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Detroit Collaborative Design Center wins prestigious architecture award

The Detroit Collaborative Design Center (DCDC) has worked on some innovative projects since its inception in 1994. The University of Detroit Mercy's architecture and urban design firm that's partially composed of students has worked on bigger neighborhood strategies like RecoveryPark, and specific designs like The Alley Project.

And now they've been recognized for these efforts. The DCDC has been named the 2017 winner of the American Institute of Architects' prestigious Whitney M. Young Jr. Award. Named for the civil rights leader, the honor is given to an architectural organization that "embodies social responsibility and actively addresses a relevant issue, such as affordable housing, inclusiveness or universal access."

"For any architect or organization committed to public interest design, this is without a doubt the highest honor one could hope to receive," said Will Wittig, AIA, dean of the School of Architecture, in a press release.

The award will be officially presented at the AIA national convention in Orlando Florida in April. 

Bedrock Real Estate to spend an estimated $400 million on restoration of Book Tower

In one of the more surprising stories about redevelopment in a city full of them, the Book Tower and Book Building will get an estimated $400 million worth of restoration, according to a recent Crain's Detroit Business article.

It's all part of Bedrock Real Estate's massive investments along Washington Boulevard and downtown generally. "The projects range from new apartments, to retail, to renovated housing for low-income seniors in what developers predict is going to build upon the brothers' original vision," writes Kirk Pinho for Crain's.

The price tag is so high for the Book Tower, vacant since 2009, because of the numerous features in need of repair, from the windows to the comically-long fire escape to its mansard roof.

Here's a great description of the building from Historic Detroit: "No skyscraper in Detroit, let alone the Midwest, looks quite like the Book Tower on Washington Boulevard. It's a rather awkward-looking building, whether you look at its unusual maze of an external fire escape or the intricate, over-the-top details on its crown that are tough to appreciate without a pair of binoculars. It's an undeniably unique piece of the city's skyline and a rare breed of classical Renaissance-style architecture and skyscraper."

In surprising turn, classic Detroit venue may reopen

John Gallagher of the Detroit Free Press opens his article on the potential reopening of the Vanity Ballroom with these hopeful words: "Whenever I get discouraged about Detroit's redevelopment efforts I think about all the projects we once thought utterly impossible that eventually opened and thrived."

The glorious venue on the far east side of Detroit, whose facade is adorned with Aztec-influenced tiles, hosted many seminal musicians throughout the years before closing in 1988. Today however, it's "in rough shape," according to Gallagher. "Scrappers have been working, the ceiling is open to the sky, debris litters the floor everywhere. But it's still possible to glimpse the former glory."

Jefferson East Inc., the economic development organization supporting neighborhoods in and around East Jefferson Avenue, is putting together redevelopment designs and a funding packaging for the ballroom.

The plan is to have mixed retail on the ground level with the whole project as the centerpiece for much bigger development efforts along the Jefferson corridor.

Article explores overlooked beauty of east riverfront housing

Former Model D managing editor Matthew Lewis wrote an article for Hour Detroit about the attractive, and relatively overlooked housing on the Detroit River. Titled "Strait Outta Downtown," the article profiles apartments and houses in The Jeffersonian, "a 30-story, 410-unit midcentury masterpiece," and the Joseph Berry Subdivision, "a small neighborhood consisting of just four streets and fewer than 90 homes."

"But the beauty of its residences—and the influence of its residents—are outsized," writes Lewis.

The article notes that the East Riverfront is a potential growth spot given the skyrocketing real-estate values in downtown and midtown, and its location along Detroit's most distinctive natural feature.

The Jeffersonian, Lewis writes, "features views of cityscapes that are uniquely Detroit—the downtown skyline, blocks of the near east side that are lush with greenery and sparse of houses, Chrysler's sprawling Jefferson North assembly plant, Waterworks Park, and the tidy Berry sub immediately below."

The article then profiles the 5,200 square foot Georgian Colonial located in the Joseph Berry Subdivision and owned by the Linn family since 1983. The houses in the subdivision Lewis writes, "rarely go on the market. A non-waterfront, 5,200-square-foot Tudor described as a 'renovation opportunity' sold last year for $220,000. The Linns' newest neighbor, Kid Rock, moved in two years ago to a house on the west end of Dwight Street."

The article also lists other housing options along the riverfront and is accompanied by attractive photographs of housing, owners, and views of the river and city. 

Fort Street drawbridge over Rouge River reopens


In May 2013, the Fort Street drawbridge that spans the Rouge River in southwest Detroit closed for repairs. Built in 1922 by the Bethlehem Steel Corporation, the bridge serves as an important connection point between Detroit's Oakwood and Delray neighborhoods, as well as between the Downriver region and southwest Detroit. Yet its closure might have proven only a minor inconvenience to area motorists and pedestrians had the West Jefferson Avenue bridge two-thirds of a mile to the south not closed in the same month. That bridge was damaged when its operator, who was suspected of being intoxicated, lowered the span on top a passing ship.

Since then, people in the area have had their options for crossing the Rouge cut in half: they could either take the Dix Avenue Bridge in Dearborn or the I-75 bridge in Detroit, making their journeys more circuitous.

That changed, however, on Thursday, Dec. 31, when the bridge finally reopened after 31 months of repairs that cost the Michigan Department of Transporation $46 million. The Detroit News reports that the repairs were completed nearly a year behind schedule because of the complexity of the job and interference by river traffic. Currently one lane of traffic is open in each direction, but MDOT told the News that it expects to open the bridge's three other lanes by the end of January.

The West Jefferson Avenue drawbridge is expected to reopen in August.

Check out this time-lapse GIF of the reconstructed Fort Street Bridge in action:



Read about locals' reactions to the reopening of the Fort Street Bridge: Inside Southwest Detroit.

Read more: Detroit News
 

Lafayette Park receives National Historic Landmark status

 
The largest collection of buildings by famed German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is located in Detroit's Lafayette Park neighborhood just east of downtown. Architecture buffs and local residents long have held the neighborhood in high esteem, and now so does the U.S. Department of the Interior, which designated the neighborhood a National Historic Landmark earlier this month.
 
"Lafayette Park is Michigan's 41st National Historic Landmark and one of only 2,564 nationwide," writes Dan Austin of the Detroit Free Press.
 
While Lafayette Park is cited as a shining example of Mid-Century Modernist architecture, the neighborhood's origins are controversial.
 
Writes Austin:
 
"The Housing Act of 1949 ushered in the urban renewal programs of the 1950s by giving cities federal money to acquire and clear neighborhoods that were considered slums. And Lafayette Park was the first large-scale clearance urban renewal project in the country, taking out the city's Black Bottom neighborhood. This was one of the poorest areas in the city and home to a large number of African Americans. Their ramshackle homes were razed to make way for the gleaming modern towers that were inhabited by wealthier people."
 
Nonetheless, Lafayette Park has remained a racially integrated neighborhood since its construction, and its townhouse residences are some of the most sought after pieces of real estate in the city.
 
Read more: Detroit Free Press

RIP Park Avenue Hotel, 1924-2015

 
For 91 years, the 13-story Park Avenue Hotel stood tall in the lower Cass Corridor neighborhood of downtown Detroit, an outer extremity of the city's skyline. The building, once a luxury hotel that eventually went vacant in 2003, was imploded on Saturday, July 11, to make way for the loading dock of a new hockey arena currently under construction in the neighborhood.
 
Read more about the building's 91-year history on HistoricDetroit.org, then watch the building crumble in seconds on the Detroit Free Press.

Tour homes in two of Detroit's most iconic historic neighborhoods, Corktown and Palmer Woods


This summer, historic homes in two of Detroit's most iconic neighborhoods will open to the public thanks to a concert series and a home and garden tour.
 
On May 30, the Palmer Woods Music in Homes series kicks off for the 8th year with a performance by Orquesta La Inspiracion, an Afro-Caribbean Latin Jazz ensemble. According to a press release, the event will take place "in the gardens of a historic Streamline Moderne home." The exact location of the event will be revealed with the purchase of tickets ($45 each or $40 for groups of 10 or more). Tickets can be purchased at palmerwoods.org or by calling 313-891-2514.
 
The May 30 concert, which begins at 8 p.m., will be the first of several musical events hosted in different Palmer Woods mansions over the course of the summer. For a complete list of performances, click here.
 
Additionally, a Palmer Woods home tour is being planned for the fall in conjunction with the neighborhood's centennial celebration.
 
Palmer Woods is located north of 7 Mile Road at Woodward Avenue and is home to an eclectic mix of historic homes, from mansions of industrial magnates dating to the 1910s and '20s to mid-century modern residences.
 
On the other side of town on Sunday, June 7, check out some more modest, but equally interesting historic homes during the annual Corktown Home and Garden Tour. Detroit's oldest neighborhood, Corktown is home to charming workers' cottages and row houses, as well as a variety of new and historic businesses.
 
The Corktown Home and Garden Tour will take place June 7, from noon until 5 p.m. Tickets, which cost $15, can be purchased the day of the event at the Gaelic League, located at 2068 Michigan Ave. Take a break from the tour to catch a vintage baseball game at 2 p.m. on Navin Field, the site of the old Tiger Stadium.
 
To learn more about the tour, click here.

Detroit Modernism Week kicks off April 16

Eames, Yamasaki, Wright, Saarinen, and van der Rohe.
 
These are the names of just a few of the many modernist masters who have made their lasting mark on southeast Michigan in the 20th century. Next week, you have a chance to learn about and celebrate the region's modernist heritage thanks to the people at the Detroit Area Art Deco Society.
 
Starting April 16, Detroit Modernism Week, the first 10-day period "structured around events celebrating the Detroit area's 20th century modernist architecture," will salute Michigan's contributions to the Modern Movement.
 
Events range from lectures to exhibits to tours, including an April 16 bicycle tour of Palmer Park ("Detroit's most modern neighborhood") and an April 18 tour of Mies van der Rohe's Lafayette Park. For a full schedule of happenings, click here.
 
Learn more about Detroit Modernism Week here.

Packard Plant developer outlines grand plans for Detroit

Peruvian developer Fernando Palazuelo made big headlines in 2013 when he purchased the long-abandoned Packard Plant on Detroit's east side. The property, which consists of 47 buildings and spans 40 acres, is perhaps the most daunting re-development project in all of the city of Detroit, which is saying a lot. Nonetheless, Palazuelo appears to be moving forward with plans for the massive ruin. According to Crain's Detroit Business, he has retained an architecture firm (Albert Kahn Associates) and a general contractor (O'Brien Construction Co.) to begin work on the rehab of a 150,000-sq-ft administrative building on the Packard property.

According to the same Crain's piece, however, those plans represent only a fraction of Palazuelo's Detroit ambitions:

"[Palazuelo] said in an interview with Crain's last week that he plans to make offers to buy five of greater downtown's most storied buildings: the 255,000-square-foot Book Tower and adjoining 260,000-square-foot Book Building; the 996,000-square-foot Penobscot Building; and the Albert Kahn Building and Fisher Building in the New Center Area, which total 925,000 square feet."

The Peruvian developer claims that he has the backing of a Lima-based private equity firm with over $500 million in assets.

Read more about Palazuelo's Detroit plans in Crain's Detroit Business.

Explore the impact of the New Deal on Detroit

Between 1933 to 1943, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal had a monumental impact on cities and communities across America. "A constellation of federally sponsored programs put millions of jobless Americans back to work and helped to revive a moribund economy. The result was a rich landscape of public works across the nation, often of outstanding beauty, utility and craftsmanship," notes the Living New Deal project hosted by the Department of Geography at the University of California, Berkeley.

Of course, Detroit, the "Arsenal of Democracy," was no exception.

Today, the Living New Deal "is building a national database of thousands of documents, photographs, and personal stories about public works made possible by the New Deal." Check out this amazing map of New Deal projects across the country and in U.S. territories.

Currently, the Living New Deal lists only four projects within the city of Detroit, though it's likely many more exist.

Those projects are:The Living New Deal project acknowledges its incompleteness and urges users to contribute to its database. If you know of other New Deal projects in Detroit, you can submit them to the Living New Deal project by completing this form.

NY Times: Mass mobs are the latest trend in Rust Belt Catholicism


Detroit is a city of beautiful churches, particularly the ornate Catholic parishes dating back to the late 19th and early 20th century. Yet as the city has lost hundreds of thousands of residents over the last half century (a result of suburbanization and the stagnation of regional population growth), many of the city's Catholic congregations have dwindled, forcing the consolidation of many parishes and the closure of others.

But, according to The New York Times, a new trend, the "Mass mob," is breathing life -- and money -- into under-attended churches in cities throughout the Rust Belt.

The Times describes a Mass mob as "part heritage tour and part mixer" that brings "thousands of suburban Catholics to visit the struggling, in some cases closed, urban churches of their parents and grandparents." Social media is used to organize groups that will join together to attend Mass at a given parish.

The Mass mob movement began in Buffalo, NY in November 2013 and has quickly spread around the Rust Belt to cities like Cleveland, Detroit, and Chicago.

In addition to filling pews, Mass mobs are also boosting the coffers of these financially struggling  churches, notes The Times:

"Several dioceses are now helping to promote Mass mobs through their newspapers and social media, and some bishops are openly welcoming the effort, particularly in Detroit, the metropolitan area that has lost the most Catholics since 1950. A side effect of the Mass mob phenomenon is that people often donate during their visit: An organizer of Detroit Mass Mob, Thom Mann, said participants had given nearly $100,000 to the six churches visited thus far."

At the time of this writing, Detroit Mass mob participants are celebrating Mass at St. Francis D'Assisi Catholic Church in honor of that parish's 125th anniversary.

To learn about future Mass mob events in the city, visit the Detroit Mass mob Facebook page.

Source:
The New York Times
 

Video: The case for historic preservation, not just demolition, in Detroit's war on blight

Last week, Mayor Mike Duggan and other dignitaries celebrated the city's efforts to remediate blight in conjunction with the demolition of a 19th century warehouse building on Fort Street. The building was demolished at the expense of its owner, the powerful Detroit International Bridge Co., which is controlled by the Moroun family.

According to the Detroit Free Press, Mayor Duggan praised the Bridge Co., saying, "If you’ve got a vacant commercial building in this town and you don’t have the ability to reuse it, we need you to step up and knock it down...We are going to need the business community to do what the Moroun family is doing here."

Yet the decision to tear down this structure was met by the skepticism of some who felt the building's historical and architectural significance and potential for redevelopment warranted its preservation. 

Blight and vacancy -- of land and buildings -- are two of Detroiters' greatest concerns when it comes to the livability of their neighborhoods. It's undeniable that Detroit has myriad structures that require demolition; yet demolition is not the only solution to Detroit's blight and vacancy problems.

In this video, the Michigan Historic Preservation Network argues that historic preservation and adaptive reuse are key elements to redevelopment efforts in the city.

In the words of Jerry Esters, preservation advocate and owner of the repurposed auto shop that Practice-Space calls home, "I can take you and show you buildings that have been refurbished and they're much nicer than seeing a vacant field."

Source: Michigan Historic Preservation Network

DesignLAB Detroit to host mobile conference on the People Mover

On Friday, June 13, a group of Detroit designers and architects will board downtown's elevated monorail, the People Mover, and present a 30-minute mini-conference to the public about the future of architecture in Detroit. The presentations will last for two circuits around the People Mover's 2.9 mile loop.

Presenters will include:

Shel Kimen, Collision Works 
Shel left a career as senior vice president with Saatchi & Saatchi advertising in NYC to develop Collision Works in Detroit. The community development project– focused on sustainable design, community growth, and storytelling while providing collaborative work space and mentoring programs– is in the planning stages of designing a 46-room hotel development in Eastern Market made of recycled shipping containers. www.detroitcollisionworks.com

Brian Hurttienne, Villages CDC
Brian Hurttienne is a community architect with a long resume of important Detroit redevelopment projects in Detroit including the Kales Building, Slows BBQ, The Carlton and Grinnell buildings. As the ED of the Villages CDC, Brian is helping to accelerate economic development through community advocacy, urban design, and planning. http://thevillagesofdetroit.com

Amy Swift, Building Hugger
Amy swift is an architectural writer, professor, preservationist, and designer. As the principal at Building Hugger L3C, Amy focuses on finding reinvigorated purposes for underutilized structures in Detroit’s downtown neighborhoods, that help add intangible value to the community in ways that are financially, environmentally, and socially sustainable. www.buildinghugger.org

Justin Mast, Practice Space
As the founder of Practice Space, Justin helps to incubate new business enterprise while providing event space, residency programs, and community-centered co-working opportunities in Detroit’s North Corktown neighborhood. Justin mixes architecture and development with a team of creatives to cultivate emerging business and grow a new community of practitioners in Detroit. www.practicespace.org

Victoria Byrd Olivier, Detroit Future City
Victoria Olivier is a Detroit Revitalization Fellow serving as program manager for the Detroit Future City (DFC) Implementation Office. She works on city systems, neighborhood, and civic capacity initiatives with a focus on creative placemaking, community arts and culture initiatives, and historic preservation. www.detroitfuturecity.com

Frank Arvan, FX Architecture
Frank Arvan is the principal of FX Architecture working as an architect on residential, office, institutional, and urban design. He is an avid supporter of the Detroit creative community as an architectural writer, board member for the Detroit Creative Corridor Center, past president and Executive Committee member of AIA Detroit, curator with D’lectricity, and exhibit designer at the Detroit Institute of Arts. www.fxarchitecture.com

More information is available at http://designlabdetroit.tumblr.com/

Attendees must register in advance of the event on Eventbrite.

Michigan Urban Farming Initiative intern to live in city's first shipping container house

A lucky intern at the nonprofit Michigan Urban Farming Initiative will become the first person to inhabit a house made from a shipping container, reports the Detroit News.

The container is currently being converted into occupiable housing in the parking lot of General Motor’s Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant. Once completed, it will be moved to Michigan Urban Farming Initiative's headquarters on Brush Street in New Center.

The nonprofit purchased the container for $3,000, but estimates that it will cost between $20,000 and $25,000 to convert it into a home. According the News, "Local GM workers will volunteer to convert the container into a home and 85 percent of the materials will be scrap from local GM plants."

Read more in the Detroit News.
120 Architecture Articles | Page: | Show All
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