Detroit’s most famous ruin, Michigan Central Depot, may soon see new life. Workers for the billionaire Maroun family have been clearing debris out of the 18-story building and a feasibility study for reusing the building is underway. Ann Arbor-based Quinn Evans Architects are among those working on the study. “Structurally, the building is very sound. What’s different now from (previous attempts) is the momentum—the group of people behind this effort as well as the outreach to a wide group,” principal Elisabeth Kibble, told the Detroit News. Local politicians, foundation leaders, and officials from the Detroit Institute of the Arts were recently given a tour of the space. New York-based developer Scott Griffin is working with the Marouns to find possible new uses for the building.
Photographs by Andrew Moore
Queens Museum of Art
Flushing Meadows Corona Park
The Queens Museum of Art (QMA) presents the powerful photography of Andrew Moore from his three-month visit to Detroit from 2008 to 2009. Moore’s photographs are a tragic yet beautiful glimpse into the decline of a city that was once the twentieth century industrial heart of America. Michigan Central Station (above) stands empty, the organ screen at the United Artists Theater is crumbling, and bright green moss covers the floor of the former Ford Motor Company Headquarters. “Moore’s exquisitely realized visions of architecture overtaken by vegetation remind contemporary viewers that our own familiar culture is subject to the forces of entropy and the eternal strength of nature,” says a statement from QMA.
Among the triumvirate of Save Detroit schemes (urban farming, attracting artists, and right-sizing the city), cultural projects in some ways seem most challenging given the city’s dire circumstances. Located in a formerly abandoned bank building, the new Kunsthalle Detroit will showcase multimedia and light-based artworks, a smart strategy given the comparatively low cost and ease of presenting such work. The museum opens tomorrow with an exhibition titled, “Time and Place,” featuring works by Bill Viola, Tim White-Sobieski and ten other artists. “This museum brings the best in contemporary multimedia art as catered to the local population,” said founder Tate Osten, in a statement. “It is ultimately a revolutionary action, bringing international art forces to Detroit. In the near future we envision multimedia and light projects splashing from within the museum onto the streets of Detroit, making life and art inseparable.” Kunsthalle Detroit is located at 5001 Grand River Avenue, and will be open Tuesday through Saturday, 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Lahood Bikes to Work: The Transportation Secretary biked to work with other DOT commuters yesterday morning, as seen in this video. He wrote, “The route was safe and well-marked; we enjoyed some exercise; and we didn’t burn a drop of gas–which saved us some money.” Since taking office in 2009, the former Republican congressman has prioritized light rail development and overseen $600 million in TIGER II grants to projects that promote livability. John Norquist, president of the Congress for New Urbanism, tells us Lahood is the best Transportation Secretary this country has seen since Secretary Coleman under President Ford.
The High Line: “Economic Dynamo.” The New York Times reports “preserving the High Line as a public park revitalized a swath of the city and generated $2 billion in private investment surrounding the park.” The development of the High Line (the second section of which opens tomorrow) has spurred the construction of hundreds of deluxe apartments, art galleries, restaurants and boutiques nearby and the addition of 12,000 jobs, which more than make up for the $115 million the city spent on the park.
Can Detroit Come Back? With a dwindling population, low literacy rates and vacant housing, Detroit is one of America’s biggest underdogs. But the city’s woes also make it the perfect laboratory for experiments like Hantz Farms plan to create the world’s largest urban farm. OnEarth takes a look at the different ideas percolating in Detroit.
Anthony Weiner on Bike Lanes: Anthony Weiner’s getting some serious flack, but let’s not forget: he also hates bike lanes, says Transportation Nation. At a Gracie Mansion dinner for New York’s Congressional Delegation last June, Weiner told Mayor Bloomberg: “When I become mayor, you know what I’m going to spend my first year doing? I’m going to have a bunch of ribbon-cuttings tearing out your [expletive] bike lanes.”
Vancouver Chooses Their Way Over Highway. Vancouver officials are considering permanently closing two viaduct bridges after temporary closures for the 2010 Olympics went smoothly. The city is the latest to join a growing number of places proposing highway removal, including Seattle where the debate is heating up.
High Speed Rail to Slow Down. The government didn’t shut down, but President Obama signed off on a $1.5 billion cut to high speed rail to reach a budget deal. High speed rail has been a top transportation priority for the administration, which had been funded at $2.5 billion per year.
Are US Cities Like Detroit Really Dying? The short answer is no. An infographic at Fast Company Design looks at migration in Detroit and finds that there’s been an influx of residents in the city’s core, surrounded by decline. John Pavlus writes, “The undeniable truth is that downtown is flashing the signs of a comeback.”
Keeping Things Hot. The city of Holland, Michigan heats its sidewalks with waste heat diverted from a local power plant. The system eliminates the need for shoveling and keeping downtown lively all-year round.
Fits? Alan Penn, professor of architecture at University College London, suggests that IKEA deliberately designs its stores to be confusing to encourage impulse buying.
[ Quick Clicks> A guided tour of interesting links from across the web. And beyond. ]
Carchitecture. What happens when you hire Herzog & de Meuron to design your parking garage? People suddenly begin to push out the cars. That seems to be the case in Miami Beach according to a NY Times article on the upscale soirees and and tourists that have become common place in the uncommon structure.
While bringing nature back into the city is generally heralded as a sign of improvement, this is hardly the best path to that end. Next American City‘s Willy Staley recently took a walk through Detroit‘s East Side with vacant property guru Sam Butler to surmise the problems of abandonment facing the city. Detroit, seeking to demolish some 3,000 structures, has long been at the center of a movement to “shrink” cities suffering from population loss and blight.
Architectural designer Catie Newell is one of the many artists, architects, and designers that is using the landscape of Detroit as a field of study and its abandoned structures as raw material for building. In her latest installation, Salvaged Landscape, she uses the charred debris of a house, located across the street from the iconic ruined Central Station, to create a new series of walls and passage ways, animated by points of light streaming through gaps in the irregular forms.
Architectural lighting is a great way to bring a bit of life to unused buildings. A new program in Detroit aims to cast some of the city’s many empty structures in a better light, in an effort to “mothball” them for future use. The architects at McIntosh Poris Associates have an innovative plan to re-light the four buildings without generating carbon emissions, a plan they hope to expand across downtown. Commissioned by the Detroit Downtown Development Authority, the project will light the interior and exteriors with power generated from rooftop photovoltaics. Read More
Forget school-top farms for privileged Manhattan children. You want something truly radical? How about taking over abandoned lots in Detroit so poor single mothers can make a living growing organic produce. That is in part the focus of Grown in Detroit, a new documentary about how the Motor City, on both the large and small scale, is trying to become the manure city. The film is currently screening at a few locations in town as part of the Detroit Windsor International Film Festival. For those of us not in the shrinking city, though, there’s an ingenious option to stream the doc on its website, albeit on a pay-what-you-will basis, which is almost as clever as the idea to turn Detroit into one giant, happy farm.
Last week, we reported on a new, rather unprecedented plan by new-ish Detroit Mayor Dave Bing to condense the city to fit its current population, which is half what it was six decades ago. Among the people we interviewed was local AIA President Raymond Cekauskas, a huge Detroit booster who sent along the picture above, a reminder of the city’s “grand past,” as Cekauskas put it. But it is also a fitting image of what the city could very well become under Bing’s plan, still in its chrysalis—a little smaller, tightly knit, transit-oriented (yes, transit is coming to the Motor City), in a word, homey, which we mean in a good way. Just look at all the gorgeous homes wanting for salvation. Meanwhile, a Tufts professor looks to Flint and Youngstown for similar shrinking models, though by no means on the same scale. Welcome to the Brave New Midwest.
In an effort to contain costs and regain some control of the Motor City’s destiny, this month Detroit Mayor Dave Bing will announce the details of a plan to clear largely abandoned sections of the city and reinvigorate more stable neighborhoods. Signaling the importance of this controlled shrinkage plan, Time is reporting that Detroit has hired Newark’s urban planning director Toni Griffin to lead the effort. Griffin is one of the best known planners in the country, and she’s been working to reestablish planning principles and guide renewal in New Jersey’s largest city. A graduate of the Harvard GSD, prior to her time in Newark, she worked for SOM Chicago and for Washington D.C.’s planning department. In Detroit, Griffin’s salary, as well as those of some of her staff, will be underwritten by the Kresge Foundation. Her job will no doubt be a difficult one. Residents have previously fought neighbhorhood clearance and scuttled earlier shrinkage plans.