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.
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
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.
Amidst the ruins of Detroit stands the Packard Motor Plant. This 40-acre site once represented the height of the American Industrial Era; boasting 15 factory buildings and 36,000 employees producing luxury vehicles. It now stands gutted and vandalized, as a symbol of Detroit’s staggering collapse. However, due to its strategic location only four miles from the city center, the Packard holds immense potential to address and combat the sprawl which contributed to Detroit’s downturn.
Parallel Projections invites you to participate in this open, international design competition; Reanimate The Ruins! Participants are charged to investigate and propose a new dynamic and adaptive urban node on the site of the Packard. For more information please go to the competition’s official website.
CAR and SHELL or Marinetti’s Monster, recently awarded second place in the 2014 eVolo Skyscraper Competition, asks pertinent questions about an “insatiable” desire for growth in urban centres. Based on the premise that we “can no longer stand idly by and watch our cities consume themselves with an anxious need for expansion”, Daniel Markiewicz and Mark Talbot’s proposal seeks to demonstrate what a “city in the sky” could look like in suburban Detroit. The project is conceived as a vertical neighbourhood, or ”a rich vertical urban fabric.” Three main grids (streets, pedestrian pathways, and structure) are intertwined to create a box-shaped wireframe to which traditional/contemporary houses and other diverse programs (such as recreational and commercial areas) can be plugged in.
According to John Gallagher of the Detroit Free Press, Detroit may soon be removing one of its downtown freeways, the I-375, and converting the trench-like road into a more pedestrian friendly surface level street. The change could be a boon to residents of nearby areas such as Lafayette Park and Eastern Market, which were cut off when the road was built in 1964, and follows a wider trend of cities removing freeways in order to regenerate downtown areas. The city government is currently working with major stakeholders to investigate the potential effects of the change, with a proposal due for summer 2014. You can read the full article here.
One of Detroit’s most prominent vacant sites is slated to become one of its most iconic buildings. SHoP Architects will partner with Detroit-based Hamilton Anderson Associates to transform the site formerly occupied by Hudson’s Department Store. Located at Grand River and Gratiot in the city’s Central Business District, the two-acre site has remained a scar in the urban landscape since the implosion of the Hudson’s building in 1998.
As architects we generally see ourselves as providers of new buildings; we also often see architecture as a way to remedy social ills. For many architects, when presented with a social problem, we try to think of a design for a building which addresses it. But what happens when the problem itself is a surplus of buildings?
This is exactly the situation that Detroit finds itself in today. Thanks to the rapid decline in population since its heyday in the mid 20th Century, the City of Detroit is home to some 78,000 vacant structures. While politicians worldwide win public support by promising new construction and growth, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing proudly announced his plans to demolish 10,000 empty homes before the end of his term.
The process will be inherently wasteful. Fortunately, some are making the best of the situation, with sustainable initiatives that create jobs and economic benefits for residents. Read on after the break to find out how.
There is an intimate connection between people, power, poverty and place and there is no better city in the world to see this than Detroit. With the impending bankruptcy we cannot lose sight of the human issues that face our city.
For decades money and power have moved away from Detroit’s center. The complex reasons for this are well known so there is no need to rehash them here. Even in the face of city government’s failure to manage its assets properly, this is changing. There is slow and halting movement back to the center.The movement back to the center is a good thing for many reasons. It will help bolster the tax base and that is the basic financial problem the city faces. But more importantly it will create a stronger spatial connection between power and poverty that we haven’t had in this region for a century.
Power will see poverty and poverty power. They will feel each other’s existence. They will see the humanity of each side and be nudged to recognize the shared responsibility caring for this shared place. This is how successful vital, dense urban cities operate. There is an acceptance of diversity on all levels. Barriers are reduced and human interaction encouraged. This is how creativity is bred. Exposure to diverse people, places and ideas excite and promote the imagination and a sense of the common good that includes everyone.
While the rest of the world scoffs at Detroit’s recent announcement of bankruptcy (using it as an opportunity to bemoan how far the city – and the country – has fallen since its golden Motown days), many Detroiters themselves are embracing the move as a long overdue turning point.
Like Las Vegas, undergoing an urban patronage from Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, Detroit has similarly been the focus of its own CEO: native-Detroiter and Quicken founder Dan Gilbert. By channeling over $1 billion dollars into the city, and inspiring others to follow suit, Gilbert is helping Detroit attract young, tech-savvy entrepreneurs. Throw in the lure of cheap land/rental rates, and it’s no wonder the city’s is host to a burgeoning tech scene.
The only thing that’s been getting in these techies’ way – is the city itself. Which is why many are hopeful that Detroit’s bankruptcy is just the beginning.
More after the break…
The Incubator Matrix: Live/Work/Play proposal for the Redesigning Detroit: A New Vision for an Iconic Site competition consists of a facility for a new industrial ecosystem to revitalize downtown Detroit. Designed by H Architecture, their design is a live/work station for high-tech start-up companies and creative young artists to continuously challenge each other and spark innovation. More images and architects’ description after the break.
Rock Ventures LLC and Bedrock Real Estate Services has announced the winners of Opportunity Detroit’s international design competition which solicited ideas for a potential signature project on the former Hudson’s Department Store site in downtown Detroit. The three winning design ideas came from Rome, Italy; Kalamazoo, Michigan; and Southfield, Michigan. More images and information on the winning entries after the break.
‘Redesigning Detroit: A New Vision for an Iconic Site’ Winning Proposal / Davide Marchetti Architetto
Davide Marchetti Architetto shared with us his first prize winning proposal, titled ‘Minicity Detroit,’ for the Redesigning Detroit: A New Vision for an Iconic Site competition. Utilizing the surrounding urban fabric as the generator for a new vision of the city, their concept directly responds to the site and its place in the city by bringing the existing physical form and history into the site. More image and architect’s description after the break.
The mission in the proposal, titled ‘The Grand Opening,’ for the Redesigning Detroit: A New Vision for an Iconic Site competition is to create a vision for a 24/7 timeless, vibrant and walk-able urban neighborhood in downtown Detroit with a catalytic impact on the retail activities of Woodward Avenue Corridor. Designed by Chung Whan Park, Terry Park, Jeong Jun Song, Hyuntek Yoon and Kyung Jae Yu, The Grand Opening will connect the different contexts of the existing urban settings and bring every hour of excitement, crowd and memorable identity to the street life of downtown Detroit. More images and architects’ description after the break.
Young entrepreneurs gravitate to places where they can become the founders of a revitalized culture; where land is cheap and available, and innovation is uninhibited by a status quo. Detroit, Michigan has become one of those places. The media gives us a portrayal of a wasteland, a post apocalyptic landscape of dilapidated homes and infrastructure, but there is plenty opportunity for start-ups to redefine Detroit’s future. That it why young innovators and risk-takers are needed to bring new energy and awaken new markets within the city. A recent article by Chuck Salter for Fast Company identifies six entrepreneurs who have started businesses in Detroit. They vary from grassroots campaigns to inform people of opportunities within the city to small scale enterprises that bring retail and infrastructure to the downtown area and surrounding neighborhoods.
More after the break.
The TechTown District Plan by Sasaki Associates articulates an inspiring vision for the revitalization of the district. An emerging knowledge district in Midtown Detroit, this town is currently characterized by surface parking, vacant properties, and inward-facing, siloed hubs of activity. The architects’ concept, however, aims to accelerate innovation, promote entrepreneurship, and build community around the generation of ideas in a vibrant, mixed-use setting. More images and architects’ description after the break.
In an effort to generate innovative ideas for the re-use of one of the most important building sites in Detroit’s redeveloping downtown, Rock Ventures LLC has collaborated with Opportunity Detroit to launch the open ideas competition Redesigning Detroit: A New Vision for an Iconic Site. Entrants are challenged to create compelling visions for a new urban development on the famous 92,421 square foot Hudson’s site that would play a significant role in the regeneration of downtown Detroit.
Submissions should consider the significant history of the site, its physical and cultural context, and its potential for the future. Successful proposals will demonstrate optimism about revitalizing Detroit, with great architecture providing a positive, catalytic impact on the community. The deadline for submissions is April 30. More information here.