In this interview, presented in collaboration with PLANE—SITE, Cynthia Davidson and Monica Ponce de Leon—curators of the US Pavilion at the 2016 Venice Biennale—explain why the United States' contribution to the 2016 Venice Biennale has brought together "visionary" American architectural practices to speculatively address the future of the city of Detroit. They argue that these projects have "far-reaching applications for cities around the world."
Located on a major boulevard in a series of townhouses, the Museum is currently in a state of disrepair with the roof on its corner building having collapsed. This main corner building, although heavily damaged, still features wall murals by artist Olayami Dabls, and thus needs to be preserved.
For this year’s US Pavilion at the 2016 Venice Biennale, curators Cynthia Davidson and Monica Ponce de Leon have chosen twelve teams to speculate on possible architecture projects for four sites in Detroit, in an exhibition titled: The Architectural Imagination. After visiting Detroit last fall for site visits, community meeting, and discussions with faculty and students at the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, the teams have now released images for their projects. The curators hope to generate creative and resourceful work to address the social and environmental issues of the 21st century.
Kristy Balliet, Assistant Professor at the Knowlton School of Architecture, is the Columbus-based half of BairBalliet, who will be presenting their work as part of the Pavilion of the United States at this year’s Venice Biennale. Her research focuses on the exploration of volume as an architectural medium. Balliet's interest in the city of Detroit began long ago. Related to her interest in contemporary forms of volume, her research started to reimagine the typology of the architectural "midrise" (10-15 story building). Detroit, along with other Midwest cities, requires an innovative tactic for urban infill and associated embedded volumes. This topic has been explored within her own work and as a topic for research design studios at the Knowlton School of Architecture.
ROSSETTI has unveiled their design for a proposed development in downtown Detroit on the site of a currently unfinished jail. The project features a new MLS stadium with 20,000-25,000 seats, a training facility, a retail area, a parking structure for more than 5,000 cars, and four towers programmed for a hotel and residential and office spaces.
LocationDetroit, MI, USA
Architect in ChargeNick Gelpi (GELPI PROJECTS)
Design TeamDean McMurry, Alvaro Membreno, Maria Flores,
PhotographsCourtesy of Gelpi Projects , Ryan Debolski
Twenty postcards depicting Detroit have been selected for “My Detroit,” part of The Architectural Imagination,” the exhibition for the US Pavilion at the 2016 Venice Biennale. Selected from among 463 entries by curator Cynthia Davidson and sociologist Camilo José Vergara, the 20 winning postcards --- taken by 18 different individuals -- were selected as a group, for helping to tell the story of Detroit today. Ten of the 18 winners are Detroit-area residents.
An empty house from Stoepel Street 20194, Detroit, is now in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. In this article for The Guardian, artist Ryan Mendoza describes his impetus and process for translocating a worn, abandoned former family home from one continent to another – as well as the statement he hoped to make. "When I arrived in Detroit in March 2015 I realised that this city – in the country I had left in 1992 out of distaste for its nationalistic, isolationist, police-dog mentality and its privatised prison system, [...] had, aside from the positive developments that were mostly in the downtown area, begun to look like a war zone."
Detroit Resists has released a statement questioning the ambition of the US Pavilion’s “The Architectural Imagination” exhibition at the 2016 Venice Biennale. The exhibition consists of twelve teams of designers who will present newly speculative projects that can be applied not only to various sites in Detroit, but also to other cities around the world. Yet while the exhibition aims to understand Detroit’s political, social, economic, and environmental context so that “the power of architecture” can be of service to the community of Detroit, Detroit Resists’ statement claims that in the past this “architectural power” has been indifferent to the political context.
“This architectural power has been manifestly apparent in architecture’s recruitments against indigenous, impoverished, marginalized, and precarious communities across the globe, usually in the name of “development” or “modernization” in the second half of the 20th century,” reads the statement.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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, Detroit, Washington, D.C., and Milwaukee. Read the full article, here.
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 curators are looking for design excellence, innovative speculative thinking, and architectural expertise in built and/or unbuilt work. Read on to learn more.
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.