Text description provided by the architects. True North is a development comprised of nine rental units and shared community gardens, located two-and-a-half miles from Downtown Detroit.
It has received international attention for pioneering creative affordable design attuned to both its context and community, as well as for catalyzing the redevelopment of a long-neglected area.
For aesthetic and economic reasons, the client challenged EC3 to utilize Quonset Huts, a prefabricated lightweight structure consisting of corrugated galvanized steel and having a semicircular cross section.
Edwin Chan, founder of the Los Angeles-based studio EC3 and former design partner at Gehry Partners, commented: “We tried to capture the beauty of Detroit’s toughness with the raw aesthetic in its design, while creating an inviting place for the neighborhood.”
Open to the neighborhood and without fencing, the strategic placement of the huts is driven by a need for openness and security, views and privacy, socializing and solitude, leaving the community accessible from the street via three pathways.
Once inside the community, the pathways connect visitors to the eight huts (nine units total), communal gardens, thirty trees, and eight parking spots alongside the back alley.
Each structure is assembled on top of a four-inch concrete slab with in-floor radiant heat, which is also the units finished floor. The end walls feature custom steel framing around polycarbonate panels that provide a higher level of security, natural light and high thermal value.
For the interiors EC3 worked with the client and collaborators to develop a variety of layouts for the units – sizes ranging from 475 to 1,600 square feet – to inspire different creative lifestyles. Most of the units also feature an interior polycarbonate “island” containing a kitchen, a bathroom, and a mechanical/storage closet. Above the island, a mezzanine platform provides occupants with a flex for any use, possibly a bedroom, workspace or storage.
True North recently won The Architect’s Newspaper’s 2017 Best of Design Award in the Multi-Unit Residential Category and won an honorable mention from Architect Magazine in the 2017 Progressive Architecture P/A Awards.