A team composed of international and local studios and individuals—Agence Ter, rootoftwo, Akoaki, and Harley Etienne—was recently chosen to revitalize the 83-acre area.
Over the course of the 20th century, across a series of administrations and economic contexts, Midtown Detroit grew into one of America’s largest (or densest) cultural districts, with over 12 major institutions, such as the Detroit Institute for the Arts (DIA) and the College for Creative Studies. But you wouldn’t know it, even if you were there—the nine-block, 83-acre area is a mish-mash of styles spanning Beaux Arts, Modernism, and Brutalism, and has a certain sense of placelessness. The area feels architecturally disjointed, illegible, and fails to translate the vibrancy of each institution into the broader public space.
Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects has broken ground on its first U.S. project, a mixed-use tower and associated masterplan in Detroit, Michigan. “Monroe Blocks” will stitch together the heart of one of America’s most storied cities with a mix of modern office space, residential units, restaurants, retail, and outdoor public areas.
The 12,500-square-meter site in Detroit’s Campus Martius Park, vacant for a generation, will be activated by 4,800 square meters of outdoor space, with the design team drawing on historical influences for the form and materiality of the new masterplan.
Last week I wrote about the anti-urban legacy of architect and developer John Portman. I think it’s worth going into a bit more detail about these projects, since we seem to have learned so little from their failures.
Let’s start with Detroit. The Renaissance Center was one of his largest and most celebrated projects. But this sprawling complex of seven-interconnected skyscrapers poses some difficult questions for urban planners today: can downtown Detroit ever fully recover from this mammoth and ill considered development? And, more importantly, why haven’t other cities learned from its clear and stark lessons?
Results have been announced for the 5th Global LafargeHolcim Awards for Sustainable Construction, with three women-led teams awarded the gold, silver, and bronze positions. The design competition asked participants to speculate on future methods of balancing environmental performance, social responsibility and economic growth, “exemplifying architectural excellence and a high degree of transferability.”
As the river offers a place of beauty and solitude to the people of Detroit, four international design teams have presented their creative schemes for the West Riverfront to extend this vibrant area in the city as part of an international design competition led by the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy (DRFC). The development of the 22-acre West Riverfront Park is expected to cost around $50 million to complete the DRFC’s ultimate vision for 5.5 miles of revitalized riverfront.
Minoru Yamasaki (December 1, 1912 – February 7, 1986) has the uncommon distinction of being most well known for how 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.
Gunnar Birkerts, Latvian-born architect and educator, passed away on August 15, 2017, at the age of 92. A passionate advocate of a creative process he called "organic synthesis," he leaves behind dozens of built works over three continents and influenced hundreds of architectural students and colleagues through his inquiry-based process and dynamic interactions. Eric Hill and John Gallagher, in their AIA Guide to Detroit, said of Birkerts’ architecture:
Each of his works seems to be approached as an opportunity to explore the essence of an architectural problem, resulting in a statement that often exceeds the immediate project.
For most of the 20th century, Detroit was our nation’s economic dynamo. This heritage is reflected in the treasure trove of outstanding historic homes, buildings, and factories that still define the cityscape. While Detroit has struggled into the 21st century, its role as a center for architectural innovation is undiminished. With stunning early 20th-century mansions, grand Art Deco skyscrapers, and surprising mid-century masterpieces, the Motor City has more to offer than most realize. Explore the Cranbrook Academy of Art, Lafayette Park, Eastern Market, private homes, and special projects by local preservation organizations. Learn about how Detroit is rebounding while experiencing the innovative and seminal works of great architects like Eliel Saarinen, Daniel Burnham, Cass Gilbert, John Burgee, Albert Kahn, Minoru Yamasaki, and Mies van der Rohe along the way.
Detroit is a long-standing symbol of innovation in America, especially in the production of automobiles, music, and, at one point in history, airplanes. It has, correspondingly, been called the Motor City, Motown, and the Cradle of Democracy. Over the last half-century, racial tension, urban migration, and disinvestment have shifted the city’s identity, causing it to become a symbol of post-industrial America and the attendant urban deterioration. Together, these elements render Detroit’s more recent nickname—the Renaissance City—tragically ironic.
Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects has unveiled the design of their first-ever project in the United States: the Monroe Blocks, a new mixed-use development that will become an iconic symbol of the rejuvenation and future development of downtown Detroit. Prioritizing public access both indoors and out, SHL’s scheme will consist of Detroit’s first new highrise office tower in decades, more than 480 residential units and a network of new public plazas and green spaces.
Throughout history shifting economies, disasters, regime changes, and utter incompetence have all caused the evacuation of impressive architectural structures. From the 1986 explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine that rendered a region of the then-Soviet Union uninhabitable, to the decline in public transport that saw a number of US train stations becoming superfluous, the history of architectural abandonment touches all cultures. And, without regular maintenance, structures deteriorate, leaving behind no more than awe-inspiring ghosts of the past to fuel the ever-growing internet trend for "ruin porn." Below are 8 abandoned buildings slowly being reclaimed by nature:
Chicago-based SOM’s plans for the redevelopment of the East Riverfront in Detroit, Michigan have been unveiled. The Detroit RiverFront Conservancy, Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, and City of Detroit Planning and Development Department will work together to deliver SOM’s plan to revitalize the former blighted industrial area. The framework plan involves improving community access to the riverfront, the design of a new riverfront parkland, and the conversion of a historic riverfront structure into a mixed-use development.
For nearly 100 years, the JL Hudson's Department Store in downtown Detroit stood as a mecca of shopping – the 25-story structure at one point holding the record for world’s tallest retail building. Then in 1983, following a downturn of the Detroit economy, the department store was closed. Its implosion followed in 1998. In the years since, the important site has laid mainly vacant, save for an underground parking structure inserted into the store’s former underground retail levels. But now, plans have been revealed to return the site to its former glory.
Announced yesterday by Detroit-based development group Bedrock, the site is set to receive a brand new 1.2 million-square-foot development designed by SHoP Architects and consisting of a nine-story retail podium and a 52-story, 734-foot tower that would claim the title of Detroit’s tallest building.
Due to the redevelopment of Detroit and the surging popularity of mid-century design, home prices and cost of living in the neighborhood have dramatically increased in just 5 years time – leaving the community on the cupse of turnover. Seeing the need to document Lafayette Park before it changes for good, Clancy uses his camera to capture the diverse group of existing residents in their homes, highlighting their relationships to the timeless architecture.
The "Rust Belt," a region of north central United States, is well known as an area where once thriving industrial cities have declined in economic health and population. As a result, many of the region's cities have been subject to grand proposals that aim to fix these city's problems--but could such schemes also provide a way to intervene in other serious global issues? In a recent article, Metropolis Magazine’s Web Editor and former ArchDaily Managing Editor Vanessa Quirk argues that refugees could reinvigorate such cities, describing how refugees are “boosting American’s legacy cities,” but simultaneously “encountering resistance from residents.”
All the world’s a stage – quite literally so, in the case of the Container Globe, a proposal to reconstruct a version of Shakespeare’s famous Globe Theatre with shipping containers. Staying true to the design of the original Globe Theatre in London, the Container Globe sees repurposed containers come together in a familiar form, but in steel rather than wood. Founder Angus Vail hopes this change in building component will give the Container Globe both a "punk rock" element and international mobility, making it as mobile as the shipping containers that make up its structure.
The City of Detroit, in partnership with the Knight Foundation, seeks ambitious, multidisciplinary planning and design teams to reimagine Detroit’s commercial corridors and explore reforms to Detroit’s land use regulations.
Inspired by the principles of Lean Urbanism, the project involves modest research, design, and analysis services, spread over a six month period.
Successful teams will receive $19,000 to cover costs and travel.