Posts tagged with "Detroit":

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Watch the failed implosion of the Pontiac Silverdome

It took two tries to substantially demolish the Pontiac Silverdome, former home of the NFL’s Detroit Lions. On an unseasonably warm, but brisk Sunday morning, fans gathered to watch the spectacle of a controlled blast that was to partially implode the stadium. Once the series of explosions went off, nothing happened. The plan called for charges on major structural steel columns to be blasted, bringing down the upper level of the stadium and the ring which once secured its dome. According to a statement released by the City of Pontiac mayor Deirdre Waterman, eight of the shape charges did not go off. It would take a second try, on Monday afternoon, to bring the upper levels down, and begin the nine to 12-month process of demolishing the whole building. Built in 1975, the Silverdome was home to the Detroit Pistons during the 1980s and the Detroit Lions until 2002.
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Remembering modernist architect Gunnar Birkerts

Latvian-American modernist architect Gunnar Birkerts died at the age of 92 on August 15, just as his legacy is beginning to be reevaluated by contemporary architects and historians alike. Based in the Detroit area for over 40 years, Birkerts designed distinctive buildings in the central United States and taught studios and seminars as a professor at the University of Michigan. His work was characterized by an experimental attitude toward materials, an intuitive approach to space planning, and an uncommon keenness for innovation in the use of daylight. Riga, Latvia’s National Library of Latvia (NLL), Birkerts’s last and greatest building, was completed in 2014 after about 25 years of work on the project. The NLL is a marvelous culmination of his career. Its completion was doubly special because Birkerts—born in Riga and the son of Latvian folklorists Peteris and Merija Shop Birkerts—had long been committed to the maintenance of his nation’s cultural heritage. Birkerts’s renown peaked between the mid-1970s and the mid-1980s, when he completed a group of buildings that broke open the increasingly stale forms and material palette of modern architecture. These buildings diffused light on matte surfaces or refracted it from polished materials to reduce the glare that too often plagues sheer glass buildings. Birkerts was one of many “displaced persons” who arrived in the U.S. after World War II. He emigrated here after an architectural education at the Technische Hochschule Stuttgart, in Germany, and eventually settled in the Detroit area. Birkerts worked for Eero Saarinen in the early 1950s, as his firm was developing a laboratory-like working method driven by model building and materials testing. He later left the Saarinen office for Minoru Yamasaki’s—also in the Detroit area—where he contributed to that firm’s decorative embellishment of modernism. He often cited Eero and “Yama” as the two most profound influences on his approach to architecture. He left Yamasaki and formed a partnership with Frank Straub in 1962, then founded his independent firm Gunnar Birkerts & Associates in 1964. Even after most of his former colleagues at the Saarinen office—Kevin Roche, César Pelli, and Robert Venturi, among others—had departed for more cosmopolitan locales on the East and West coasts, Birkerts stayed in Detroit because he wanted to remain independent of any particular cadre or school. This individualist spirit was Birkerts’s key bequest to the generation of architecture students and office associates he guided. Because of his individualism, Birkerts was perfectly suited to the Detroit area, with its history of tinkerers, innovators, and entrepreneurs. “We may have been building Ferraris,” Birkerts said in a 2015 interview, “but we were doing it in a garage,” suggesting that the polished, industrial design–like aesthetic of his buildings was not mirrored in his office environment or working method. Indeed, in his later years, Birkerts expressed skepticism about the rising importance of digital design in architecture, believing that it distanced architects from the intuitive, the experimental, and the handmade. Loose sketching and conceptual metaphors occupied an increasingly central position in his creative process during his later years. These attitudes caused him to lose favor in the style- and technology-obsessed culture of the late 20th and early 21st century. Rebuffing the flamboyance of postmodernism and the structural exaggerations of High Tech, Birkerts spent those years laboring on several unrealized megaprojects in Italy, and on unjustly overlooked U.S. work including the Frank Lloyd Wright–infused Domino’s Farms development in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Later designs show Birkerts’s ability to deftly integrate motifs from the national romanticist and art nouveau buildings of his home city without descending into pastiche. Despite these unusual ingredients, he remained staunchly committed to modernism. But his was not the dogmatic International Style of earlier architects. Instead of codifying rules, Birkerts continued modernism’s intuitive tradition of individual expression. We can still learn much from his example.
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Detroit’s Shinola Hotel unveils new renderings

It has been 11 months since ground was broken on the Shinola Hotel in Downtown Detroit. Detroit-based real estate firm Bedrock and Detroit-based watch company Shinola have just released new renderings of the forthcoming project. Expected to be completed in late 2018, the hotel will fit into two existing buildings and additional new infill buildings along a quickly-developing stretch of Woodward Avenue in Downtown Detroit. New York-based Gachot Studios and Detroit-based Kraemer Design Group worked together on the design, which includes 130 rooms and ground-floor retail. Rather than a completely new structure, the hotel is being built into two existing buildings, 1400 and 1416 Woodward Avenue, with three new infill buildings connecting and extending the footprint of the two. When completed, each of the interlocked buildings will maintain a varied material and color palette along the street facade to better match the surrounding city fabric. Bedrock has been responsible for some of the most ambitious recent development in Downtown Detroit. Co-founded by Detroit native and Quicken Loans owner Dan Gilbert, Bedrock is the developer behind the proposed 52-story SHoP-designed tower, which is scheduled to break ground this week. Shinola is also well known in Detroit for its Detroit-first business model. Initially started as a watch company, it now produces leather goods, bicycles, and, most recently, audio equipment. Shinola has been vocal about bringing small industry back to Detroit and providing jobs for the city’s residents. Additionally, the leather and many of the components for Shinola products are made in the United States and assembled in the company’s Detroit factory. The company has not been without its critics. Some have pointed out that since the watches are made with inexpensive quartz movement, instead of self-winding mechanical movement, they are decidedly overpriced. Others have noted that the Texas-based parent company of Shinola simply chose to open shop in Detroit for marketing reasons. In 2016, the Federal Trade Commission also had something to say about the company’s marketing, ordering it to stop using the phrase “Where America is Made,” as certain watches it sells are made of materials produced 100% outside of the United States. Despite these criticisms, the company has been praised by the likes of Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, who have both purchased watches. Shinola has also played a role in shaping Detroit by opening a leash-less dog park, and donating four large building clocks to the City of Detroit, to be installed at cultural institutions. Ironically, the retail space of the new hotel is not planned to include a Shinola store. Even so, when the project opens in approximately one year, there will be no mistake about the lifestyle and brand the company is promoting in America's Comeback City.
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Detroit kicks off seventh annual Design Festival

As this dust settles in Chicago after the opening of the second Chicago Architecture Biennial, things are picking up in Detroit for the seventh annual Detroit Design Festival (DDF). This year’s festival runs from September 26 through September 30 in venues all over the city. Named the United States’ only UNESCO City of Design, Detroit has a long history of creative production spanning from design through fabrication and manufacturing. Hosting this year’s event is the Detroit Creative Corridor Center (DC3). DC3 is an economic development organization focused on encouraging and connecting the city’s growing creative community. The center is a partnership between Business Leaders of Michigan and the College for Creative Studies. Every day of the festival is filled with public programming. From studio visits and gallery openings to lectures and workshops, the festival hopes to reach the widest audience possible. Some highlights include Eastern Market After Dark, the Design Village, Light Up Livernois, Hamtramck Design Showcase and Designer Putt Putt. The Design Village will take place at the Ponyride Studio in Corktown, and will present the work of Detroit designers and makers for sale on Friday and Saturday. Light Up Livernois will explore the future of Detroit’s historic fashion district, while Hamtramck Design Showcase, will be a self-guided design tour of the city within a city. Designer Putt Putt is exactly what it sounds like. Inspired by similar events in London and Los Angeles, five designers were selected to design and install fantastical putting greens at Eastern Market. The designers, who were chosen through a competition include Indigo Carr, O2, ROSSETTI, Nick Tilma and Stephan Busscher, and Ciara Lindon. The public will be able to play the course during the Eastern Market After Dark and Light Up Livernois events.
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Yamasaki is reborn in Detroit

Nearly eight years after closing shop, noted Detroit-based Yamasaki will be reborn with a new headquarters in the recently renovated Fisher Building. Founded in 1957 by Minoru Yamasaki, the firm survived after his death in 1986 until 2009. Now under the leadership of Robert Szantner, one of Yamasaki’s long-time employees, the firm will reopen with other former employees who were able to buy the firm's intellectual property out of receivership. Yamasaki is responsible for such iconic projects as the World Trade Center, Seattle’s Rainier Tower, and the Federal Reserve Bank. After graduating from New York University and working for Shreve, Lamb & Harmon, designers of the Empire State Building, Yamasaki moved to Detroit where he would eventually found his own firm. Throughout his time working in New York and Detroit, Yamasaki narrowly avoided being sent Japanese internment camps with the help of his employers, despite being born in Seattle. Once established, Yamasaki also became one of the few architects to grace the cover of TIME magazine. The new iteration of the firm hopes to build on the legacy of the famed architect and take part in Downtown Detroit’s recent construction uptick. Five of the 12-person firm formerly worked directly under Minoru Yamasaki in the original firm. “The marketplace has provided us with an opportunity to bring back the Yamasaki name to its roots,” said Szantner in a press release. “Detroit is about to grow in every way, including vertical. That fits into the experience of our professionals with urban projects of all types, so we want to play a role in the transformation of this city, as we have in so many projects here and around the world, while always being based in Southeast Michigan." The new Yamasaki headquarters will take up 3,000 square feet of the Joseph Nathaniel French and Albert Kahn-designed Fisher Building. Listed as a National Historic Landmark and included on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, the Fisher Building recently underwent a multi-million-dollar redevelopment. “We are reinterpreting Yama’s values, that we learned from him,” explained Szantner, looking to the firm's future. “Simplicity in design, the use of sustainable materials, buildings that enhance social interaction – those are all qualities that buildings need now, with new applications.”
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How a $500 house tells the story of a changing Detroit

Something about Detroit awakens a feeling in many that can only be described as a frontier romanticism. But just like the American West was not uninhabited, free for the taking by European settlers, Detroit is a city with existing communities, existing assets, existing problems, and existing potential. It is a city with 700,000 inhabitants that have watched as their surroundings have crumbled into an uncanny post-industrial landscape. What to “do with” tens of thousands of vacant structures and vacant lots is a perennial discussion among architects, planners, developers, and politicians. When 23-year-old Drew Philp bought a house for $500 in the Poletown neighborhood, he was less concerned with solving the city’s problems than he was with surviving Detroit’s brutal winters without heat. In his first book, A $500 House in Detroit, published by Scribner, he tells a story of struggle and triumph as he rebuilds a dilapidated Queen Anne, one piece at a time. When Philp moved to Detroit, he was in the final year of his undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan. With little in the way of a plan or a mission, he worked and lived hand-to-mouth. Slowly making friends, he found himself part of an urban farming community called the Yes Farm. Still without a permanent place to stay, he learned of the county’s annual property auction. The auction sold off county-owned properties, bidding starting at $500. The house he would end up buying was barely a shell, and it would take years to bring it up to a livable condition.
This story, of a white kid from Anywheresville, Michigan, moving to the predominantly African American Detroit to find himself, sounds more like a veiled gentrification narrative than a worthwhile topic for a critical look at the city. Yet, experiences like Philp’s, while not completely unique, have rarely been told in such detail, or with as much awareness of their inherent cultural worldview. Throughout, Philp questions his place in his community, conscious of every interaction with his neighbors. Five years of experiences, traumatic and joyful, and firsthand lessons in community politics, give him a perspective that is insightful and measured. Intertwined with his account, Philp includes historic anecdotes explaining the events leading to the current conditions of inequality, corruption, and vacancy in Detroit. One of the most powerful accounts discusses how entire neighborhoods were destroyed when the interstate was driven through the heart of the city. While this is a story that has been told in nearly every American city, it has special meaning in Philp’s case, as his grandfather built his home, well outside of Detroit, from the reused wood from those forcefully demolished homes. Events like this forced Philp, and now his readers, to contemplate guilt, reparation, appropriation, and race relations in a very real, very personal way. Philp also points out that much of the book was literally written at the kitchen table from that same house.
Told in a typical Midwestern voice, Philp’s writing will be clear and familiar to anyone who grew up in Middle America. Even so, many will find it hard to see themselves in his shoes, but this may be a strength for the book. Rather than fetishizing the experience, Philp constantly questions his actions. Less a how-to than a cautionary tale, few will feel any urge to attempt to re-create his experience. The timing of the book, taking place roughly from 2009–2017, happens to coincide with major changes in Detroit, which have yet to be proven good or bad. An influx of young white people, Philp arguably being part of the first wave of them, and global interest in the critically distressed city, has made it a space of pilgrimage and settlement by many more with more social and economic privilege than those who have stuck it out over the years. This underlying theme of a changing city plays itself out over and over again throughout the book, with Philp often stuck awkwardly in between “progress” and empathy. The genesis of A $500 House in Detroit came when Philp wrote a short piece for BuzzFeed. If the story would have ended there, a few thousand words bookended by stories like “15 Celebrity Tweets You Missed This Week,” it would have simply become yet another one-dimensional anecdote about a city that is in dire need of having its complex story told. And while A $500 House never professes to tell the whole story, it does add a significant voice to the dialogue, without fetishizing or romanticizing the city and the lives of those who live there.
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Renderings revealed for Schmidt Hammer Lassen’s first U.S. project

Plans have been announced for the first U.S. project by Denmark-based Schmidt Hammer Lassen. Monroe Block will bring over 1 million square feet of office space, retail, residential, and public space to downtown Detroit at the confluence of Cadillac Square, Camus Martius, Library Square, and Woodward Avenue. The development will be one of the largest developments the city has seen in decades. Bedrock Detroit is acting as developer for the project while Detroit-based Neumann/Smith Architecture is the architect of record. Bath, England–based engineers Buro Happold and Copenhagen-based landscape architects SLA are also part of the team. "Detroit is a unique place, I believe everyone living in the Western [world] has at some point been influenced or touched by Detroit,” said Kristian Ahlmark, senior partner at Schmidt Hammer Lassen, in a press release. “We all know or can relate to its legacy: the U.S. automobile industry, the architecture of Albert Kahn and Woodward, and obviously the music.” Along with 24-hour public plazas and green spaces, the development planned to include grocery stores and food markets, entertainment and sport facilities, and possibly exhibition and performance spaces. Along with the office space, the project will also include 480 residential units. The announcement follows closely on the heels of the proposed 52-story SHoP-designed tower along Woodward Avenue. Both projects are being developed by Bedrock, a firm that plays a large role in nearly $5.5 billion of ongoing development in the city. While Schmidt Hammer Lassen has never built in the United States, it has projects in Canada, as well as across northern Europe and eastern Asia. The firm’s Halifax Central Library, in Nova Scotia, Canada recently won the Governor General Medal in Architecture of Canada. “Our Scandinavian heritage has a strong influence on the way we approach city building on this scale. We always try to think urbanism, city space and the built environment in that order,” added Ahlmark.
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Mies’s Lafayette Park gets first new project in 40 years

For the first time in 40 years, Detroit’s famed Lafayette Park has a new addition. Designed by Detroit-based McIntosh Poris Associates, DuCharme Place is a 185-unit apartment community comprised of four midrise buildings. Adding to the Mies van der Rohe–designed historic district, the new development plays liberally with many of Mies’s original concepts. The long history of Lafayette Park includes the “slum” clearing urban renewal of postwar urban centers, the rise of modernist housing blocks in the U.S., and the realization of one of Mies’s largest housing projects. The first projects to be completed in the development were the Mies-designed Pavilion Apartments and a series of townhouses that are most often associated with the neighborhood. After those initial buildings, a handful of architects, including Gunnar Birkerts and John Macsai, added a school, shopping center, and more housing, with the last major project finishing in 1967. Ludwig Hilberseimer, Alfred Caldwell, and Joseph Fujikawa played an important role on Mies’s planning and design team for the project from the beginning. McIntosh Poris’s contribution, entitled DuCharme Place, draws on many of the modernist ideas designed into the historic portions of the district. Starting with the material palette of brick, metal, and glass, the project also makes larger formal moves that echo Mies’s master plan and design. The four buildings define three large courtyard terraces reminiscent of the iconic courts of Mies’s townhomes. Residents also have access to additional outdoor spaces including private balconies and private green roof terraces, which include a pool and a zen garden. The project’s green roof is the largest in Detroit. “DuCharme Place builds upon the vision of the park’s original development team by creating a community integrated with nature to support the existing historic district,” explained Michael Poris, principal of McIntosh Poris Associates, upon the project’s completion. “To respect the site, we wanted the relationship with nature to be a driving factor behind the design. We organized the buildings around landscaped courtyards, while also creating street walls on Lafayette Street, Orleans Street, and DuCharme. Every unit has great views and abundant natural light.” Hoping to attract young professionals, couples, and empty nesters, the projects is filled with one- and two-bedroom units ranging from 500 to 1,100 square feet. Located a walking distance from downtown, the units provide an alternative to the quickly rising rent in the city center. Lafayette Park also has direct access to the Dequindre Cut, a two-mile greenway built on along a former rail line leading to the waterfront. In 2015 Lafayette Park was designated a National Historic Landmark District. Yet, it is not a neighborhood locked in time. Instead, as it was designed to be from the beginning, it is a living, growing neighborhood.
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This designer created a live-work prefab development for Detroit’s growing creative class

Detroit is full of surprises. From the Mies-designed Lafayette Park to the currently disassembled Heidelberg Project, small enclaves throughout the city challenge the perceived image of a city that has lost 60 percent of its population in the last 50 years. Tapping into this potential of small community spaces, Edwin Chan and his Los Angeles–based design practice EC3 have recently completed True North Detroit, a half-acre live-work community.

Specifically designed to cater to Detroit’s growing creative population, True North comprises nine lightweight prefabricated Quonset huts in the Core City neighborhood about two and a half miles northwest of the downtown. Core City has not seen any significant construction in over 60 years, and the area surrounding the project mostly consists of vacant lots.

“The majority of Detroit’s housing stock is either out of date or completely dilapidated,” Edwin Chan said. “Rather than being determined by ‘market demands,’ True North’s design is an inclusive and aspirational vision to create a new typology of affordable housing and to promote alternative, creative lifestyles in one of the world’s most iconic cities.”

The small complex of vaulted buildings is arranged in such a way as to provide access from the street and produce open outdoor communal spaces. Security, views, and privacy were also considered in the strategic orientation of each structure. The shape of the Quonset huts was also modified from the typical semicircular section to better serve the targeted residents.

Elongated and heightened wall space was produced for hanging art for production and exhibition. Kitchens, bathrooms, and utilities were moved into a center “island” and built out of a durable polycarbonate. Translucent and transparent polycarbonate was also used throughout to provide generous light and extra security. Radiant concrete floors, finished plywood, and other inexpensive materials and construction methods help keep the spaces affordable. The apartments range from 475 to 1,600 square feet, all with a lofted space above the kitchen area that can be used as a bedroom or additional workspace.

Even before its completion early this summer, True North received an honorable mention in the 64th annual P/A Awards in the community category. Far from the massive developments happening in the city’s downtown, projects like True North attempt to add to the city in more elegant way. As such, True North is the first of an iterative plan designed by EC3 to build on another seven acres in the neighborhood. It would seem that it is unavoidable that Detroit is going to be a testing ground for architectural and urban innovation. Projects like True North will hopefully prove that this can be a positive, and truly progressive, experience for the city.

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Designers propose park with rippling landscape for Michigan Central Station

It isn’t just the Michigan Central Station that is being eyed for redevelopment. Spread out before the domineering structure is what was once an ornate manicured garden known as Roosevelt Park. Designers and community members are hoping to transform the scruffy patch of green, which marks the intersection of Detroit's Corktown and Mexicantown neighborhoods, into a public asset. A direct result of the City Beautiful Movement at the turn of the 20th century, Roosevelt Park was originally designed by Daniel H. Burnham and Edward H. Bennett. The park was specifically crafted to work with Judge Augustus B. Woodward's original plan for Detroit, which called for broad green boulevards and numerous public parks. This park was meant to be a grand welcoming space for the local community and those arriving to the city by train. The current project is being led by San Francisco–based Assembly Design Studio and Detroit-based community research consultants Human Scale Studio. Through a series of meetings with city officials and community workshops, the park's design now has three distinct paths forward in the form of three conceptual proposals. Each proposal addresses the concerns of the city and the community while focusing on a different theme and spatial arrangement. The first of the proposals holds closest to the original park while working to improve access and safety. Currently, the park is a traffic island, inaccessible except across multiple lanes of traffic. This plan calls for the removal of some roads that travel through the park while improving crosswalks, parking, and bike lanes around its perimeter. The second proposal responds to the greater city grid with changes to the surrounding and on-site roads. New pedestrian and bike-only paths would be added to the park, which is divided by several roadways. New sports fields, hardscapes, and softscapes would reflect back to the park’s original form and relationship to the train station. The final proposal is by far the most drastic of the three. Unified into a single large park space, the plan calls for large landscaped ripples emanating from the northwest corner of the park. Areas for food trucks and an area for a farmer’s market will provide food options, while an area for special events and an amphitheater will bring entertainment programming to the park. A formal gateway is also part of the proposal, as well as sports field and playgrounds. While these may not be the first new proposals for the oft overlooked park, they may have the best chance of succeeding. (In 2009 and 2010 two other groups began the process of bringing the park back to life.) With a “green light” from the City of Detroit, these current proposals also have support from business leaders and community members in Corktown and Mexicantown. While trains may not be returning to the area anytime soon, with a little love, people may find a reason to come back to Roosevelt Park.
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Under Armour opens new Brand House in Detroit’s historic Kresge Building

Detroit is now home to the newest Under Armour Brand House. The multistory sports-apparel showroom and store is housed in the historic 1917 Kresge Building in downtown Detroit. Local Kraemer Design Group (KDG) worked as historic consultant and architect of record on the project, and Sachse Construction was general contractor. Working with Bedrock, the building owner, KDG worked to maintain protected historic features throughout the project including the original marble walls and the brass handrails in a monumental staircase. At the same time, the space was altered to fit Under Armour’s brand. Since much of the space is on a mezzanine level, a new elevator was added, but otherwise the existing conditions in the one-hundred-year-old building were left undisturbed. The 17,000-square-foot store is just the latest of in a series of recently opening and planned flagship retail stores in Downtown Detroit, including a large Nike store and a future Warby Parker.

Under Armour Brand House 1201 Woodward Avenue, Detroit Tel: 313-335-3162 Architect: Kraemer Design Group
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Tony Hawk is building a skate park in downtown Detroit

Thanks to Tony Hawk, downtown Detroit will soon be home to a new skate park. The pro boarder is supervising the design of a 4,600-square-foot modular skate park that will be located just north of Campus Martius, the Detroit Free Press reported. Called Wayfinding, it's set to open on August 16, right in the middle of peak summer shredding season. Library Street Collective, a contemporary art gallery, partnered with developers at Bedrock, Quicken Loans companies, and the Cranbrook Art Museum to produce the project. Wayfinding has six skating areas and viewing platforms for onlookers; artist Ryan McGinness—whose work is influenced by the surf and skate culture—will create bold neon graphics for the site.

“It was a great opportunity to get something in the downtown area that is a proper skate park,” Hawk told the Free Press. “This one is exciting, although it’s not our usual style of skate parks. At the same time, I want to support anything that is public and will be available for people to skate.” A skate park without a concrete base can be challenging to build, he said, but noted that modular skate ramp technology has improved considerably in the last ten years.

Wayfinding is only temporary at this location, though. It's holding ground until Bedrock's latest development, Monroe Block, breaks ground in early 2018. The pieces will be moved to another part of the city when construction crews take over the site. Though the park is new, Hawk is no stranger to Detroit. He and his wife bought a home there last year, and in years past his eponymous foundation has donated to local philanthropic causes.