a loaded mandate) to boost safety and walkability in Hope Village, Southwest Detroit, and Grandmont Rosedale. A jury of locals, city officials, and designers from elsewhere chose installations from Detroit's SmithGroup; Detroit's Other Work, and Montreal's Collectif Escargo. Design Core Detroit, an organization that promotes design as economic development, spearheaded the competition. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation contributed funding for the initiative. "Urban spaces have a tendency to become hard and cold if left unattended," said Caitlin Marcon, deputy director of Complete Streets at the Detroit Department of Public Works, in a press release. "Durable materials that meet our need for longevity sometimes do not spark our desires for beauty. These prototypes harness the creative and softer qualities we seek while being functional for street life and gathering." The projects will debut in September during the Detroit Month of Design and will be relocated to their chosen neighborhoods in April 2020. Each winner received $20,000 to design and build their prototype. Take a look at the images below to learn more about the selected designs. All quotes are designers' statements from the media release: Cyclerate SmithGroup Hope Village "Cyclerate aims to enhance public safety through unity, lighting, communication, and play. The installation, which lights up using kinetic energy generated by hand-powered cranks and stationary bike generators, encourages the community to work together to illuminate the structure. Participants can also engage in a friendly competition with one another to identify who can produce the greatest power output on the cycles. Expect to be surprised by the power produced through real-time statistics. The installation currently features LED lighting, Bluetooth speakers, and USB power charging stations. With its built-in expansion capability, the scalable structure can accommodate additional cycles, componentry, and lighting." Garden Novella Other Work Southwest Detroit "Garden Novella is a platform to express cultural, collective, and individual identity. It weaves together recorded stories from Southwest residents to serve as a guide through a modular system of welcoming vessels. Sun-powered lanterns, hanging gardens, seating, and the recorded stories combine to create an interactive environment. The featured stories express the double consciousness experienced by many in the Southwest community; they aim to connect generations, repair the damage caused by repatriation and explore the process of translation in a bilingual community." 3Rooms Collectif Escargo Grandmont Rosedale
"3Rooms consists of three spaces that are intimately linked to the world of the house—simultaneously conveying a sense of belonging and celebrating the beauty of united communities. The first 'room' is 'LeJardin' (The Garden), where the community is invited to participate in agriculture. 'Le Boudoir' is for nap lovers, readers and anyone who desires [siq] a rest in the shade of fruit trees. Finally, 'The Hut' features a steeper incline, making it a perfect spot for anyone who wants to be a little more playful. Each module lights up in the evening with a soft glow, functioning as a fireplace in the middle of the neighborhood. The hue alternates from red, blue, mauve or multicolored. 3Rooms is a safe cocoon for improvised gatherings. Like a poetic metaphor of the surrounding houses, it is merry, bright, colorful and full of life."
In a statement, Olga Stella, executive director of Detroit Design Core, noted the project's potential impact: "We are inspired by the innovation presented in the winners and finalists and the way they demonstrate the value of design to the community. We hope these installations will peak [siq] the interest of private and public groups to commission the winning design teams to create permanent fixtures in these and other neighborhoods.”