In many ways, Michigan’s current economic climate is distressing to architects and urban designers. Our regional dependence on the automotive industry has left Detroit, Michigan with a major identity crisis, not to mention the visible fissures indicative of a shrinking city. Then again, these conditions also offer design students a unique landscape for urban study, exploration, and programmatic experimentation. An incubator of sustainable ideas and innovative problem-solving, three Michigan universities continue to advance their connection with Detroit.
On the verge of great things, Detroit is more than a raw spectacle of blight produced by the havoc of urban renewal and suburban flight. The legacy of the Motor City and Motown remains in its Art Deco architecture, international waterway, distinct neighborhood character, and vibrant arts and cultural district.
Poised for redevelopment, the University of Michigan, Wayne State University, and the University of Detroit – Mercy students are engaged with Detroit-focused projects from green infrastructure to placemaking; non-motorized to public housing.
The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor was recently ranked the number one Masters of Architecture program in the country, 2011. Architecture, urban planning, and urban design students and faculty are engaging Detroit through:
Atlantic Cities Detroit Rising video series;
Five Fellows: Full Scale Detroit installation;
Located in the heart of Detroit’s Midtown, Wayne State University, Detroit offers real-world experience in urban planning:
SEED Wayne: sustainable food systems initiative;
The only school of architecture within the city limits, the University of Detroit – Mercy has a deeply rooted connection with Detroit and has offered a hand in community development, collaborative design, and engineering:
Engagement is taking many different forms; from temporary installations and urban laboratories, to long-term planning and economic development. Social media, design collaboration, entrepreneurship, and re-branding have all changed the face of Detroit, while Detroit, in turn, has sparked creativity and demanded innovation from Michigan’s schools of architecture and urban planning.
Credits: Images and data linked to the sources.