Hyuntek Yoon and Soobum You of Team Atelier Why shared with us their first prize winning proposal in the Detroit Riverfront competition. Their ‘Forest’ concept, which aims at being a fairy tale between the city and the forest by ‘filling’, is the focus of the urban development. Currently, the site is filled with voids, such as trees and the knoll, but the forest creates rich stories with the city. Providing spaces that are more secure and for smaller activities, people will have the chance to experience nature. More images and architects’ description after the break.
Many things fill the city and continue to do so. The act of “filling” is the virtue of urban development. For example, developers in the city of Detroit kept filling its voids. Many buildings and infrastructure have filled the city, and those became the symbol of Detroit. A rapid pace of growth is the result of such efforts to fill space. Downtown is represented by new businesses and the Renaissance of Detroit. Many skyscrapers filled the downtown Detroit area. However, the city needs space to breath. The city is far too compact to communicate with people and nature. Public spaces and nature are not enough. The site is located at the node of the radial street plan.
The site needs to be filled in another way so that the city can breathe easily again. The site has natural elements and a public space that is represented by the trees and the knoll. People will have diverse experiences based on the spatial scale variation and variety of activities. The knoll is part of the forest. It have wide knoll for larger activities such as large-scale performing arts. It will also provide a large canopy front for the waterfront. The site will be a landmark of the city without a high rise or a monumental building because spatial mass will provide a big contrast.
On the edge of the park, the area will be filled with tall trees to create a deep contrast with the urban context. People will not be able to notice what is going to be unfolded to them beyond the forest due to the density of trees. This will arouse curiosity and poetic imagination in people as if they are in Wonderland or in unknown world. Radically, it will be difficult to establish any attempts to control the movement of visitors such as signs and entrances or pedestrian roads on the street. People will meander slowly on small trails through the forest, which will be covered with soil and dirt without any determined direction. The density of the forest provides people who approach the park along the wide main streets or Jefferson Avenue with a strong reversal of perception in terms of scale.
Concert in the Forest
Have you ever imagined a small concert under big trees? Soft sunlight fills the trails and a sweet classical melody from a grand piano resonates with the space to stimulate the emotional sensitivity of both musicians and spectators. The concert facilities are sophisticatedly designed to be in harmony with the forest’s contextual nature. First, concert seats are designed as if they are the wavy roots of big trees and are distributed naturally along the trails. There concrete textured shapes create an atmosphere of an old forest that existed in fantasy lands or in fairy tales. Also, a thin bridge composed of a wood structure will string itself over a trail on which people can relax and enjoy the performances.
Isamu Noguchi’s two sculptures will not be removed and will be used as historical and cultural spaces. The fountain, with its unique shape and material, will be moved down nine feet under the trail level and will be located within a sunken garden and a small amphitheater surrounded by another circle structure composed of a wood floor, spirals, and white curtains. The movement of the curtain will create a poetic atmosphere and remind visitors of the falling water of Noguchi’s sculpture. Also, the basement has commercial facilities such as restaurants and retail shops.
The knoll is a multi-purpose open space. This space contrasts with the trees. Another part of the forest is filled with trees and volume, while the knoll is the void. Rather than being a void, however,, this space will be filled with diverse activities. As a cultural venue, the knoll will be used as an exterior theater, public market, and for cultural activities. Detroit is famous for live music and performing arts. The knoll can accept any type of these venues. This space can easily change its use depending on the activities. This empty space helps provide more spatial opportunities. The knoll is the key space to catalyze this urban amenity.
Forest and Riverfront
The knoll will integrate the forest and Riverfront. People will experience a spatial transition from the forest to the Great Lake. The knoll is part of the landscape, but at the waterfront, it is read as an iconic building itself. People will have vertical and horizontal experiences, as well as linear experiences. The image of space that people experience will depend on where they are located and what they are doing. This building will be used as a visitor center, small auditorium, and back of house for the Forest.
Under the Knoll
The knoll provides a semi-exterior space like a canopy. This space will be used as a shelter and a foyer. In particular, in rainy and snowy weather, this space can be an alternative area of exterior space in the forest and in the knoll. In addition, it will be the most active space for night venues. The escalator is connected directly with the roof of the knoll. This spatial transition gives a radical and extraordinary experience.
Architects: Hyuntek Yoon, Soobum You (Team Atelier Why) Location: Hart Plaza, Detroit, Michigan, United States Competition: Detroit By Design 2012: Detroit Riverfront Competition Sponsor: Urban Priorities Committee Result: 1st Place Prize Year: November 2012