A lot has been written about Detroit in recent months: unemployment, bankruptcy, and a failing auto industry. When arriving there, one would surely compare reality to what has been said in the media. But Detroit is a city in transition rather than a dying city. It looks like a semi-empty canvas or an experimental ground that could be embraced by artists and designers. Empty factories lined up in the distance as we drove through the city. Incredible relics of American industrial architecture and modern housing structures are waiting to be found in Detroit. This city has a potential to become a true 21st century American city through regeneration and new design thinking.
Local regeneration projects are mushrooming in Detroit. Last month, the Taubman Center (former GM Technical Center, pictured above), in downtown Detroit, reopened its doors as the new design campus for the College for Creative Studies. The Argonaut building, designed by Albert Kahn, is 80 years old and offers 760,000 square-foot of space. This adaptive re-use project not only intends to educate students from middle, high school, undergraduate and graduate levels, it also hopes to transform the economy of Southeast Michigan and renew Detroit. The Taubman site created 200 new jobs and will bring more than 2000 people to the area on a daily basis, giving an opportunity to provide new customers for local businesses. If you would like to learn more, Chad Reichert, our ‘guide’ while in Detroit, shares his thoughts about the city and how its local community is taking creative steps towards recovery, in this written piece: If you rebuilt it, they will come
Detroit is following the green movement like other American cities with NGO’s such as the Greening of Detroit. It is also looking at design as a tool for social change. Project M recently initiated Plot 63, a project involving a group of designers and local communities. In one week, they transformed a vacant city lot into a community gathering place in Detroit’s North End. Another example is Design99, a retail space that works with experimental design and architecture and attempts to make contemporary art more accessible to the public. The founders of Design99 are also behind Power House Project, a social art project that started with the purchase of foreclosed home in a neighborhood in crisis. “Can super efficient and self-sustained homes be achieved for under $99,000?” is one question. Another is: “what would happen if people moved to Detroit?”
Taubman Center image credits: © College for Creative Studies