Posts tagged with "Detroit":
Detroit Cultivator, a six-acre urban plan developed between design firm Akoaki and the Oakland Avenue Urban Farm (OAUF), uses architecture and community organizing to help formalize a legacy urban farm in Detroit’s North End neighborhood. The OAUF started with a single plot back in 2000, but over time has grown to encompass over 30 lots and 8 structures. Today, the farm administers mentorship programs, hosts classes, and offers community and art spaces alongside its agricultural activities. As Detroit has recovered from financial calamity following the Great Recession, development interests have taken to surrounding areas, threatening the farm’s future. That’s where Detroit-based Akoaki saw an opportunity to apply its design expertise and institutional connections in innovative ways. The firm is helmed by Anya Sirota, associate professor of architecture at the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, and her partner, designer Jean Louis Farges. Together with neighborhood residents, several university-based teams, and outside “impact investors” like The Kresge Foundation and ArtPlace America, Akoaki has helped design a way to ensure that the farm can become a permanent neighborhood fixture by setting out a long-term growth plan and designing site-based interventions that will promote economic and environmental sustainability. Sirota said, “As architects, we became interested in the challenge of what architecture could do systemically to create a more sustainable operating system for the farm.” The designers sought to discover how the farm could become an “autonomous cultural actor in a complicated urban scenario” that included unclear land ownership, development pressures from land speculators, and water access issues, among other concerns. Because some the farm’s components were located on blighted plots of land that the farm did not own outright, the first step for the project was to secure a path toward formalizing land ownership over these parcels to ensure that developers could not wipe away the farm’s gains. The designers worked with the University of Michigan Law School and a team of “moral investors” to flip the script on land speculators by studying and imitating the tactics they use to exploit Detroit’s land bank. The plan secured land ownership for little-to-no cost via a community land trust ownership model that will keep the land out of the hands of speculators. Once the existential issue of land ownership had been laid to rest, the team worked with volunteers from the University of Michigan Ross School of Business to craft a business plan for the farm. The plan focuses the team’s efforts on two complementary goals: First, by prioritizing the farm’s productivity to create a stable source of income to fund operations and second, by designing the farm’s individual components to create a flexible one-stop-shop for nascent neighborhood entrepreneurs. As a result, the farm is peppered with existing structures that will each eventually become activated as public amenities: A vacant big-box grocery store will be converted into a community gathering space containing a commercial kitchen with the help of a for-profit social venture, Fellow Citizen; an existing shoe shine parlor and former speakeasy will reopen as a multi-tenant commercial space and performance venue; several of the existing homes on the property will eventually house an herbarium, studio, and a design-focused library. New elements created for the site will include a commercial market hall as well as water-harvesting and power stations. In creating their plan, the designers realized that they could not keep the farm purely agricultural, and they instead sought to formalize other existing uses through building and site interventions. The design embraces both the “urban” and “farming” aspects of OAUF, which, according to the architects, is what the community wants and needs most. The project, according to Sirota, represents an “attempt to marry form-making with productive landscapes,” to sustain the social and economic impact of land that was once considered marginal in value. Next, the designers are working on developing and prototyping water harvesting, solar generation, and insulation techniques to help feed into the long-term sustainability plan for the farm while fundraising efforts get underway.
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 70 percent rate of car access. 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 Fitz Forward have set out to improve 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.
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.
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. 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 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.
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.
The former Hudson's site at 1206 Woodward Avenue in Detroit will soon be host to Michigan’s tallest building. Designed by SHoP Architects, the development will top off at 912 feet, tying One Prudential Plaza in Chicago for the title of the 32nd tallest building in the United States. Previously expected to rise to only 800 feet, the structure will be a full 200 feet taller than the Renaissance Center, Detroit’s current tallest. SHoP’s newly released design drawings feature a stepped tower, scrapping the previous plans for an observation deck. “Stepping allows for terraces for amenities and possible hospitality spaces," said Bill Sharples of SHoP Architects on the updated plans. "The addition of new programming in the latest iteration of the design allowed us as architects and designers to break down the scale of the tower even further, and to approach it even more holistically, something we have been conscious of since the beginning of the project." The 1.4 million square foot development, which includes a twelve-story podium structure in addition to the tower, will be mixed use. The podium will house office, event, and exhibition space, while the tower will house hotel and residential units. Seven hundred parking spaces will be located within an underground garage. The development intends to link retail on Woodward Avenue with cultural destinations near the Detroit Public Library. Bedrock LLC was chosen as the developer in 2013 via an invited completion to study the potential to develop the former site of the flagship J.L. Hudson department store, and the firm has developed the site along with SHoP and Hamilton Anderson Associates of Detroit. The project will be partially financed through tax breaks to Bedrock via the Michigan Strategic Fund, as well as the MIThrive Initiative. The structure intended for the Hudson's site is one of four in the works for Bedrock that will be working with these programs. Built in stages from 1911 to 1946, the Hudson's flagship building on Woodward Avenue was once the tallest department store in the world at 25 stories. The store closed in 1983 and the building was demolished in 1998. A portion of the basement of the original structure was used for parking at the site until Bedrock broke ground on the new structure in December 2017. The new structure is not expected to show any verticality for another fourteen months.
As Detroit and Buffalo get set to take on two transformative park projects along their respective waterfronts, both cities have been generously backed by a philanthropic organization aiming to enhance green space and bolster community engagement. Today, the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation announced its pledge to invest over $1.2 billion in the cities by 2035 in honor of its founder, the Buffalo Bills’ late owner, and his centennial birthday. The Foundation is making a sizable donation to Western New York and Southeast Michigan—the two areas Wilson loved most—by committing a combined $200 million for upgraded parks and 250 miles of trails in the regions. A large chunk of that change will go directly to revitalizing LaSalle Park in Buffalo and West Riverfront Park in Detroit. With a design already envisioned by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) and David Adjaye, the latter parkland will give Michiganites long-desired, tangible access to the Detroit River. Though the 77-acre LaSalle Park has stretched across Lake Erie’s edge since the 1930s, it’s massive potential for further beautification and elevated programming could increase the quality of life for Buffalo residents and beyond. Dave Enger, president of the Foundation, stressed that community involvement is the key to taking on these monumental landscape goals. “Foundations don’t build parks, communities do,” he said. “Our vision is really to support these wonderful projects and the people that have the vision.” The design process is well underway for West Riverfront Park in downtown Detroit. Situated atop a former industrial piece of land, the 22-acre parkland will be a year-round destination for fishing, skating or swimming, sports, entertainment, and family gatherings. MVVA’s proposal was chosen over 80 other submissions in an international design competition to reimagine the park, which was transferred from private ownership to the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy in 2014. Since their master plan was selected earlier this spring, MVVA has worked alongside the Conservancy and the Detroit Mayor’s office to garner feedback from locals and find out their personal ambitions for the park. The firm’s principal, Michael Van Valkenburgh, said his team especially loved talking to people aged 60 and older about their childhoods in Detroit—the places they loved and why. For many, the secluded Belle Isle was the only locale they could go to enjoy green space and the river at the same time. But that’s about to change thanks to these new ideas for downtown. “Not every place in Detroit has what New York’s Brooklyn Bridge Park offers—a way to touch the water and put your toes in,” said Van Valkenburgh. “Because Detroit is so vast horizontally, we knew needed to add shock and awe to the design to get Detroiters who were far away to come to the water. Michiganders feel defined by and proud that the state is surrounded on three sides by the Great Lakes. We thought giving access to the water, through this cove and beach creation, would be a big draw.” A construction start date hasn’t yet been announced for West Riverfront Park, but officials estimate it will be complete by 2022. Van Valkenburgh is sure the master plan will go through many design iterations before ground is broken and he’s excited about more community input. “I’ve been going to public meetings since 1990,” he said. “These have been the most uplifting public meetings I’ve ever been a part of. People come with a real sense that this park is going to be a big lift for the city. They really want it.” At the other end of Lake Erie is LaSalle Park in Buffalo. Though it’s a long-loved and well-utilized community treasure, city stakeholders agree that it could use significant improvements. In 1998, the city conducted a planning review to overhaul the expansive parkland and identify priorities for a new design and upgraded programming. That vision was never realized until the Regional Institute at the University of Buffalo began researching its history and surveying people through a project called Imagine LaSalle. A focus group even spent this summer exploring the park and visiting other famous green spaces in Chicago, Cincinnati, and New York for inspiration. “The feedback has been tremendous so far,” said Brendan Mehaffey, executive director for the city’s Office of Strategic Planning. “Part of the mayoral administration’s core values is inclusion so we’ve talked to people from all backgrounds including low-income individuals, young professionals, business owners, and more.” Community engagement is at the heart of both efforts in Buffalo and Detroit. Much like Imagine LaSalle, MVVA also transported a busload of teenagers to visit their Maggie Daley Park in Chicago, and other groups went to New York and Philadelphia. Mehaffey sees the connection between the two waterfront park projects, and the two cities in general, as vital to their respective successes. “The Detroit team is much further into the design process than we are, so we’re delving into their research to try and discover best practices for building our own LaSalle Park,” he said. “I think that commonality between us is part of what the Wilson Foundation’s statement is going to make to the country.” Enger also believes the two cities are inextricably important to one another—that’s why his organization has zeroed in on their combined futures. He emphasized that spurring economic development through green space is a key way to democratize the municipalities on a greater level. “Where else in the United States are you going to find world-class parks in post-industrial cities that overlook international border crossings and feature some of the most magnificent sunrises and sunsets?" he said. "We think the total leverage of this project will be far greater than what our investment will bring.”
Downtown Detroit is slated to build one of the tallest buildings in the Midwest, set over the former footprint of the city’s iconic J.L. Hudson department store. Though construction on the project has already begun, the exact height of the soaring structure remains unresolved. Crain’s Detroit Business reported that the $909-million mixed-use tower planned for the long-vacant Hudson site could reach as high as 912 feet—an increase of over 100 feet from previous estimates. But the developers won’t make a final decision on its height until the end of January. This is the third time Bedrock LLC, owned by Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert, has increased its estimated elevation and updated the design. The complex is being designed by Detroit-based Hamilton Anderson Associates and SHoP Architects. Though the skyscraper won’t make the list of top 10 tallest towers in the country, it will break the record for the largest high-rise in the Motor City. As of now, the design shows the tower next to a nine-story podium connected by a public plaza and alleyway. It’s anticipated to include programming for residential space, and potentially room for hotel or commercial use. The additional 112 feet of height would allow the architects more flexibility in designing the building's various programs, according to Crain’s. Per the current designs, that number coincides with the established length of the elevator core. The project was first announced in February 2017 with the tower reaching a maximum height of 734 feet. It was projected to feature space for retail and restaurants, events and conferences, offices and exhibits, as well as residential units. A public observation deck and an underground parking garage were also cited in the initial plans. Current renderings reveal two glass-clad, boxy constructions with outdoor terraces and greenspace. The project is estimated to take four-to-five years to complete. Demolition of the existing parking garage on site is nearly finished and foundation work is already underway.
The Shinola Hotel in Detroit has shared new renderings of its interiors in advance of an anticipated December opening. The hotel, which will stand at 1400 Woodward Avenue in Downtown Detroit will feature subdued, warm interiors designed by New York–based Gachot Studios and Kraemer Design Group. Gachot Studios, purveyors of warm, elegant interiors, has worked with Shinola on their Los Angeles and Brooklyn stores and has extensive experience in hospitality for other clients. Kraemer Design Group is a Detroit firm with experience in local historic renovation projects and ground-up construction. The new hotel will incorporate renovated historic buildings, including an old department store and a former Singer sewing-machine store. In addition to 129 guest rooms, the hotel will also include a mix of lounges and restaurant spaces to attract the broader public. The concept follows the lead of the Portland-based Ace Hotels or New York's newer Public Hotel, which include public amenity spaces and are meant to attract people to work and hang out. The renovated interiors incorporate products of Michigan and are meant to emphasize material craft. Pewabic ceramics, stone finishes from Booms Stone Company, and decorative metalwork from Great Lakes Stainless are all made locally and are used in the design. The project, a collaboration with Detroit developer Bedrock, capitalizes on Shinola's reputation for high-quality design. Shinola was originally founded in upstate New York in the 19th century and became well known for shoe polish, but in 1960 the company went out of business. In 2011 a venture capitalist bought the rights to the brand and used it to lend prestige to a line of watches and leather goods.
After an international design contest that drew 78 entries from 14 countries, five winning sukkahs (temporary huts built for the weeklong Jewish holiday Sukkot) have landed in Detroit’s Capitol Park. The competition was part of Sukkah x Detroit, a celebration of Jewish culture, Detroit’s status as a UNESCO City of Design, and the city’s large number of urban farms; the chosen sukkahs make reference to all three. Sukkah x Detroit was an initiative of the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue as part of Detroit’s Month of Design, and all five winning designs will be on display until the festival’s end on September 30. Sukkahs are meant to be flexible and at least partially exposed to the elements, and observant Jews are expected to eat and sleep in the temporary structures during the seven days of Sukkot. All of the winning structures put a playful spin on the typical sukkah typology but were certified by two rabbis to ensure they met biblical requirements and were fully usable. Abre Etteh of New Malden, U.K., sought to evoke the light that filters through a swaying treetop canopy with his entry, Hallel. Painted blue plywood was used to form the structure of Hallel, while 500 freshly-milled cherry shingles were hung from the ceiling. The shingles all move with the breeze, and dappled light is reflected in a brass-covered bowl of water in the center of the floor. Gamma Architects from Gibraltar focused on sharing in both the physical and spiritual sense with their Shuk-kah. This sukkah was built from recycled white vegetable crates, ubiquitous sights at food markets around the world, which were used for the structure’s walls, furniture, and central table. A “roof” of bamboo scaffolding was installed overhead that would allow visitors to see the stars, and LEDs were run through the crates making up the walls, enabling the hut to softly glow at night. Noah Ives, of Portland, Oregon, reinterpreted the sukkah as an art object with his biomorphic Seedling Sukkah, which resembles a pinecone or hive at first glance. Laser-cut plywood “leaves” were used to tile the outside of Seedling Sukkah, creating a lightweight, open pavilion that references nature in both material and form. JE-LE, the only Detroit-based winner, took cues from the vibrancy and sculptural qualities of fruit for Pocket Space, by referencing the packed fruit ornamentations traditionally hung inside of sukkahs. Sukkahs are by nature designed to be intimate spaces, but JE-LE expanded the uses of Pocket Space through a series of rotating interior nets that can be adjusted based on use. Finally, the Cambridge-based Nice One Projects embraced the inherently paradoxical nature of the sukkah (a structure that by definition must remain exposed and open to nature) with Chaffy. Nice One took the premise to its logical extreme, attempting to “dissolve” all sense of hard walls by creating a continuous wall clad in thousands of thatch bundles. Inside, guests will find a respite from the outside world, allowing them to see out while remaining obscured. Sukkah x Detroit was modeled after New York’s 2010 Sukkah City, a competition that brought 12 high-design sukkahs to Union Square and spawned both a book and a documentary on the exhibition. Unable to make it to Detroit by September 30? The Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan and JCC Harlem are presenting five sukkahs designed by artists from now until October 8, including a scaled down version of Israeli architect Avner Sher's Jerusalem 950m2 (Quarter Acre) Alternate Topographies. All 78 Sukkah x Detroit entries can be seen online here.
This past month, architect-turned-artist Phillip K. Smith III revived the 100-foot-long walkway that links two of Detroit’s most celebrated skyscrapers with a dynamic light installation. Wedged between the Guardian Building and One Woodward Avenue, the suspended passageway was built in the 1970s to allow employees of the American Natural Resources Company and Michigan Consolidated Gas Company to pass freely between the two office buildings without interference from inner-city traffic and congestion. When one of the companies relocated in the 1990s, however, the bulky walkway was abandoned. Fortunately, the sky bridge has now been revitalized with a permanent installation by the California designer known for his extravagant, light-based, and Coachella-esque works of art. Phillip K. Smith III has completely transformed the neglected passageway into a vibrant, floating bar of light that electrifies the streets of downtown Detroit. “Detroit Skybridge is another example of how underutilized spaces can be reimagined for the benefit of the public,” said the owner of Library Street Collective, the art organization that conceptualized the project. “Phillip’s use of light and color, along with his understanding of architecture and scale, makes this a compelling project for the city.” Smith drew inspiration from the geometric white concrete of Minoru Yamasaki’s 1962 One Woodward building and the variegated interior of the 1929 Guardian Building. His design, which is composed of shifting tones and moving planes of light, has added a pop of color and a renewed interest to the historic city’s constantly evolving skyline. “By day, the Skybridge will continue to be seen as its historic self within the architecture and massing of Downtown. But by night, it will become a beacon for the beauty, creativity, and innovation of Detroit,” said Smith. “I am interested in creating experiences that tap into ‘universal beauty’—experiences that make us step away from our pattern, our life, our work, our errands, and allow us to see sublime beauty shifting and changing before our eyes.”