Rosa Parks Transit Center / FTL Design Engineering Studio


Architects: FTL Design Engineering Studio
Location: Detroit,
Project Architect: Parson Brikerhoff, MI
Project area: 4,645 sqm
Budget: $22.5 Million USD
Project year: 2009
Fabric: PTFE glass
Photographs: FTL

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FTL created a single sustainable skin to define space, washed with day lighting and harvesting rain water. Transcending infrastructure to sculpture.

The new Rosa Parks Transit Center includes a passenger terminal and roof canopy covering a drop off and outdoor waiting area which will play a pivotal role in providing alternate means of public transportation to the greater Detroit area. The project brief was simple: a permanent roof structure, to withstand harsh weathers, durable, easy to maintain, inexpensive and unique.


The architect, Parson Brinkerhoff, MI, a pioneer in transportation facilities, invited FTL Design and Engineering Studio to be part of their team to develop an “elegant and contemporary canopy”.


FTL developed a design approach that uses flowing canopies to create an active visual space and naturally day light space which challenges the conventional notion of roof where the membrane both hovers 50 ft in space, and in other areas brought to ground and to act as a giant water collector. To create rhythm, the proposed scheme was broken down into seven repetitive bays, each approximately 110′ long and 50 ft wide. Each bay is comprised of two trusses, an A frame and fabric which is pulled down, transforming the roof into a wall and encompassing a courtyard.

Cite: "Rosa Parks Transit Center / FTL Design Engineering Studio" 04 Aug 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed 22 May 2015. <>
  • Carlos Ferreira

    Nice to see something nice happening in Detroit.

    • Tom in London

      yes- and great to see a BUS terminal named after the great person who sat at the front of the bus :)

  • Mike

    This is slick! :) I love it!

  • theChavacano

    I haven´t seen in a long time, somenthing interesting with canopies, since the 90´s I think, really slick!

  • Tarp

    Not to worry, it’s only a matter of time before the infamous Detroit unions step in at screw it up…

  • Natasha

    Amazing design! Let’s hope the unions won’t screw it up…

  • StructureHub Blog

    Bravo; adds dynamism, which is sorely lacking in downtown Detroit. The area has plenty of old structures worth preserving, but an iconic public space such as this energizes the urban fabric and is better at uplifting run-down attitudes, partly b/c it’s such a drastic change from the old as well as most of the new, mediocre architecture around.

  • tropicalismo360

    Well I can’t agree with the thumbs up above. This looks like a very sloppy and inelegant use of steel and fabric. There’s a lot better work out there. You could probably start with Hopkins in the UK.



  • james

    its ok,
    pretty slick as they say,
    but also pretty naff

  • Rupesh Jamkhindikar

    Would like to see this without the cars around.

    This has definitely added to the dynamism. Adding interest.

  • Pingback: Eco Architecture: Rosa Parks Transit Center uses natural light, harvests rainwater | Green Cleaning Ideas

  • kimbo

    Transitional street spaces have always considered light to be designed in. Think of arcade designs, whose reinvention from ancient ‘bazaar’ designs, around 1870 coincided with a new transport infrastructure that enabled extensive use of the glass panels and materials of their time, even though electric street lights had coincidentally been invented exactly the same time. The materials utilised for The Rosa Parks Transit Centre are progressive but the design has integrity, especially if we consider how such progress has integrated water harvesting, and filters light which reduces damaging glare effects, thus creating a pleasant ambience that quite a lot of arcade designs of the past couldn t have predicted due to the experimental nature of the structures.

  • sana

    I’d love to see this space transform when its raining,day and night timings :)

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  • Morphik

    Amazing design!

  • Steven Cherry

    I stood under this canopy for 25 minutes today and I admire the way it has collected snow over the past week and serves to deliver it at almost a constant rate down into the outdoor waiting area.

    A person can face any direction and the collected snow seems to blow directly into his or her face.

    If the design team sought to create a huge contraption to make public transit users absolutely miserable in a cold climate, I consider it a job well done.

  • Arighna Mitra