Venice 2016 – With The Architectural Imagination exhibition, Detroit visionary future goes on show at the U.S. Pavilion in Venice Biennale (Giardini). Curators Monica Ponce de León and Cynthia Davidson invited 12 practices to spend time in four different neighbourhoods of the post-industrial metropolis, listen to locals’ aspirations and then propose architectural solutions that would allow the city to bounce back. On show architectural models, drawings and videos that re-imagine possible better futures.
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Detroit used to embody invention and progress: it was the birthplace of the automobile and Motown, here Martin Luther King Jr. envisioned his dream. Today it looms in the public consciousness as a ruin-city with dramatic population loss, desolate neighbourhoods, abandoned buildings, and sharp racial divides.
“But now that Detroit has emerged from bankruptcy, there is a certain urgency in the air to plan for its possible futures… And become a model for other post-industrial cities” says curator Cynthia Davidson to ArchiPanic.
“We asked to the studios three things: engage with the communities, be visionary and think outside of any particular economic or business interest. And we learned that communities ask for visionary” added curator Monica Ponce de León to ArchiPanic. “They know that what is going to be done tomorrow for their immediate benefit is gonna be very limited in the long future. The learned that if they only aspired for what can be achieved in the short term, probably nothing relevant will be done at all” [Watch curators’ comment below].
Los Angeles based practice Pita & Bloom proposed an elevated square-park in the culturally vibrant MexicoTown in Southwest Detroit. The New Zocalo proposal is an urban platform hovering over a highly-dense area. Gardens and oblique walkways cross colourful texture paving and link to clusters of buildings hosting cultural and commercial venues.
“Locals main aspiration was to have a large public area for social engagement, a true plaza or “zocalo”. By raising the public square, the project affords also visitors to gain a new view on the surrounding neighbourhood, detach from the dense traffic and even provide a large parking area on grade” say said Florencia Pita and Jackilin Hah Bloom to ArchiPanic.
Preston Scott Cohen Inc. re-imagined and revolved one of the most extreme expressions on Detroit and America crisis in architecture: the Woodland Plan and the Michigan Theatre, a baroque italianate vault that was brutally repurposed as a parking garage. The project introduces a great passage to the water through an helically ascending courtyard in the middle of a garage structure that will transform, over time, into a building of great importance to the city. “The Revolving Detroit project invites visitors to redevelop the waterfront. It is the very inverse of decline” say at Preston Scott Cohen Inc.
Greg Lynn FORM redesigned the derelict car factory Packard Plant. “Industrial architecture has always been defined by an infrastructural network of ports, railroads, freeways and airports. Our Center for Fulfillment, Knowledge and Innovation adapts to contemporary needs and cutting-edge technologies” says Greg Lynn.
The proposal keeps the historic building’s first two floors for practical use and urban logistics and gives to the original structure a hair-cut above the second floor. Here structures that resemble human-hearts, hosting incorporate innovations in robotic manufacturing, autonomous transportation and and online retail.
Chicago-based architect Marshall Brown envisions a city within the city at Dequindre Cut. The DCA – Dequindre Civic Academy proposal is a complex that expands both vertically and horizontally. A monumental civic project made in concrete with tinted green calcite aggregate and two towers that aims to become a new refuge for collectivity in a landscape of growing isolation.