Detroit Becomes First City in the US to be Named a UNESCO "City of Design"

14:00 - 26 December, 2015

UNESCO has inaugurated 47 new cities into its Creative Cities Network, with Detroit being selected as the first "City of Design" from the United States. The Creative Cities Network is a selection of cities across the world that promote the creation of creative and cultural industries, within the categories of crafts and folk art, design, film, gastronomy, literature, media arts, and music.

5 Firms Selected to Build New Neighborhood in Detroit's Brush Park Area

14:00 - 16 December, 2015
Schematic rendering of the area. Image © Brush Park Detroit
Schematic rendering of the area. Image © Brush Park Detroit

Five US firms - Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects (LOHA), Hamilton Anderson Associates (HAA), Merge Architects, Studio Dwell, and Christian Hurttienne Architects - have been commissioned to design a new walkable community in Detroit's historic Brush Park neighborhood. The project is being referred to as "Detroit's largest residential development in decades." It will include the construction of up to 400 new residential units, ranging in size from apartments to townhomes, and the renovation of four historic mansions, all within a dense four-block community that aims to be a "catalytic" development for the city.

Spotlight: Minoru Yamasaki

11:45 - 1 December, 2015
World Trade Center. Image © Wikipedia user Jeffmock, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons
World Trade Center. Image © Wikipedia user Jeffmock, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

Minoru Yamasaki (December 1, 1912 – February 7, 1986) has the uncommon distinction of being most well known for how some of his buildings were destroyed. His twin towers at the World Trade Center in New York collapsed in the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, and his Pruitt-Igoe complex in St. Louis, Missouri, demolished less than 20 years after its completion, came to symbolize the failure of public housing and urban renewal in the United States. But beyond those infamous cases, Yamasaki enjoyed a long and prolific career, and was considered one of the masters of “New Formalism,” infusing modern buildings with classical proportions and sumptuous materials.

Curatorial Team Selected for US Pavilion at 2016 Venice Biennale

07:00 - 28 August, 2015
The U.S. Pavilion from the 2014 Venice Biennale. Image © Nico Saieh
The U.S. Pavilion from the 2014 Venice Biennale. Image © Nico Saieh

After a selection process involving over 250 submissions, the curatorial team for the US Pavilion at the 2016 Venice Biennale has selected 12 teams of architects to produce the US exhibition: The Architectural Imagination. The Architectural Imagination will speculate possible architecture projects for four sites in Detroit with an eye for application internationally.

This fall, the teams will travel to Detroit for site visits and community meetings, as well as to meet with faculty and students at the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. Curators Cynthia Davidson and Monica Ponce de Leon hope to have selected a team that produces creative and resourceful work to address the social and environmental issues of the 21st century.

See all of the selected teams after the break.

Culture Lab Detroit Dialogue: Architecture and Nature: Designing for Today’s Urban Landscape

02:30 - 21 August, 2015

Panelists: Sou Fujimoto, Japanese architect, renowned for his synthesis of nature and architecture & Walter Hood, landscape architect, specializing in the public realm and urban environment

Moderator: Reed Kroloff, architect and urban designer, former director of Cranbrook Academy of Art

Mies van der Rohe's Lafayette Park Named National Historic Landmark

16:16 - 6 August, 2015
AD Classics: Lafayette Park / Mies van der Rohe. Image © Jamie Schafer
AD Classics: Lafayette Park / Mies van der Rohe. Image © Jamie Schafer

One of the first and most successful examples of urban renewal, Detroit's 78-acre Lafayette Park is known for being the world's largest collection of works by Mies van der Rohe. Now, the mid-century modern "masterpiece" is the first urban renewal project to be declared a National Historic Landmark. This is partially due to the fact that, as Ruth Mills, architectural historian for Quinn Evans Architects told the Detroit Free Press, "Lafayette Park was one of the few urban renewal projects that's done it successfully." It is now Michigan's 41st landmark.

How Infrastructure Segregates Cities

18:00 - 24 July, 2015
via The Washington Post
via The Washington Post

The Washington Post has published a piece looking at how infrastructure acts as a form of segregation in cities in the US. Using racial dot maps from the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, they show how highways, railroads, historically uncrossable avenues, and similar urban design decisions have a huge impact on the physical isolation of different races. These types of infrastructure were also found to reinforce boundaries set by natural patterns of topography and bodies of water. Cities found to have clear infrastructural segregation include Pittsburgh, Hartford, DetroitWashington, D.C., and Milwaukee. Read the full article, here.

US Pavilion Summons Architects Interested in Participating at 2016 Venice Biennale

14:07 - 17 July, 2015
US Pavilion at the 2014 Venice Biennale. Image © Nico Saieh
US Pavilion at the 2014 Venice Biennale. Image © Nico Saieh

The US Pavilion for the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale has launched a call for submissions to all architects interested in participating in The Architectural Imagination. The exhibition will present speculative architectural projects commissioned for specific sites in Detroit but with far-reaching application for cities around the world." Curators Cynthia Davidson and Monica Ponce de Leon will commission 12 US architects to "produce new work that demonstrates the creativity and resourcefulness of architecture to address the social and environmental issues of the 21st century." Each of the 12 projects will be exhibited in the pavilion and documented in an exhibition cataLog, a special issue of the journal Log.

The House Opera Project: Help Fund a New Public Space in Detroit

14:00 - 27 June, 2015

A new project in Detroit aims to repurpose a vacant house into a public performance space – but it needs your help. House Opera is the result of a collaboration between V. Mitch McEwen and her partner at A(n) Office, Marcelo Lopez-Dinardi. After McEwen purchased a vacant, stripped down house from the city of Detroit two and a half years ago, the two began removing elements of the “house” in order to transform it into an open theater space, meant to showcase Detroit storytelling.

Joined by Detroit curators and community organizers, as well as design and art collaborators from around the country, the project has received a $10,000 Knight Arts Challenge grant to fund half of the project. But support is needed to fund the other half. They have launched a fundraiser, which ends on July 2, 2015 12:59 AM, and donations can be made here. Learn more about the project after the break.

Through Bankruptcy and Boom: What's Really Happening in Detroit?

09:30 - 19 June, 2015
©  Flickr user Daniel Lobo
© Flickr user Daniel Lobo

After exiting bankruptcy at the end of last year, Detroit has suddenly become something of a boomtown in the eyes of the media. Discourse now talks about Detroit Rising, the "Post-Post-Apocalyptic Detroit". Rents are rising, private investment is flowing into the city, and institutions that left the city for the affluent suburbs are now relocating back into Detroit proper. Too long used only as a cautionary tale, the new focus on the reality of Detroit and free flowing money opens the door for architects and urban planners, not to mention the wider community, to begin thinking about how they want to rebuild Detroit, and who they want to rebuild it for.

It’s the perfect opportunity to formulate plans that will genuinely aid Detroit, involve the community and create a revival that really achieves something. But as it stands, the "revival" forming in Detroit, aided and abetted by media coverage, will not improve conditions for the vast majority of Detroiters and will not create a sustainable platform for future growth, instead benefiting only the private investors and those rich enough to benefit from what is currently classic, by-the-book gentrification.

Renaissance Centre, a previous attempt to revitalise Detroit. Image © Flickr user paul bica An abandoned Detroit house. Image © Wikimedia user Notorious4life Detroit's Brush Park neighbourhood in Midtown. Image ©  Flickr user Stephen Harlan Detroit's ExpressTram. Image © Wikimedia user Danleo +17

Design Needs a Social Conscience

09:30 - 17 June, 2015
ELEMENTAL's Quinta Monroy Housing. Image Courtesy of ELEMENTAL
ELEMENTAL's Quinta Monroy Housing. Image Courtesy of ELEMENTAL

In recent years, the architecture world has seen a significant surge of interest in socially-conscious design; from sustainability to social housing, and from public space to disaster relief, architecture is beginning to take on some of the biggest humanitarian challenges of our era. But despite its popularity, public-interest design is still only a fringe activity in architecture, either bolted on to existing design or only practiced by a select group of people. In this short article originally published by Metropolis Magazine, Metropolis Editor-in-Chief Susan Szenasy makes the case that rather than working on the periphery, "the drive to improve living conditions for all life should be at the center of contemporary architecture and design."

On a bright April weekend, a group of committed, passionate, accomplished designers and their collaborators from the Americas and elsewhere gathered in downtown Detroit to speak about socially responsible design. It was the 15th annual Structures for Inclusion conference. The convener, Bryan Bell, is the architect behind the nonprofit organization Design Corps, and the spirit behind the SEED (Social Economic Environmental Design) rating program.

Winning Proposals "Reanimate the Ruins" of Detroit's Packard Motor Plant

01:00 - 21 November, 2014
Ecological Engineering Center Detroit. Image Courtesy of Parallel Projections
Ecological Engineering Center Detroit. Image Courtesy of Parallel Projections

Parallel Projections has announced the winners of the Reanimate the Ruins competition, an international challenge to redesign and memorialize Detroit's historic Packard Motor Plant. The competition called for designers to simultaneously honor Detroit's history, while envisioning a future of technological, social, and aesthetic healing.

This year's jury has selected three winners and six honorable mentions. Read more after the break to explore the award-winning proposals. 

Dichotomy Journal Plays the Odds: Open Call for Submissions on Taking Architectural Risks

00:00 - 15 November, 2014
The "Gherkin" in London (background) and the Lloyd's Building (foreground) redefined the skyline through their unorthodox designs. Image © Flickr CC User duncanh1
The "Gherkin" in London (background) and the Lloyd's Building (foreground) redefined the skyline through their unorthodox designs. Image © Flickr CC User duncanh1

University of Detroit Mercy's Dichotomy Journal has issued an open call for submissions to its 21st edition on the theme of "Odds," inviting discussion on projects that "defy the status quo and aim for greater fortune." Risk takers rejoice: Dichotomy 21 will shine a spotlight on architectural anomalies and the "implications of defying the odds and embracing the strange." The journal aims to stimulate a new discourse on extraordinary and unconventional designs that push the architectural envelope. Submissions are invited to discuss ideas defying the odds in design, architecture, urbanism and community development.

Nadau Lavergne Architects Present Proposal to Revitalize Detroit's Decaying Packard Plant

00:00 - 11 November, 2014
Courtesy of Nadau Lavergne Architects
Courtesy of Nadau Lavergne Architects

Nadau Lavergne Architects, the winning team of the Reanimate the Ruins international ideas contest, have shared with us their proposal to revive Detroit's historic Packard Automotive Plant, the former factory which has become an icon of the city's post-industrial decline. By developing a proposal which frees the land from unwanted structures and knits the colossal 1 kilometer-long building back into the urban landscape, Nadau Lavergne Architects have created a design which returns both a sense of community and some economic hope back to the building.

Read more about the proposal after the break

Attracting people to the neighborhood and providing opportunity for further development. Image Courtesy of Nadau Lavergne Architects Overall view of the site. Image Courtesy of Nadau Lavergne Architects Opening up the site. Image Courtesy of Nadau Lavergne Architects Connecting elements of the site with public transport and reinvesting in the neighborhood. Image Courtesy of Nadau Lavergne Architects +10

Lowe Campbell Ewald Headquarters / Neumann/Smith Architecture

01:00 - 26 September, 2014
© Justin Maconochie
© Justin Maconochie

© Justin Maconochie © Justin Maconochie © Justin Maconochie © Justin Maconochie +18

Beyond Ruin Porn: What's Behind Our Obsession with Decay?

09:30 - 15 August, 2014
Historic mill city ruins in downtown Minneapolis. Image Courtesy of Flickr CC License / Joey Lax-Salinas
Historic mill city ruins in downtown Minneapolis. Image Courtesy of Flickr CC License / Joey Lax-Salinas

Lately, architects are sharing an increasing captivation with ruins. As our technologies for envisioning the buildings of the future become ever-more accurate – enabling us not only to walk through, hover over, and inhabit walls, but also to calculate exact quantities of materials, structural load capacities and costs – our fascination for ruin, a process that is governed by laws of nature and time in a manner that is spatially unpredictable and rarely uniform, has also seen a rise in popularity.

Blogs such as Ruin Porn, Abandoned America and Architecture of Doom draw from a recent sub-genre of photography, identified as ‘ruins photography’ or ‘ruin porn’. While buildings can go into decay for many reasons, these images tend to focus on urban decay, especially in cities such as Detroit, Chicago and Berlin, which saw a surge of industrialization in the last century that has since dwindled.

Could Detroit's Most Remarkable Ruin Finally Have a Future?

00:00 - 10 August, 2014
© Flickr user Vishal Patel via Huffington Post
© Flickr user Vishal Patel via Huffington Post

Originally posted on the Huffington Post's Home Section as "How a Historic Movie Palace Became America's Most Unusual Parking Garage," this article tells of both the history and the possible future of the Michigan Theater - once one of Detroit's most opulent nights out, but now a crumbling (albeit oddly magnificent) parking garage. Emblematic of the city's rapid decline, it turns out the recently-purchased Michigan Theater may also be a symbol of the city's regeneration.

An inventor's workshop. A movie palace. A rock club. A car park. A skate park. The backdrop for Eminem videos. Now it's one of America's strangest parking garages, but a peek inside the Michigan Theatre reveals why it's remained a landmark -- and has a unique story that explains a lot about the importance of preserving cities' historic architecture.

The former theater is attached to the Michigan Building, a partially occupied office tower, and might look familiar to some who have sought out urban decay photos. There's something radically visceral about cars parked in the garage under the crumbling but ornately decorated ceilings of the site that in its heyday hosted legends like the Marx Brothers, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong and Doris Day.

Read more on the theater's unusual, inspiring story after the break

Reanimate the Ruins International Design Competition

01:00 - 28 April, 2014

Once the fourth largest city in America, Michigan’s primary Metropolis, Detroit has recently filed the largest municipal bankruptcy in the history of the United States.  Among the many reasons for Detroit’s decline, two stand out: an undiversified economic model, reliant on the production and sale of automobiles, and an unprecedented degree of sprawl. Currently more than 77% of jobs in the metropolitan area reside more than ten miles from the city center, making Detroit the most job-sprawled city in the US and stretching city services beyond capacity.  Detroit’s deterioration is just as much about urban decline as it is about industrial decline.  Detroit is located in the Midwest portion of the United States and is part of a larger band of cities known as the Rust Belt which have gone through a process of decline over the past decades.