The Architectural Imagination presents twelve new
speculative architecture projects designed for specific
sites in Detroit but with far-reaching applications for
cities around the world. As the home of the automobile
industry, the free-span concrete factory, Motown, and
techno, Detroit was once a center of American imagination, not only for the products it made but also for its
modern architecture and modern lifestyle, which captivated audiences worldwide. Today, like many post-industrial cities, it is coping with the effects of a
declining population and an urban landscape pockmarked with blight. Nonetheless, having emerged from
bankruptcy, there is new excitement in Detroit to imagine the city’s possible futures, both in the downtown
core and in its many neighborhoods. Believing in the
potential of architecture to catalyze change, the curators
selected visionary American architecture practices to
address these futures. With the help of an eleven-member Detroit advisory board, they also selected four
sites for the projects: a lot in Mexicantown, a riverfront
post office, parcels along the Dequindre Cut, and the
Packard Plant. The architects worked with Detroit residents to understand neighborhood aspirations before
devising the programs and forms exhibited here. The
projects not only demonstrate the value and diversity
of the architectural imagination but also have the
potential to spark the collective imagination, and thus
launch new conversations about the importance of
architecture in Detroit and cities everywhere. 

US Pavilion CourtyardUnited States - Biennale Architettura 2016

United States Pavilion Courtyard

The United States Pavilion has a long tradition of mounting temporary installations in its courtyard to attract interest in its art and architecture exhibitions. Needing to announce “The Architectural Imagination” exhibition, from the outset we understood the design of the courtyard as one of signage. This seemingly simple statement conjures up issues of representation in architecture – issues that have been well rehearsed yet never resolved, thus remaining simultaneously at the center and the margins of the discipline. While this problem may haunt architecture, in the context of an international biennial in which national representation is one of the expectations, the blurred distinction between architecture and sign is inescapable. With this in mind, we set out to design architectural signage. The simplest vertical sign is a post that displays a name, but a single post would not make sufficient reference to the broad range of architectural thinking in “The Architectural Imagination,” thinking that also reflects the diversity of Detroit and the nation. To address this, we used the columns in the pavilion’s portico as a point of departure to transform the forecourt into an open-air hypostyle hall, but one in which the columns are displaced to allow access to the pavilion and accommodate gatherings.

Of the 13 new columns, eight serve as totems displaying The Architectural Imagination in the eight languages most commonly spoken in Detroit today, and five are truncated to provide seating. The design of the columns alludes to the fluting of their 1930s counterparts in the portico, but the new fluting derives from the geometric logic of different star shapes. Using robotic fabrication, we achieve the transformation of eight different geometries, seamlessly dissolving the fluting into a smooth cylinder before it touches the ground. Because the installation is temporary, the 10-foot-tall columns are built out of recyclable foam and coated with automotive paint to resist weathering. Their scale and language are architectural, but their material reveals their reality as signage. In plan, the grid of columns refers to the grid of stars in the American and Detroit flags, the latter of which has 13 stars. A prime number, 13 seems to resist architecture. Thirteen columns do not make a regular grid; displacement is inevitable. But 13 is also not divisible, and thus always whole. In the courtyard, each star is its own figure with its own history, but together these figures make a new whole. – Mónica Ponce de León 

Twelve Speculative Projects for Detroit by Log 37United States - Biennale Architettura 2016

US Pavilion 2nd RoomUnited States - Biennale Architettura 2016


Patterns of global migration are constantly reshaping the 21st-century city. Groups of new arrivals often form ethnic or linguistic enclaves that can raise tensions, but while they alter the status quo, in the long term they contribute to the resilience of the city. Like industrial centers worldwide, in its heyday Detroit attracted many migrant groups seeking a better life. Tight-knit neighborhoods maintain the heritages and languages of these communities, but residents often lack support like public spaces and public buildings that would ensure them a voice in the life of the city. Mexicantown is one such neighborhood. Waves of Mexican immigrants have come to Detroit since the early 20th century, and Mexicantown developed in earnest in the 1940s. Buoyed by a continuous influx of new arrivals, it has remained diverse and resilient in the face of the city’s depopulation and segregation, despite heightened scrutiny from federal authorities. Mexicantown’s proximity to the Ambassador Bridge border crossing makes it a target for US immigration authorities, who have been accused by rights groups of profiling Detroit’s Arab and Mexican communities. Despite these tensions, Mexicantown remains a pocket of vibrant culture with a thriving business district, although it lacks permanent civic gathering places. Backed up against railway tracks, partly occupied by a former Department of Public Works building and almost completely paved in asphalt and concrete, the 11-acre site has the potential to expand the neighborhood’s vibrancy past its current limits. 

Mexicantown/Southwest Detroit by Spatial and Numeric Data Services, University of MichiganUnited States - Biennale Architettura 2016

Elevated railroad tracks run along the western edge of this site in Mexicantown. A decaying former public-works building sits on the paved acres, in contrast to the lively streetscape of the busy neighborhood, which features many murals recalling the residents' heritage.

The New Zocalo Exhibition DetailUnited States - Biennale Architettura 2016

The New Zocalo
Pita & Bloom

The New Zocalo is an urban platform. Hovering 16 feet above street level and aligned with the adjacent rail yard, the platform’s colorful textured paving, series of gardens, and broad oblique walkways reconfigure the complex geometry of Detroit’s historic Woodward Plan. This new place of public exchange supports six clusters of buildings, including a theater with a restaurant, a recreation center, a winter garden with a cafe, a marketplace accommodating indoor and outdoor retail, a band shell, and a cultural center. By raising the plaza, Pita & Bloom provide on-site parking below and separate public space from the heavy traffic at street level. This makes for a campus-like destination for Mexicantown and for all Detroiters. The figural structures, both enclosed buildings and open frameworks, are hybrid forms generated from the combination of the profiles and plans of typical Detroit buildings. Color palettes found on and around the site are methodically blended, faded, and oversaturated to produce an unexpected new color medley for the paving and building facades, coalescing the buildings and platform into an immersive public place. By reimagining familiar Detroit settings and synchronizing color and form, the New Zocalo becomes a new cultural and commercial hub, both for the city and for the neighborhood.

The New Zocalo Wall DetailUnited States - Biennale Architettura 2016

Diagram of parking, platform, and buildings as follies, Pita & Bloom, From the collection of: United States - Biennale Architettura 2016
Show lessRead more
Plan of plinth, Pita & Bloom, From the collection of: United States - Biennale Architettura 2016
Show lessRead more
Overall model view from southwest, Pita & Bloom, From the collection of: United States - Biennale Architettura 2016
Show lessRead more

Mexicantown: A Liminal BlurUnited States - Biennale Architettura 2016

Mexicantown: A Liminal Blur
Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects

This project is no less or more a building than Mexicantown is or is not a place. It is an attempt to embody the poetics of Mexicantown through the discipline of architecture. For the architects, these poetics flourish within a humanely motivated social contract that recognizes the value of civility across the distinctions of diversity and in the face of limited resources. Mexicantown is defined by its thresholds: physical, cultural, and spiritual. Rather than make a building, the architects propose a program that supports all of Mexicantown’s constituencies. The program is a collection of centers and opportunities open to appropriation and change. The essential elements include spaces for existing and future community organizations, open plazas of various sizes and configurations, a tower to give residents a privileged view to the far horizon, and a grotto below grade – an escape from reality. Other elements are to be determined by the community. The collage is a collection of bric-a-brac from Mexicantown; the plates are registrations of traces, infrastructure, program, and a fictive future. The model is a translation device, giving visible form to the nonobvious. It is analytical – the conjoining of research and interpretation in precise physical form echoing Mexicantown’s layered richness.

Collage of bric-a-brac from Mexicantown by Mack Scogin Merrill Elam ArchitectsUnited States - Biennale Architettura 2016

Section drawing with program list, Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects, From the collection of: United States - Biennale Architettura 2016
Show lessRead more
View from farthest horizon, Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects, From the collection of: United States - Biennale Architettura 2016
Show lessRead more

Promised AirUnited States - Biennale Architettura 2016

Promised Air
A(n) Office

The Promised Air proposal for Mexicantown/Southwest Detroit engages the consequences of North American infrastructure for urban housing, industrial plants, international institutions, and air quality. Less than two miles from the Mexicantown site, the Gordie Howe International Bridge linking Canada and the United States, to be completed in 2020, will terminate in a customs plaza expected to displace some 900 Detroiters. A(n) Office conceives of its program as layers of remediation – remediating the displacement of nearby residents, remediating the proliferation of trucks in residential neighborhoods, and remediating the air pollution caused by industry and diesel engines. The project seeks to explore architecture’s capacity to reshape the relationships between industry and urban life. From the urban scale of the new residential blocks, open to the surrounding neighborhood, to the phased construction of poured-in-place and pneumatically formed concrete, A(n) Office proposes to use air both as a means of freight transport and building services and as a medium for construction with inflatable shells and double membranes. The project also introduces new infrastructure in the form of pneumatic channels that carry waste directly to designated freight train cars, reimagining rail as a 21st-century sewer and waste system.

Promised AirUnited States - Biennale Architettura 2016

Elevation and perspective of housing units, A(n) Office, From the collection of: United States - Biennale Architettura 2016
Show lessRead more
Second-floor Plan, A(n) Office, From the collection of: United States - Biennale Architettura 2016
Show lessRead more

Aerial view of industrial studios by A(n) OfficeUnited States - Biennale Architettura 2016

US Pavilion 1st RoomUnited States - Biennale Architettura 2016

Riverfront Post Office

Industrial cities regarded waterfronts as largely commercial assets, but postindustrial cities have the opportunity to reintegrate waterfronts into public life, despite entrenched patterns of use. For more than a century, Detroit’s waterfront was a thicket of shipyards, dry docks, wharves, terminals, and warehouses, all crucial to the commercial life of the city but generally inaccessible and uninviting to the public at large. In recent decades, the city has tried repeatedly to repurpose the riverfront area, including an ill-fated 1990s proposal for three riverside casinos. The nonprofit Detroit RiverFront Conservancy has had more success, opening three miles of its planned five-and-a-half-mile RiverWalk project.

West of downtown Detroit, the RiverWalk’s pathway joins the vast but empty West Riverfront Park between the waterfront and the monolithic George W. Young Post Office. Completed in 1960 during a major urban renewal campaign that saw many blocks of the nearby Corktown neighborhood razed, the post office comprises both a 10-story administrative tower and a five-story mail processing and distribution center. Considered a state-of-the-art fix for an overburdened US Postal Service at the time of its construction, it is now seen by many Detroiters as an outdated and underutilized building that walls off Corktown from the river. The 27-acre site that the underused park and the post office occupy is crucial to the development of a cohesive waterfront for Detroit. 

US Post Office by Spatial and Numeric Data Services, University of MichiganUnited States - Biennale Architettura 2016

The formerly industrial waterfront west of Downtown is still occupied by a US post office and mail-sorting facility. Its street wall along West Fort Street effectively blocks easy access from historic Corktown, where residents live in restored homes, to West Riverfront Park, an underdeveloped open space that overlooks the Detroit River.

Revolving Detroit Exhibition DetailUnited States - Biennale Architettura 2016

Revolving Detroit
Preston Scott Cohen Inc.

Revolving Detroit is in essence a void, the absence of a building. But unlike the thousands of unintended absences elsewhere in the city, this void is a purposeful consequence, filled with spiraling ramps that transform from orthogonal to hexagonal to elliptical and back. The project takes its form from the historic Woodward Plan circles. A promenade cuts through the post office building and leads to a landing below the new structure’s undulating roof. It bypasses a courtyard via two ramps, then reaches a landing that coincides with the roof’s surface. An integrated 10-story building defines the beginning and end of the loop. The entire roof surface appears as a coherent geometrical figure that is being manipulated and torqued by its context, representing a new relationship between what are usually autonomous urban and architectural figures. Revolving Detroit welcomes the automobile, invites visitors to the city’s waterfront, and reverses the process that infamously transformed the historic Michigan Theatre into a parking garage. As the city rejuvenates, Revolving Detroit’s parking decks can be redeveloped as theaters, educational facilities, and athletic spaces. In direct contrast to the cylinders of the Renaissance Center, the proposed geometry connects disassociated public spaces. In this way, the hyperboloids of revolution participate in turning Detroit around.

Revolving DetroitUnited States - Biennale Architettura 2016

Aerial Final by Preston Scott Cohen Inc.United States - Biennale Architettura 2016

Upper-floor program plan, Preston Scott Cohen Inc., From the collection of: United States - Biennale Architettura 2016
Show lessRead more
Lower-level parking plan, Preston Scott Cohen Inc., From the collection of: United States - Biennale Architettura 2016
Show lessRead more

The Next Port of Call Exhibition DetailUnited States - Biennale Architettura 2016

The Next Port of Call

The Next Port of Call introduces a number of architectural interventions in the existing George W. Young Post Office and an array of new structures in the open space between the building and the river. It defines gradients of densification, from residential to industrial, through a loose composition of solids and voids that not only changes one’s perceptions of built space but also acknowledges the value of the spaces, or vacancies, in between. The post office’s administrative tower is largely maintained while the distribution facility, a seemingly impenetrable wall along West Fort Street, is animated by boring through walls and floors to create passageways, view ports, and display windows that open the building to the street and the riverfront to the neighborhood. The park between the post office and the river, conceived as a port of call, becomes a field of new pavilion-like structures hosting a variety of overlapping programs, including an amphitheater, a dock, and a port of entry for water transit between the United States and Canada. A new inlet cut into the site offers seasonal water activities. Together the new buildings and landscapes connect urban networks to intimate neighborhood rooms, enhancing civic life by amplifying the potential for multiple urban experiences.

The Next Port of CallUnited States - Biennale Architettura 2016

Detail of sectional model interior by BairBalliet and Phil ArnoldUnited States - Biennale Architettura 2016

Aerial view of site model by BairBalliet and Spencer G. McNeilUnited States - Biennale Architettura 2016

New CorktownUnited States - Biennale Architettura 2016

New Corktown
Present Future

Rather than address the two-block post office site alone, Present Future looks at the entire 250-block area bounded by multi-lane highways and the Detroit River and proposes to develop a New Corktown in 10-year phases over the next 50 years. This period is synchronized with the typical five-year cycle of population shifts, 25-year life cycle of trees, and 50-year life cycle of buildings. The architects imagine the renewal of the district’s urban fabric as a high-density environment that uses Corktown’s existing urban infrastructure to achieve low-cost housing and respond to the challenges of climate change. There are two areas of concern: open-space tree plantations (typically one block wide and five blocks long) and high-density cross-laminated timber construction. Rising as high as 40 stories, prefabricated timber housing modules are assembled next to carbon plantations. Thus the carbon cycle is reproduced within the city, creating a material culture that extracts carbon from the atmosphere through the tree plantations while reducing energy consumption through optimized urban density. The antithesis of a master plan, New Corktown seeks to reestablish the ancient cycle of occupation, obsolescence, and renewal in conjunction with agricultural cycles of tree plantations conceived as urban forests and carbon sinks.

Detail view of elevated hotel plaza by Present FutureUnited States - Biennale Architettura 2016

Density matrices, Present Future, From the collection of: United States - Biennale Architettura 2016
Show lessRead more
Diagrams of cross-laminated timber modules, Present Future, From the collection of: United States - Biennale Architettura 2016
Show lessRead more

Oblique drawing of site by Present FutureUnited States - Biennale Architettura 2016

US Pavilion 3rd RoomUnited States - Biennale Architettura 2016

Dequindre Cut

In many postindustrial cities, defunct infrastructure that once efficiently transported goods now divides the urban fabric, isolating neighborhoods and accelerating their deterioration. Adapting these structures for public use has proven all the more challenging in cities like Detroit, where significant losses in urban density call into question the need for more open space.

The Dequindre Cut, a greenway project of the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy, is an opportunity to rethink public life. A popular pedestrian and cycling path lined with public gardens and art installations, the Cut occupies a defunct railway trench dug in the 1830s to link wharves on the Detroit River to the city’s factories. North of Gratiot Avenue, one of the city’s primary diagonal thoroughfares, it marks a boundary between two very different Detroit neighborhoods. West of the Cut is the resilient Eastern Market, a commercial area dating back to 1891, with active art and restaurant scenes anchored by a public marketplace that draws up to 45,000 visitors to its Saturday farmers’ markets. To the east is a depopulated neighborhood where some blocks have been completely razed by the city’s blight-removal strategies. The 13-acre site, an L-shaped patchwork of vacant and occupied parcels bisected by the Cut, has the potential to simultaneously participate in the vibrant life of Eastern Market, the public pathway of the Cut itself, and the depleted residential neighborhood to the east. 

Dequindre Cut/Eastern Market by Spatial and Numeric Data Services, University of MichiganUnited States - Biennale Architettura 2016

The L-shaped site is bounded on the southern edge by Division Street and spans the newest leg of the Dequindre Cut, a former railway trench gradually being transformed into a pedestrian and bicycle greenway. To the west is Eastern Market, with its large food- stall sheds; to the north, signature water towers and the redbrick Detroit Edison Public School Academy (seen from Division Street bridge).

Dequindre Civic AcademyUnited States - Biennale Architettura 2016

Dequindre Civic Academy
Marshall Brown Projects

Dequindre Civic Academy (DCA) is more than a school. Marshall Brown Projects imagines it as the physical manifestation of America’s motto, E pluribus unum – out of many, one. The proposed 2.7 million-square-foot facility is a coordinate unit: a single architectural entity able to synthesize many diverse programs and spaces. The idea of the coordinate unit was developed by John Portman, architect of Detroit’s Renaissance Center, who describes it as “a total environment in which practically all of a person’s needs are met...a village where everything is within reach of the pedestrian.” The green-tinted concrete buildings provide a total environment with enough space and all of the facilities for its many inhabitants to thrive, including a community college, workshops, faculty apartments, a worship center, an observatory, dining halls, a clinic, and a library. The megastructure’s main spine contains DCA’s primary school. It bridges the Dequindre Cut and is supported by unique “cloven” columns that create a sense of ceremonial passage for pedestrians. DCA is also a gateway, connecting Eastern Market to the neighborhoods east of the Cut, where the decline in property values has placed renewed attention on the use value of architecture as civic infrastructure and aesthetic experience.

Dequindre Civic AcademyUnited States - Biennale Architettura 2016

Toward a coordinate unit by Marshall Brown ProjectsUnited States - Biennale Architettura 2016

Column and structure, Marshall Brown Projects, From the collection of: United States - Biennale Architettura 2016
Show lessRead more
Site plan, Marshall Brown Projects, From the collection of: United States - Biennale Architettura 2016
Show lessRead more

A Situation Made From Loose and Overlapping Social And Architectural AggregatesUnited States - Biennale Architettura 2016

A Situation Made From Loose and Overlapping Social and Architectural Aggregates

The MOS proposal works with and within the overlapping and disaggregated connections between urban and social form. Situated above and around the Dequindre Cut, it uses a low-rise high-density development – produced through the loose arrangement of empty types, frameworks, and open spaces – to connect existing conditions with a new urban fabric. At grade, a neighborhood of common spaces links the community with the Cut and the existing street system. The structure and circulation are based on the economical model of highway and parking structures. A series of spiral ramps punctuate the structure, connecting all levels with pedestrian and vehicular traffic. A perennial garden and plaza extend across the roof, creating a network of spaces for recreation and social gathering. Thin buildings maximize the surface area of their facades, and in turn maximize daylighting. The emptied typologies serve as an open framework for something else, imagined by someone else, to happen. They are owned collectively, they do not front streets, and they work outside conventional notions of property and lots. The thresholds between interior and exterior – roofs, ramps, porches, and overhangs – provide informal areas for neighbors to commune. Every exterior space is a public space; every interior space is a public space.

Drawing by MOSUnited States - Biennale Architettura 2016

Screenshots from Drift 2, MOS, From the collection of: United States - Biennale Architettura 2016
Show lessRead more

A New Federal ProjectUnited States - Biennale Architettura 2016

A New Federal Project
Zago Architecture

Zago Architecture responds to the Obama administration’s recent decision to increase the number of refugees admitted annually to the United States by proposing a program to settle 68,000 refugees in Detroit over a nine-year period. Deploying novel architectural forms as a means of direct political engagement, the architects project architectural agendas onto broad urban problems like immigration to make a positive contribution to a city that is itself at great risk. A New Federal Project moves beyond modern planning’s imagined collectives to address the awkward yet liberating coexistence of new constituencies. It proposes a constellation of differences – not just different architectural objects or urban fields to contain those objects but also occasions for these features to leap across categorical boundaries of scale, hierarchy, and material to perform unexpected urban roles. In this emancipation of categories, fields and objects splinter and masquerade as one another, with leitmotifs of the grid, the lattice, and the filigree holding them together. The five new buildings arranged around and near the Dequindre Cut house new refugee services and public functions. Over time, the structures are repurposed to host programs for all Detroiters.

Site model by Zago Architecture and Ryan Tyler MartinezUnited States - Biennale Architettura 2016

Officetel, models, Zago Architecture, Ryan Tyler Martinez, From the collection of: United States - Biennale Architettura 2016
Show lessRead more
Office tower, model, Zago Architecture, Ryan Tyler Martinez, From the collection of: United States - Biennale Architettura 2016
Show lessRead more
Public hall, model, Zago Architecture, Ryan Tyler Martinez, From the collection of: United States - Biennale Architettura 2016
Show lessRead more
Flat building, model, Zago Architecture, Ryan Tyler Martinez, From the collection of: United States - Biennale Architettura 2016
Show lessRead more
Federal building, model, Zago Architecture, Ryan Tyler Martinez, From the collection of: United States - Biennale Architettura 2016
Show lessRead more

US Pavilion 4th RoomUnited States - Biennale Architettura 2016

The Packard Plant

One of the greatest challenges that Detroit and many post- industrial cities are facing today is urban decay caused by the sheer number of abandoned buildings. What were once symbols of progress have become emblematic of cities’ struggle to manage socioeconomic change. Culture has appropriated dramatic images of these ruins, often without context, which have been widely consumed and have shaped perceptions of Detroit worldwide.

Originally commissioned in 1903, the historic Packard Plant stretches eight blocks along Concord Avenue on Detroit’s East Side. The complex was designed by Albert Kahn using a new structural system of reinforced-concrete beams developed by his brother Julius Kahn, which allowed for unprecedented spans and tall windows that bring daylight deep into the workspace. The plant quickly reached almost four million square feet of highly productive floor space on its 43-acre site.

For decades the plant was the economic backbone for the surrounding neighborhood of single-family homes, mostly owned by Packard employees. But after Packard went out of business in 1956, the building progressively lost tenants and was eventually abandoned. Subsequent damage from weathering and vandalism has stalled its redevelopment. The decayed complex depressed the property values of the surrounding neighborhood, where many blighted homes have been demolished. Yet many of the original buildings remain so structurally sound that their total demolition is cost prohibitive. In 2013, a Spanish developer bought the complex for $400,000 at auction and is now seeking tenants to occupy a planned partial restoration. 

Packard Plant by Spatial and Numeric Data Services, University of MichiganUnited States - Biennale Architettura 2016

The eight-block-long Packard Plant
is bisected by East Grand Boulevard, which one of the original Kahn System buildings fronts. The buildings north of the boulevard (visible in the aerial photo) may have sprouted roof vegetation, but the structural system, like the mushroom columns in the parking garage, is sound.

Detroit Rock City: An Urban GeologyUnited States - Biennale Architettura 2016

Detroit Rock City: An Urban Geology
SAA/ Stan Allen Architect

Refusing the seduction of the postindustrial ruin, Detroit Rock City uses the Packard Plant’s architecture as a platform to support a complex programmatic ecology anchored around a new institution: the Vertical Botanical Garden. It serves as a scientific center as well as a public educational space. The project operates at four interrelated levels: urban, infrastructural, architectural, and programmatic. The synthesis of parts, like the city itself, forms a larger whole – a whole not necessarily consistent but dynamic and responsive. SAA/Stan Allen Architect proposes a model for future development wherein the city is gradually repopulated through a series of dense urban nodes – islands of urbanism within a larger matrix of open space. The scale of the Packard Plant becomes its primary advantage. With over 100 acres of floor area, the complex has the critical mass to create its own urban life. Infilled surfaces produce a deep section served by systems of movement, information, and access, allowing a vibrant new programmatic ecology to flourish on the site. An array of smaller-scale architectural objects scattered throughout the available surfaces of the project enables local difference while sustaining overall coherence.

Detroit Rock City: An Urban GeologyUnited States - Biennale Architettura 2016

Axonometric sketch (2016-01-16) by SAA/Stan Allen ArchitectUnited States - Biennale Architettura 2016

Model elevation, SAA/Stan Allen Architect, Scott Benedict, Practical(ly) Studios, From the collection of: United States - Biennale Architettura 2016
Show lessRead more
Site plan, c. 2045, SAA/Stan Allen Architect, From the collection of: United States - Biennale Architettura 2016
Show lessRead more

Detroit Reassembly PlantUnited States - Biennale Architettura 2016

Detroit Reassembly Plant

Detroit doesn’t have a material problem; its material has an image problem. Recognizing architecture’s capacity to work on and produce both materials and images, T+E+A+M aims to reverse the perception of an excess of ruins by addressing the vacant Packard Plant as a resource replete with concrete, brick, and other building materials. Guided by their structural soundness and the cost of demolition, the architects selectively demolish the existing buildings to retrieve these materials. The concrete rubble and other materials are then mixed with plastics and other postconsumer materials recovered from Detroit’s waste streams (a process tested extensively throughout the development of the design). The resulting aggregates become new building materials that can be cast in various forms while the remaining column grids are used as structure and falsework. The project’s formal types include megamasonry mountains with hypostyle interiors, monolithic cast-in-place blocks that sit within existing structural grids, and freestanding conical sheds. These structures comprising the Detroit Reassembly Plant host a range of programs: material processing, production and fabrication of new aggregates, public exhibitions, and research for developing advanced building technologies with these new materials. By remixing and reassembling Detroit’s unwanted materials, architecture and its image become the city’s primary exports.

Detroit Reassembly PlantUnited States - Biennale Architettura 2016

Perspective rendering of conical sheds, T+E+A+M, From the collection of: United States - Biennale Architettura 2016
Show lessRead more
Concept sketch, T+E+A+M, From the collection of: United States - Biennale Architettura 2016
Show lessRead more

Detroit Reassembly PlantUnited States - Biennale Architettura 2016

Center for Fulfillment, Knowledge, and InnovationUnited States - Biennale Architettura 2016

Center for Fulfillment, Knowledge, and Innovation
Greg Lynn FORM

The Center for Fulfillment, Knowledge, and Innovation introduces a new building type that combines transport hub, industrial park, and university, transforming the Packard Plant in response to accelerated developments in robotic manufacturing, autonomous transportation, and online retail. The complex is an animated circulation system for robots, people, and products that can be rapidly reconfigured. Founded on the integration of industrial production, communication, and transportation, it uses Cedric Price’s Detroit Think Grid, Potteries Thinkbelt, and ATOM projects of the late 1960s as templates. The existing buildings are given a “haircut” above the second floor, leaving the first two floors to host an online retail fulfillment center, a food port, an autonomous livery-car depot, an aerial-drone port, and storage for goods and materials. A sinuous 24-foot-wide, 1.7-mile-long logistics drone superhighway connects the Packard Plant’s original vertical elevator cores to create an efficient thoroughfare. The upper level holds four corporate research centers and a public auditorium and convention building, whose twisting volumes express the passage of people and goods through space. The complex is spanned by an occupied beam, along which university-owned collaboration spaces can move and dock against the research buildings, facilitating direct collaboration between private industry and higher education. Through an architecture of circulation and transformation, the proposal rethinks knowledge, industry, and innovation.

Model, 1:500, Greg Lynn FORM, From the collection of: United States - Biennale Architettura 2016
Show lessRead more

Model detail by Greg Lynn FORMUnited States - Biennale Architettura 2016

Model detail by Greg Lynn FORMUnited States - Biennale Architettura 2016

My Detroit Postcards by The Architectural ImaginationUnited States - Biennale Architettura 2016

My Detroit Postcard Photos 

These photographs are the 20 winners of the My Detroit Postcard Photo Contest, held October 14–December 31, 2015. The postcards complement the 12 speculative projects for Detroit exhibited in the US Pavilion presentation of “The Architectural Imagination.” Selected by photographer and sociologist Camilo José Vergara, who has photographed Detroit since 1985, and exhibition co-curator Cynthia Davidson from 463 contest entries, the winning photos were printed as souvenir postcards for exhibition visitors during the Biennale Architettura 2016.

Credits: Story

Cynthia Davidson and Mónica Ponce de León

Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan and Anyone Corporation

Exhibition Design
MPdL Studio: Mónica Ponce de León, Clay Montgomery, Austin Kaa, Lauren Bebry

Courtyard Design
MPdL Studio: Mónica Ponce de León, Lauren Bebry, Austin Kaa, Clay Montgomery, Christine Metzler, with Axel Kilian, Kaicong Wu of Princeton University School of Architecture

Project Manager
Deniz McGee

Coordination in Venice
Chiara Barbieri, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice (Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York)

Taubman College
Missy Ablin, McLain Clutter, Eric Dueweke, Robert Fishman, Amy Kulper, Amber La Croix, Yojairo Lomeli, Marina Lukyanchuk, Deniz McGee, Linda Mills, Liz Momblanco, Sandy Patton, Bryan Ranallo, Christian Unverzagt, Kasey Vliet, Claudia Wigger. Student Exhibition Fellows: Kristen Gandy, Ramon Hernandez, Christopher Locke, Rubin Quarcoopome, Salam Rida, Diana Tsai.

Anyone Corporation
Brendan Bashin-Sullivan, Brian Butterfield, Cynthia Davidson, Apexa Patel, Chelsea Spencer

Support provided by
US Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Af- fairs; Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope; Princeton University School of Architecture; Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts; Dassault Systèmes; Elise Jaffe + Jeffrey Brown; American Institute of Architects; Architectural Record/BNP Media; John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan; University of Michigan Office of the Provost; Deshler; GS3 Global; GTM USA; Southern California Institute of Architecture; Harvard University Graduate School of Design; University of Michigan Museum of Art; Shinola; Gruppo Campari; Westin Europa & Regina, Venice; Microsoft HoloLens/Trimble

Detroit Advisory Board
Elysia Borowy-Reeder, Maurice Cox, Milton S.F. Curry, Julie Egan, Malik Goodwin, Toni L. Griffin, Dan Kinkead, Oliver Ragsdale, Thomas J. Sherry, Mark Wallace, Lawrence Williamson

Detroit Community Meeting Leaders and Advisers
Dan Carmody, Ouida Jones, Dan Kinkead, Maria Salinas, Thomas J. Sherry, Kari Smith, Samuel Smith, Bishop Corletta Vaughn, Mark Wallace, Kathy Wendler, Theresa Zajac

US Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs
Jill Staggs, Barbara Jones

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Related theme
Biennale Architettura 2016
Reporting From The Front: the International Exhibition with 88 participants, 65 National Participations, 3 Special Projects, and 20 Collateral Events
View theme