Detroit by Design 2012 Competition Winning Proposal / Matthew Edward Getch + Maciej Woroniecki

Aerial Perspective of Hart Plaza

Aiming to create a riverfront like none other in the world, landscape architect Matthew Edward Getch and architect Maciej Woroniecki shared with us their proposal in the Detroit by Design 2012 competition where they received the 2nd overall prize and the first prize for the People’s Choice Award. The goals of their proposal were born from Detroit’s apparent weakness. They established linear interventions which recognized the severed parks and green networks and utilized them to reconnect the citizens of Detroit back to the riverfront through pedestrian friendly portals. More images and architects’ description after the break.

Located within the epicenter of Detroit, the Riverfront Linear Park finds itself in an ideal location between a variety of social and economic diverse neighborhoods, rich ecology and extensive urban program. With an established identity and strong existing form, the Riverfront was not viewed as a blank canvas, but as a work in progress. The large stands of existing forest and tree groves, established green spaces, pedestrian networks and existing circulation systems were constraints which needed to be respected and accounted for in a proposal of this size. With these constraints in mind, the team identified and made proposals to counteract the urban issues which currently face the Detroit area:

Perspective of Hart Plaza from boardwalk

- Derelict/unsightly properties and dwellings - Neglected native habitat - Severed parks and linear green networks - Underutilized green spaces - Under programmed public realm - Restricted access and connection to the Detroit River

After an in depth review of the competition’s goals, it became clear that the gentrification of a single urban space without taking a holistic view of the entire river front network, was not benefiting the city or addressing the social, economic and ecological concerns which plague the city. With the numerous vacant lots and condemned dwellings, the slate could be swept clean to facilitate the opportunity to start again, dream big and reinvent itself. It is the time for Detroit to reconnect and celebrate its colorful and rich history, to right it’s wrongs by reversing the damage from heavy industry and disastrous pollution, and re-establish native wetlands, marshes, meadows and prairie habitats which have endured centuries of ecological neglect.

The Habitat Hotel and Arboretum

Now is the time for Detroit to reflect on the past, review the policies of the present and redefine its future. A place which is flexible enough to change with its demographics, respond to the new digital, high speed world of technological gadgets, unlimited access to knowledge, information and social media, and provide a rich variety of program which the citizens of Detroit desperately want and need.

The Programmed Archipelagos

We re-engage the people with the Detroit River, by breaking down the river wall which acted as barriers and allow access to this important natural resource once again. We investigate innovative ways to deal with derelict dwellings and property while respecting the existing urban fabric and re-establishing a sense of neighborhood through temporary installations. We aimed to create a destination which draws people from all over the world which in turn creates a dynamic economic force for the city and local businesses. We empower the use of technology to allow a fully intuitive experience between the park and its patrons and we reintroduce native habitats which once flourished in this area by dismantling and excavating the existing river’s edge.

The Extreme Adventure Playgrounds

The Habitat Hotel and Arboretum

Master Plan

The loss of native habitat has dramatically changed the quality of the ecosystem across the entire length of the Detroit River. These wetlands will act as a refuge for native and endangered species, regulate water levels and cleanse water which recharges the local aquifer. The added layer of program will invite, educate and inform the visiting public.

The Programmed Archipelagos

Hart Plaza Site Plan

Whether you are visiting to catch a glimpse of a heron fishing, laying on the beach making sand castles, or watching your kids explore the playgrounds, this diversely programmed district provides a bit of something for everyone. The ecological benefit of this space and the surrounding stunning beauty of the largest excavated wetland habitat of the linear park system is immense.

The Extreme Adventure Playgrounds


This zone is specifically designated to empower the youth of Detroit and allow them the opportunity to explore their physical boundaries. This is an “anything goes” zone for self exploration, pushing personal limits and taking chances. Loud music, graffiti and loitering are all highly encouraged.

Hart Plaza Site Plan

Historic Agriculture (1796)

This collection of urban conditions creates a variety of places and spaces for people to meet, relax, perform, enjoy and interact. The public realm benefits from a varied palette of hard and soft materials which vary in color and texture. This diversity helps to define and create a unique character and destination for each jetty.

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About this author
Cite: Alison Furuto. "Detroit by Design 2012 Competition Winning Proposal / Matthew Edward Getch + Maciej Woroniecki" 24 Jan 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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