Architecture Students Build a Pavilion to Engage Detroit’s Empty Space

Dean's List, Midwest
Friday, November 30, 2012
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Empty Pavilion installation in Detroit.

Empty Pavilion installation in Detroit.

Detroit’s stark unemployment and population loss have spurred plenty of ideas for redevelopment, from new manufacturing to urban agriculture. A recently unveiled piece of public art meditates on one thing the city has in excess: empty space.

Axonometric showing assembled figural drawings in space

Axonometric showing assembled figural drawings in space

Once the country’s 5th largest city, Detroit is now 18th after decades of depopulation and disinvestment stemming from an eroding industrial base. Just when it seemed like population loss might finally bottom out, the city lost another 25 percent of its residents between 2000 and 2010.

Empty Pavilion is a purposefully sparse figure made from bent steel tubing, foam and rubber—a formally inventive jungle gym that invites passers-by to traverse the gravel lot it occupies off 14th Street. Yet it is the pavilion, set in a painted profile of an absent house, that plays with the city.

Recalling architectural elements in its weaves and makeshift chairs, Empty Pavilion is both an apparition of homes long gone and a canvas for expression among the city’s remaining urbanites.

The pavilion was built by McLain Clutter, assistant professor at the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture; Kyle Reynolds, assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee; and University of Michigan graduate students Ariel Poliner, Michael Sanderson, and Nathan Van Wylan.

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