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Detroit is a Zombie An Architecture for Revitalization

Detroit is a Zombie An Architecture for Revitalization Acknowledgements: Leslie Ryan Adam Grove

Approved by:

Vuslat Demircay Architecture Graduate Program Chair

A Thesis Presented to the Faculty of NewSchool of Architecture + Design In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Architecture

Charles Crawford Graduate Thesis Program Coordinator

Graduate Thesis Book Prepared by Laura Rodriguez San Diego, CA

Leslie Ryan Advisor

Copyright Notice Š2012 by Laura Rodriguez

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Woodward’s Plan for Detroit ("Augustus woodward's original," )

© Laura Rodriguez

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Detroit Auto

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100 years

Available from showthread.php?t=468395 © Laura Rodriguez

Neighborhood Vacancy Map

Š Laura Rodriguez


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,++*$$#&8*=%]B#$*8/2%h'"4%f%?7,4<8*12%!'))2% VWXX_ >*-1'#-2%",;#4<%-"*%8,1<*$-%U51#+,4% U.*1#+,4%7'798,:'4%'5%,4/%+#-/%#4%-"*%S4#-*)% ?-,-*$2%#$%$:88%8'$#4<%-"'$*%#4",&#-,4-$=%!"#$% $"#b%",$%+,9$*)%&89*\+'88,1%U51#+,4%U.*1#+,4$% -'%&*+'.*%)#$#4+8#4*)%-'%*41'88%-"*#1% +"#8)1*4%#4%$+"''8$%-",-%)'4D-%*4+'91,<*%,% $9++*$$598%*)9+,:'42%,8'4<%6#-"% 4*#<"&'1"'')$%-",-%#4;#-*%+1#.*%,4)%8,+(% $,5*-/=%%>*-1'#-%#$%4'-%,8'4*2%,$%'-"*1%.,n'1% +#:*$%,1'94)%-"*%G#)6*$-%,1*%)*,8#4<%6#-"% $#.#8,1%#$$9*$%,$%6*88=%>9*%-'%-"*%)*+1*,$*%#4% U51#+,4%U.*1#+,4$2%-"*%+9$-'.,1/%7'8#:+,8% ,4)%&9$#4*$$%,$$'+#,:'4$%6#-"#4%-"'$*%#44*1\ +#-/%,1*,$%,1*%)#$7*1$#4<=%]31,/2%?-*;*42%VWXX_% !"#$%+'..'4%-"*.*%,.'4<%-"*%19$-\&*8-% +#:*$%591-"*1$%-"*%)*+8#4*%#4%*+'4'.#+% )*;*8'7.*4-2%.,(#4<%#-%4*,1%#.7'$$#&8*%5'1% 7'798,:'4%<1'6-"=%

Š Laura Rodriguez

Š Laura Rodriguez

As residents have moved out of the city, there have been significant changes to the state of housing and vacancy. Out of the 821,693 total housing units in 2010, 702,749 were occupied, a decrease of 8.5% since 2000. Vacant housing has had a dramatic increase of 106.1%, rising from 57,705 units in 2000 to 118,994 in 2010, leading to an increase of blight and crime. Of total vacant buildings, 54,514 are not for sale or rent. These changes in neighborhoods have created unsafe and undesirable living conditions, as well as promoting a negative image to those who would move into Detroit. >*-1'#-%$9o*1$%51'.%-"*%)'49-%*o*+-2% 6"*1*%91&,4%$71,68%,4)%$9&91&#,%$911'94)% ,4%*.7-/%+#-/%6"'$*%)*;*8'7.*4-%6,$%&,$*)% '4%,%5,#8*)%#4)9$-1/=%U%),94:4<%aW2WWW% ,&,4)'4*)%&9#8)#4<$%*E#$-2%,$%6*88%,4% ,&94),4+*%'5%'7*4%8,4)%-",-%#$%4'6%&*#4<% 1*5*11*)%-'%,$%,4%[91&,4%e*8)A=%?#<4#e+,4-% '7*4%$7,+*%6#-"%4'%#4-*4)*)%7917'$*%78,/$%,% .,n'1%1'8*%#4%-"*%+#-/D$%8'6\)*4$#-/%#45*+:'4=

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THE DISEASE AND THE DESERT Affecting the majority of the African American race, diabetes is a major reason for high death and morbidity rates. As a result, Detroit, being predominately inhabited by African Americans, has a high diagnoses for diabetes followed by high death rates. Statistically, in 2000, one out of every ten African Americans in the city was identified with having the disease. In comparison to all age groups throughout Michigan, Detroit is the leader in deaths caused by side effects associated with diabetes. Considering the different age related death rates as a result of diabetes in the nation, Detroit alone, has a superior figure. (Schulz, Amy, Kannan, Srimathi, Zenk, Shannon, Odoms-Young, Angela, HollisNeely, Teretha, Nwankwo, Robin, Lockett, Murlisa & Ridella, William, 2004) Lack of physical activity, combined

with obesity, are major contributors in the development of diabetes. Women of African American decent are more likely to develop the disease than both their male and female white counterparts along with black men. In Detroit specifically, self-assessed women of color were not getting much exercise. An exceedingly low figure of only 5% were said to be getting some type of demanding activity for at least 30 minutes a day while only 15% did some temperate exercise. Healthy eating was not especially predominant either, with only 23% reporting to digest the recommended serving of fruits and vegetables daily. Naturally, personal actions and choices are a major factor in the contribution of oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s physical condition. However, reasons for individual conduct can be subjective by ones environment. Social determinants such as economic, political, historical and environmental circumstances play a large

role in oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s behavioral choices. (Schulz, Amy, Kannan, Srimathi, Zenk, Shannon, Odoms-Young, Angela, Hollis-Neely, Teretha, Nwankwo, Robin, Lockett, Murlisa & Ridella, William, 2004) The pressing health concern facing the city of Detroit is in dire need of a solution. However, no â&#x20AC;&#x153;quick fixâ&#x20AC;? is readily available or plausible. By implementing small-scale improvements, a rippling effect will be produced, allowing for health and other public determinants of wellbeing to develop. Access to health care along with having the option to make healthier individual decisions is important for change to be conceivable. (Schulz, Amy, Kannan, Srimathi, Zenk, Shannon, OdomsYoung, Angela, Hollis-Neely, Teretha, Nwankwo, Robin, Lockett, Murlisa & Ridella, William, 2004) Distinguishing areas of concern is important in the process of improving a community in need. Realizing these disparities among races, in regards to

maintaining health, will allow for steps to be taken in providing grocery stores with access to quality foods. By creating an atmosphere that welcomes exercise and movement, it will have positive effects as well. Long term adjustments are done through the start of short term goals within racially inhibited areas. These goals are determined by the help of the community as a whole and an engagement of residents, organizations, and trained networks. Using all resources possible to improve faults will help build a sustainable strong community and lessen racial inequalities. (Schulz, Amy, Kannan, Srimathi, Zenk, Shannon, OdomsYoung, Angela, Hollis-Neely, Teretha, Nwankwo, Robin, Lockett, Murlisa & Ridella, William, 2004)

The issue of unhealthy community in Detroit has affected its population loss and prohibits its future growth. Food deserts, un-walkable neighborhoods, and poor education are major factors that have led to the unfortunate quality of life in Detroit’s communities. It seems as though poor health conditions of residents has been put at the back of the list, behind a very long line of problems. However, this issue is a human-scale, everyday concern that has contributed to population loss. After all, who wants to live in a city that doesn’t provide the necessities of life to its residents? Detroiters suffer the most from heart disease and diabetes - but why? The reason is that Detroit residents lack access to food resources needed to eat healthy. Some of the reasons for this include having a limited number of grocery stores available, inadequate public transportation systems, limited locally grown fresh foods that are

received by residents, including those who attend public schools, and a lack of education about healthy habits. Proper nutrition coincides with adequate physical activity in achieving good health. (A call for, 2009) The cities that we live in can provide and promote these healthy lifestyles. Several factors for Detroit’s inability to provide this healthy infrastructure exist; Detroit’s lack of recreation centers and parks, as well as funding to supply staff to run these centers, the existence of crime in the city, unsafe and vacant areas which attract this criminal activity, a lack of walking and bike paths, pollution, inadequate public transportation, and public facilities, like schools, do not accept community use after hours. (A call for, 2009) The blue-collar community of African Americans is at an elevated risk for the aforementioned disease as a result of the lack of decent grocery stores, and fresh products and

Š Laura Rodriguez

© Laura Rodriguez

© Laura Rodriguez

location. (Schulz, Amy, Kannan, Srimathi, Zenk, Shannon, Odoms-Young, Angela, Hollis-Neely, Teretha, Nwankwo, Robin, Lockett, Murlisa & Ridella, William, 2004)

1. Diet-related health outcomes in both Detroit and Metro Detroit are worse in areas of food imbalance, even after accounting for differences in income, education, and race.

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2. Within the Metro Detroit area, the City of Detroit suffers most. Roughly 550,000 Detroit residents – over half of the city’s total population – live in areas that are far out-of-balance in terms of day-to-day food availability. This means that they must travel twice as far or further to reach the closest main- stream grocer as they do to reach the closest fringe food location, such as a fast food restaurant or a convenience store.

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3. Considerable life is lost as a result. To measure this effect, we correlated Food Balance Scores (the distance to the closest grocery, divided by the distance to the closest fringe food location) with dietrelated Years of Potential Life Lost (YPLL) calculations… For Detroit, diet-related YPLL for the average tract in the in-balance

zones is roughly 53 years per 100 people, and for the average tract in the most out-ofbalance zones, diet-related YPLL is 64 years per 100 people. This means that there is an additional 11 years of collective life lost per every 100 people on average in those most out-of-balance Detroit tracts. In Metro Detroit, there is an additional 7 years of collective life lost in the most out-ofbalance tracts per every 100 people compare to the in-balance zone. We are careful not to suggest cause and effect or to generalize our findings to the individual. However, we again find evidence that communities with food imbalance are more likely to experience worse diet-related health outcomes than other communities, even when those communities have similar socio-economic characteristics. The types of food options we live closest to â&#x20AC;&#x201C; along with many other factors â&#x20AC;&#x201C; are related to our health.â&#x20AC;? (Gallagher, 2007)

There are plenty of retailers that sell food in Detroit, so the question is, why the food imbalance? The answer is that while there are large amounts of retailers selling, they are not selling the fresh, healthy food required to live healthy lifestyles. A major problem for families receiving the aid of USDA Food Stamps is that only 8% of all Detroit retailers are grocery stores, leaving the rest as fringe food locations like convenience stores, gas stations, liquor stores, party stores, dollar stores, bakeries, and pharmacies. Along with unhealthy foods high in salt, fat, and sugar content, these stores sell alcohol, tobacco, and lottery tickets. Due to this high concentration and wide-spread distribution of these fringe stores, the negative health effects are felt beyond the poor and well into the middle and upper classes. Regardless of status, residents will find it extremely difficult to live a healthy lifestyle in these

circumstances, and will become accustomed to living with this fast-food and fridge store oriented conditions. (Gallagher, 2007) “Looking ahead, food imbalance will likely have a com-pounding public health effect on communities as residents’ age in place, and on future generations that grow up and re- main in food imbalanced areas. Unless access to healthy food greatly improves, we predict that, over time, those residents will continue to have greater rates of premature illness and death from diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, hypertension, obesity, kidney failure, and other diet-related complications. Food imbalance will likely leave its mark directly on the quality, productivity, and length of life, and indirectly on health care costs, school test scores, and the economic vitality of the city and the region.” (Gallagher, 2007)

What can be done about the issue of Detroit’s food desert crisis? “Identifying market as well as needs-based solutions that promote access to nutritious and healthy food choices will require input and support from the food desert residents themselves as well as from grocers, banks, brokers, developers, planners, health advocates, educators, government, and foundations if we plan to achieve even a modest level of success.” (Gallagher, 2007) As stated earlier in this chapter, the answers to the problems of Detroit lie in a new plan; a plan to accept the loss of population and of industry and that will also promote healthy communities with walkable streets, dense neighborhoods, zoned developments, and introduces a new building typology for iconic structures.

Gallagherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s table of diet related deaths and distances to grocery stores in Detroit communities Š Laura Rodriguez


“Barn’s burned down - now I can see the moon.”- Mizuta Masahide

Architecturally, the act of “un-building” has grown significantly over the act of building in Detroit. Between 1970 and 2000, one-third of the city’s housing stock was demolished; almost 161,000 dwellings. (Byles, 2006) The incredible loss of 900,000 residents since 1950 is the leading cause for such acts. With middle-class industrial families moving into the suburbs, these homes were left vacant, a majority of them falling into abandonment and disrepair. Those home owners who would default on their mortgages left the property to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, who would in turn give it to the state, who would then give it to the city; and the city would demolish the structure, for by then it would be a dangerous vacant building, with urban miners ripping out brick, copper, and other architecturally significant artifacts, leaving only a hub for criminal activity. (Byles, 2006) Once demolished, the remnants would be dumped into the basement and the whole site topped with dirt; graveyard construction, yet an effective and inexpensive demolition technique.

Unbuilt Detroit

("Detroit: Urbanist opportunity," 2009) Š Laura Rodriguez

Additional strategies for erasing Detroit’s structures have been via the use of fire, in both controlled and uncontrolled methods. October 30th brings the annual “Devils Night” to Detroit, where thousands of arsonists take to the streets and burn abandoned structures; some burning their own properties for profit, others for sport. Several suburbanites have even taken delight in this event, driving down to watch the fires as if it were the Fourth of July. To add some perspective to this “holiday of burning”, in 1984, the city's worst devil’s night, 810 fires burned for three days over the Halloween weekend. (Byles, 2006) However, this dark predicament brought some amount of convenience, for the city of Detroit began to privately corroborate the arsonists' illegal activities "by developing, funding, and implementing one of the largest and most sweeping demolition programs in the history of American

urbanism." (Byles, 2006) Combined with the legitimatized demolition of blighted dwellings in the 1990’s – brought upon by Detroit’s Vacant Land Survey, in which the city sought to relocate residents from blighted areas and demolish derelict structures – this method of burning provided a zero-cost way of eliminating vacant and dangerous buildings in the city, hence why today approximately 40-square miles (Davidson, 2012) of vacant land exists in Detroit. Single homes remain on city blocks that were once filled to the brim with a booming population of 1.8 million in 1950. Gone are these structures and urban fields remain, leaving the lone homes in the prairies to survive on their own. Yet municipal and city services must still run to these neighborhoods; lights must still go on, trash must be picked up, and water must be provided, for it is these things that make a city livable, and Detroit is not yet ready to

accept the defeat of uninhabitability. “But I’ve been sitting empty for the last fifteen years. Now the land under me is worth more than me. Fifteen years has passed since I last felt the stream of electricity, gas and water run through me. I helplessly watched the streets and neighborhoods around me getting worse. But I tried my hardest to look proper, and make a solid contribution to this community. I played my part. … But the city has abandoned me.” -24620: The Fugitive House, Detroit, Kyong Park

Yet what of the buildings that currently stand vacant in the city? As businesses and residents have moved on, the abandoned structures remain, serving as reminders of a once prosperous industrial America – of a motor city whose engines have come to a staggering halt. The images that one encounters in the city are astounding – late nineteenth and early twentieth century skyscrapers devoid of life, trees growing through roofs of factories, as a “return to nature” takes place right in front of Detroiters eyes – these architectural landmarks lay in wait, slowing decaying in anticipation of new occupants, of new industry, of new life. Detroit remains a city synonymous with “Ruin Porn” – the term used to describe the attraction of tourists and artists to the ghost buildings – travelers trying to get a glimpse of the death of the great American city. According to the rest of the world, Detroit has become a landmark for urban decay, and should be immortalized in photos, books, and documentaries. To them, it stands as the decrepit Motown, the broken Motor City, on display for all to see; to look at for a brief moment and say, “That is so sad”. However, 700,000 residents of this once prosperous place remain ready, willing, eager, and hungry for gentrification. Adversity breeds strength, and by way of innovation, planning, and new industrial life, Detroit and its residents may yet show the world how to wake up and (re)build a city.

United Artist’s Theater

(Doerr, 2010)

© Laura Rodriguez


YOUNGSTOWN, 2010 In the case of Youngstown, Ohio, a city whom has suffered with Detroit in loss of industry (steel) and population, a new approach to urban planning was enacted to turn the blighted town around. This plan, Youngstown 2010, embraced their shrinkage and envisioned reshaping community zones incrementally and voluntarily. Town hall meetings and positive advertising were the catalyst for creating the vision of the new plan. Youngstown defined new strengths in the aftermath of a failed steel industry â&#x20AC;&#x201C; universities, health care, industrial clusters, and an artist community â&#x20AC;&#x201C; creation of new opportunities for growth. In this plan, 31 neighborhoods were consolidated to 11 neighborhood clusters, all with similar demographics and characteristics, and residents were moved from areas of blight to healthier communities by way of incentive programs. The leftover areas of the city were set aside for recreation, urban agriculture, and industrial businesses who needed the room. Housing developments were prohibited in unhealthy areas in order to direct attention to the most economically self-sustaining districts. (Gallagher, 2010) Through the efforts of incentive programs, and community rezoning and consolidation, Youngstown created a vision and example for realistically planning for shrinkage among all rustbelt cities.

Youngstown Current Land Use

(Current Land Use, 2004) © Laura Rodriguez

Youngstown Future Land Use

FutureLand Use, 2004) © Laura Rodriguez


In 1980, Turin, manufacturer of Fiat automobiles, suffered a devastating 1.2 million, or 25% population loss at the hands of a collapse in their auto industry. Forced to create new industry to survive, Turin looked to its historically rich past for answers. Based upon a citizenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s extensive cinema collection, Turin created a National Museum of Cinema in their iconic Mole Antonelliana, the cities tallest building. This single act allowed for a new film industry to emerge, where film festivals draw visitors and filmmakers alike to the city. The success of this industry had a direct effect on city planning and infrastructure, where empty train tracks are turned into boulevards, boulevards host tourist attractions such as chocolate festivals, and whose effects are seen in development of additional industries. Turin has since then hosted the XX Olympics, and started referring to itself as the hub for European travel and culture. (Gallagher, 2010) While one industry may collapse, other opportunities are created for advancement. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Paradoxically, the deeper the crisis, the bigger the chance to change and innovate.â&#x20AC;? (Gallagher, 2010)

Turin, Italy

(Italian Language, 2004) Š Laura Rodriguez


The Green Heart of Holland, a vast farm in the center of a ring of cities, gives identity and purpose to the Netherlands. â&#x20AC;&#x153;This farm system establishes a form that encourages biodiversity in the urban, suburban, and agricultural communities.â&#x20AC;? (Harrison)

Green Heart of Holland Map

Š Laura Rodriguez


The iconic structure has played a vital role in the development of cities. Buildings of importance, like those of cathedrals and city halls, reflected function through architectural form, and were meant to stand apart from everyday structures because of their public worth. (Jencks, 2005) As with many of Detroitâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s large icons, the Michigan Central Depot train station was designed at a massive scale due to its once functioning transit, which served millions of people each year. Iconic structures are essential because they are often the focus of speculation and negative attacks due to their frequent controversial and non-conforming architecture. However, while these buildings may receive much negative attention, the attention is welcomed, as it generates publicity. (Jencks, 2005) While Detroitâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s past icons receive attention for their state of decay and neglect, few architectural projects of note are being built, prohibiting the city from obtaining the publicity that iconic buildings need.

Michigan Central Depot Train Station

(Braun, 2012) Š Laura Rodriguez

Iconic architecture can have a great impact on the future of creative thinking and may be compared to contemporary art of the 1950’s. These buildings cannot simply be thrown up with a sign that says they are monumental. They, like art, must appreciate in value over time, and prove themselves to be iconic as well. (Jencks, 2005) Examining past architectural icons may inform decisions as to how to design these types of structures within Detroit. With Frank Gehry’s 1997 design of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, he destroyed the past constraints of square-form and taboos, and created the first major iconic building. The museum generated an extreme amount of interest due to its curving forms and titanium skin that typical and initial criticism was forgotten. (Jencks, 2005) Iconic architecture can play a major role in transforming the economy of rustbelt cities, due to the attention they evoke. The Bilbao effect is proof of this, as people began traveling to the city to visit

the museum, which caused the economy to improve substantially. (Jencks, 2005) It would stand to reason that construction of iconic buildings in Detroit would improve the current state of the economy and perhaps, bring a new type of energy and industry to the city. Additionally, if media attention were focused on the building of controversial and influential architecture in Detroit, it could have positive outcomes. According to Jencks, the media has popularized iconic architecture and its positive effects on industrial city’s economies. Timing, the skill of the architect, and the proper amount of initiative to overcome risk can double investments within three years. (Jencks, 2005) Importance of the function and location of the iconic building are typical features, yet it should be as inspirational to the area as iconic religious symbols of the past. (Jencks, 2005) It is crucial to identify an appropriate site and context for Detroit’s new iconic structure, as it should bring a

Guggenheim Bilbao

("A2: Case study," 2010) Š Laura Rodriguez

Sydney Opera House

(2011) (2011)

Š Laura Rodriguez

positive interest to the community with which it is placed. Metaphors are features that are often associated with iconic buildings. These metaphors are translated though visual images of logos or memories, and can be called upon through the building’s form. (Jencks, 2005) In Detroit’s case, metaphors may call upon its rich history as visual identifiers for its iconic architecture. One popular structure that does this is the Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia. Because of its unusual form, and it being so close to the harbor, this building has been associated with white sails, among other things. Metaphors within architecture reveal that people have strong reactions to unusual and provocative forms and that they remind them of images that they already know. (Jencks, 2005) Yet, while iconic buildings may have unusual form and metaphors, they should be relatable to the public. (Jencks, 2005)

Examples of iconic architectures that rely on metaphor: The first iconic architecture that has been strongly related and compared to metaphoric images is Le Corbusier’s Ronchamp church, designed in the 1950’s. A change in typical architectural form for the time gave way for criticism, yet led it to become a national symbol of France, its images being displayed on stamps, advertisements, and newspaper articles. Due to its four “ear” forms or, acoustic curves, the church was often seen as and compared to a nun’s cowl, a monk’s hood, mother and children, praying hands, and a ship at sea. (Jencks, 2005) Before ever be built, a building can become inherently iconic if it is involved in a popular media event, such as the new structures to be built at Ground Zero in New York City. The influence of the media over a long period of time can heighten anticipation for the opening of a structure, bringing much desired attention to the process. (Jencks, 2005) In recent years ,

Detroit has been the center of much negative media attention due to its decline in population, loss of industry and jobs, corrupt government, and state of architectural decay. With the building of an iconic structure, the eye of the media could be refocused, heightening the anticipation for such a structure, and ultimately creating a positive impact on Detroit. At times, metaphors can cause negative reactions by the public, and may identify a structure in unexpected ways. This typically happens when architects attempt to combine unfamiliar sculptural form with function. An example of this is Renzo Pianoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Parco della Musica concert hall that has been compared to such things as half peeled onions, scarabs, armadillos, insect carapace, and Japanese armor. This is due to the rounded forms that rotate around the central amphitheater, and the gray skin made of lead that looks similar to shingles or a tortoise shell. (Jencks, 2005) For Detroit, examples of this type of accidentally

negative metaphors can be avoided by exploring options of form that closely relate to the community with which it is being built, while making sure that it does not fall into the trap of being a forgotten icon. Jencks says, a large problem with monumental architecture today is that they fail to represent or stir memories of an event that people find significant. As times and styles change, the building no longer brings to mind the intended images and memories, causing the building to become as insignificant as the memory. (Jencks, 2005) Iconic structures and tourism go hand in hand. Tourists travel to Accademia in Florence to see the statue of David, yet they typically care only for the statue itself, because the statue is the icon. When Frank Gehry designed the museum in Bilbao, he created a wonder that drew tourists to the building, creating an architectural icon. (Charney, 2011) Detroit needs an icon as

Bilbao once did, to draw tourists and stimulate economy.

city - a building that correctly fits within the context and history of Detroit.

While described as a “spectacularly beautiful and sculptural building,” there are oppositions to the Guggenheim Bilbao museum:


“The project fails miserably as a public space, missing a significant opportunity to celebrate and support the cultural and community life that is pulsating throughout the city. Situated prominently on the waterfront near the center of Bilbao, the building interrupts the life of the city, and is an insult to pedestrians who would like to use the space for anything other than gawking at the building. “(Kent) The cultural heritage of Detroit presents a significant opportunity to not only design a beautiful building that draws media and social attention, but one that can enhance the lives of the residents of the

The Hagia Sophia, built between 532 and 537 and located in Istanbul, is one of the most influential structures of the Byzantine era. Now a museum, the former church is famous for its large 102’ diameter dome and 182’ high dome ceilings, mosaics, the Loge of the Empress, the Marble Door, the Sultan’s Lodge, Mahmut I’s Library, and the Marble Jars. ("Top 10 iconic buildings ," 2011) Moving from museum to royal residence, and back to public museum, the 12th century built Louvre has been thru many transformations, but remains a clearly recognizable museum due to its important collection of pieces, its glass pyramid, and its history. ("Top 10 iconic buildings ," 2011)

The Chrysler Building ("New york architecture," 2012) Š Laura Rodriguez

Built in Dubai, the iconic Burj Al Arab is a luxury hotel that is designed to mimic the sail of a ship. It towers above the rest of the city on a man-made island in the Persian Gulf and houses a massive atrium, aquarium, two restaurants, and 202 suites. ("Top 10 iconic buildings ," 2011) The Sydney Opera House, constructed in 1958, is an internationally known theater that is known as a cultural symbol for Australia. Speculation continues as to the metaphor the form of the building takes on, some of which include shells, waves, and jumping dolphins. ("Top 10 iconic buildings ," 2011) The Chrysler Building, located in New York City and built in 1930, is an artdeco skyscraper that helped form the New York skyline. During the time, it was the world’s tallest building, adding publicity to the already iconic style of structure. ("Top 10 iconic buildings ," 2011)

The Taj Mahal is one of the most recognized structures in the world. Originally built as a tomb for the 1648 Emperor’s favorite wife, the “palace” was built by 20,000 workers. ("Top 10 iconic buildings ," 2011) The Eiffel Tower was an architectural and engineering accomplishment for its time. Constructed in 1889, the entrance marked the centennial of the French Revolution and the form became associated with the Paris skyline. ("Top 10 iconic buildings ," 2011) The 316 foot tall tower that houses London’s Big Ben was constructed in 1858. The 13 ton, 23 square-foot clock was an addition to the Palace of Westminster and is regularly sought out and visited by tourists. ("Top 10 iconic buildings ," 2011)

The Colosseum ("How many days," 2010) © Laura Rodriguez

Pyramids of Giza ("Ancient world wonders," 2010) © Laura Rodriguez

One of the most notable structures in the world, the Colosseum is the largest Roman amphitheater ever constructed. Built in 80 AD, the building sat 50,000 and was used to host gladiatorial games and other public spectacles. It was repurposed in the medieval period as housing, workshops, a fortress, a quarry, a religious order and Christian shrine. The history and size of this structure have allowed it to become a major tourist attraction. ("Top 10 iconic buildings ," 2011) The pyramids of Giza are as intriguing as they are impressive, in their form and endurance against the test of time. Once the tallest structures in the world, these also served as tombs for pharaohs of the past. The questions surrounding the methods that these structures were built have intrigued man-kind and along with their size, history, and function, are the reasons why they are icons of architecture. ("Top 10 iconic buildings ," 2011)

There are several characteristics that identify the previous list with being iconic; large scale, significant technologies and form for the time, historically important, time generated interest, public functions like hotels, museums, theaters, and churches, and interesting or metaphorically charged form. These characteristics are what have generated attention and have allowed these structures to flourish. It would stand to reason that some of these qualities should be considered when designing iconic architecture for Detroit.


Detroit Planning Strategy PLANNING STRATEGY MAP Detroit Planning Map Š Laura Rodriguez

THE VACCINE For the initial planning process for Detroit, three different strategies were applied utilizing Policy, Program, and Infrastructure.

POLICY Policy utilizes incentive programs to encourage residents to move from the areas of blight, which, when studying demographic information, were found to be the core of the city surrounding Hamtramck, and Highland Park. By doing this, density is created throughout the remainder of the city. The next phase of the strategy is to use the now vacant core and create mass urban agriculture that combats Detroit’s “food desert” and provides food for its residents.

Current Community Density

Š Laura Rodriguez

Future Growth Potential

Š Laura Rodriguez

Š Laura Rodriguez

Š Laura Rodriguez

THE FARM Occurring within this now empty urban core, is the development of a commercialscale agricultural system, capable of becoming part of the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s main-stream food supply. This urban-farm utilizes existing infrastructure for efficient development; roads are used for transportation of goods, plot layouts, and orientation, municipal infrastructure is used for collection of urban wastewater for irrigation, and some existing built structures are repurposed for green houses, silos, and food production. The plan allows for 17,209 acres of land use for agricultural development. Currently, only 7 residents reside per acre in this area, whereas high-density cities boast 25 residents per acre. It stands to reason then, that creating urban agriculture in Detroit is an efficient use of land and infrastructure, paving the way for a new industry.

The Urban Farm

Š Laura Rodriguez

PROGRAM Program is a strategy to reshape community zones via freeway boundaries, creating walk-able, pedestrian-friendly communities. This strategy also identifies the â&#x20AC;&#x153;missing piecesâ&#x20AC;? of neighborhoods and develops typologies for architectural in-fill and rehabilitation of architecturally significant buildings, aka, the series of iconic structures. THE COMMUNITIES Downtown Midtown New Center Corktown Southwest Rouge Redford Jefferies Jefferson Greenfield Palmer Tireman

Community Map

Š Laura Rodriguez

INFRASTRUCTURE The last planning strategy is Infrastructure, which through the aid of non-profit organizations, would work to revitalize the main thoroughfares of Detroit, specifically Grand River, Michigan Avenue, Fort Street, Woodward Avenue, Gratiot Avenue, and Jefferson; Creating a series of greenways that build on the presence of the existing architecture and create community connections to the core urban farm.

Greenway Map

© Laura Rodriguez

Greenway Diagram

© Laura Rodriguez

Within each of the 13 neighborhoods created, opportunities for nodes of activity are identified along each of the major boulevards. The â&#x20AC;&#x153;iconic towerâ&#x20AC;? is challenged as typologies for rehabilitation of existing vacant structures emerges, creating identifiable icons throughout the city. These structures are then programmed to accept housing for moving residents, food production and processing to supply the community with employment opportunities, farmers markets, and additional functions to attract new residents and to serve the existing community.

THE CLUSTERS Within each of the communities identified, a typology for new community centers emerge. Site selection begins by identifying opportunities of rehabilitation of architecturally significant buildings along each of the major boulevards and greenways. Each community cluster, or node, is programmed to accept moving residents and the new farming industry. The following is the program for each of these community clusters: Housing within or near the “icon” to accept moving residents from the core, a farmers market for community residents to buy local produce, the “Food Lab”, which provides education to residents for implementing locally grown foods into their lifestyles, a “Detroit Made” Market that allows community residents access to locally created goods, and a manufacturing and processing plant which not only provides the community with employment opportunities, but serves them by putting the farm’s grown items into production; these items may then be purchased in each of the “Detroit Made” stores in the communities. The last programmatic element in the cluster is the “iconic” function, which utilizes examples of past iconic successes to serve each community in a way that is appropriate. An example of one of these clusters is explored further in the next chapter, but who’s program contains a farmers market, food lab, processing and manufacturing plant, medium density housing, “Detroit Made” Market, and a culinary school.

Location of Housing in relation to the Icon

Š Laura Rodriguez

Farmers Market set beneath intervention structure

Š Laura Rodriguez

Food Lab and for community residents

Š Laura Rodriguez

Manufacture and Processing

Š Laura Rodriguez

Jedfferies Community Icon


Š Laura Rodriguez

#/%!+.('" The planning strategy for Detroit begins at a macro level, and ends at the micro – an architectural response to new agriculture industry, which paves the way for economic, cultural, and physical growth. Strategies of interventions are explored by the use of penetrating glass forms, ultimately creating mediation between the contemporary and the traditional. In order to address the 80,000 abandoned buildings that stand in the city, vacant structures were identified along the newly created greenways within each community. Criteria for selection is based upon vicinity mapping, and each “icon” must be large enough to accommodate a complex cross-program, as well as a close approximation to schools, bus routes, and businesses. The use of “slicing”, “wrapping”, and “extruding” glass forms create a recognizable building typology throughout every community in Detroit. In order to convey a clear connection between the urban farm industry and each community, the glass structures take on the form of inhabitable greenhouses; utilizing the same building materials for each rehabilitated structure. This strategy of intervention conveys the message that while these vacant and iconic structures may be rehabbed, the project itself is more than an architectural restoration of abandoned buildings, but is a system of identifiable growth and place making in the city. Additionally, the strategy challenges the “iconic” tower and serves as architectural in-fill of vacant land, taking the position that vacant structures and open space must be addressed before Detroit’s architecture can be built up.

Jefferies Map

Grand River Greenway, Housing, and Icon

© Laura Rodriguez

Jefferies Section

© Laura Rodriguez

Floor Plans and Program

Š Laura Rodriguez

Floor Plans and Program

Š Laura Rodriguez


Book Tower Rehabilitation


Š Laura Rodriguez


© Laura Rodriguez


© Laura Rodriguez


© Laura Rodriguez

New Center Rehabilitation

Š Laura Rodriguez

Palmer Street Rehabilitation

Š Laura Rodriguez

Š Laura Rodriguez

Jefferson Existing Structure

Š Laura Rodriguez

Jefferson Rehabilitation

Š Laura Rodriguez

Tiireman Existing Structure

Š Laura Rodriguez

Tireman Rehabilitation

Š Laura Rodriguez

Southwest Existing Structure

© Laura Rodriguez

Southwest Rehabilitation

© Laura Rodriguez

Connor Existing Structure

Š Laura Rodriguez

Connor Rehabilitation

Š Laura Rodriguez

Rouge Existing Structure

© Laura Rodriguez

Rouge Rehabilitation

© Laura Rodriguez

Greenfield Existing

© Laura Rodriguez

Greenfield Rehabilitation

© Laura Rodriguez

Redford Existing Structure

© Laura Rodriguez

Redford Rehabilitation

© Laura Rodriguez

Midtown Existing Structure

Š Laura Rodriguez

Midtown Rehabilitation

Š Laura Rodriguez

Final Presentation Boards

Š Laura Rodriguez

THE AFTERMATH Implementation of these planning and rehabilitation strategies serves to densify communities, generate economic development, rehabilitate historically significant buildings, and create a sense of community ownership that may be the catalyst to revitalize Detroit; a lurking zombie-city it may be, but one that is nevertheless moving toward recovery.

BIBLIOGRAPHY Augustus woodward's original plan for detroit [Theater]. Available from Available from (2009). Detroit: Urbanist opportunity. (2009). [Web Photo]. Retrieved from

A2: Case study - frank gehry "guggenheim museum" bilbao, spain [Web]. (2010). Retrieved from um=1&hl=en&sa=N&biw=1009&bih=812&tbm=isch&tbnid=zdvj0d4RfnSPbM:&imgrefurl= 3479912&page=1&tbnh=137&tbnw=185&start=0&ndsp=16&ved=1t:429,r:3,s:0,i:111 (2011). Retrieved from Rome [Web]. (2012). Retrieved from Hagia sophia museum [Web]. (2010). Retrieved from Latin: Mythology of the louvre [Web]. (2012). Retrieved from New york architecture [Web]. (2012). Retrieved from How many days did it take to build the colosseum? [Web]. (2010). Retrieved from Ancient world wonders [Web]. (2010). Retrieved from Braun, J. (Photographer). (2012). Michigan central station. [Web Photo]. Retrieved from Semcog, Quick Facts. (2011, April 5). 2010 census data for city of detroit neighborhoods. Retrieved November 2, 2011, from 2010CensusDataDetroitQuickFacts.pdf Seelye, K. (2011, March 22). Detroit census confirms a desertion like no other. NY Times. Retrieved November 2, 2011, from _r=2 Detroit (city) QuickFacts from the US Census Bureau. (n.d.). Retrieved November 2, 2011, from Data Driven Detroit. (2011, August 22). Data Driven Detroit Analysis of Census 2000 and Census 2010 Data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved November 2, 2011, from http://

BIBLIOGRAPHY United States Census Bureau. (2011, November 3). 2010 census: How are census data used?. Retrieved November 3, 2011, from 2010-census:-how-are-census-data-used? Schulz, Amy, J., Gravlee, Clarence, C., Williams, David, R., Israel, Barbara, A., Mentz, Graciela, & Rowe, Zachary, (2006). Discrimination, symptoms of depression, and self-rated health among african american women in detroit:results from a longitudinal analysis . American Journal of Public Health, 96(7), 1265-1270. Retrieved December 4, 2011, from http:// Health&searchHistoryKey=& Schulz, Amy, J., Kannan, Srimathi, , Zenk, Shannon, , Odoms-Young, Angela, , Hollis-Neely, Teretha, , Nwankwo, Robin, , Lockett, Murlisa, , & Ridella, William, (2004). Healthy eating and exercising to reduce diabetes: Exploring the potential of social determinants of health frameworks within the context of community-based participatory diabetes prevention. American Journal of Public Health, 95(4), 645-651. Retrieved from December 4, 2011, from Health&searchHistoryKey=& A call for action: Detroit food In (2009). Retrieved December 4, 2011, from Gallagher, M. (2007). Examining the impacts of food deserts on public health in detroit. Chicago, IL: LaSalle Bank. Retrieved December 8, 2011, from resources/upload/docs/what/policy/DetroitFoodDesertReport.pdf Census: Detroit's population plummets 25 percent. (2011, March 22). Retrieved December 4, 2011, from Wisely, John. , & Spangler, Todd, (2011, March 24). Motor city population declines 25%. USA Today. Retrieved December 4, 2011 from 2011-03-22-michigan-census_N.htm Gray, Steven. (2011, March 24). Vanishing city: The story behind Detroitâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s shocking population decline read more. Talk of Detroit. Retrieved December 4, 2011, from http:// Gallagher, J. (2010). Reimagining detroit. Detroit, MI: Wayne State University. Retrieved December 4, 2011. Jencks, C. (2005). The iconic building. New York, NY: Rizoli International Publications, Inc. Retrieved December 7, 2011. Charney, N. (2011, February 11). [Web log message]. Retrieved December 7, 2011, from Kent, E. (n.d.). Hall of shame: Guggenheim museum bilboa. Retrieved December 7, 2011, from Top 10 iconic buildings . (2011). Retrieved December 7, 2011 from Byles, J. (2006, January). Disappeared detroit. Lost Magazine, 2, Retrieved from

BIBLIOGRAPHY Davidson, K. (2012, April 18). Detroit has tons of vacant land. but forty square miles?. Changing Gears. Retrieved from Collins, L. (2003, December 12). Kyong park and his talking house. MetroTimes, Retrieved from Mitzuta masahide. (2012, March 8). Retrieved from (2004). Future land use. (2004). [Print Photo]. Retrieved from (2004). Italian language . (2004). [Print Photo]. Retrieved from (n.d.). Design from the final report of sustainable open space in north west europe. [Print Photo]. Retrieved from Harrison. (n.d.). A vision for the green heart of holland, 1984. Retrieved from

Contact Laura Rodriguez Originally from Detroit, MI, Laura received her Bachelor of Science in Interior Design from Eastern Michigan University and holds a Master of Architecture degree from The NewSchool of Architecture + Design in San Diego, CA. She has a background in the performing arts and takes pride in being from the city where Motown was created. Laura plans on returning to, and residing in Detroit to begin her work on the revitalization of the this great city though architecture, planning, and policy.

Copyright Notice Š2012 by Laura Rodriguez

Detroit is a Zombie “Detroit remains a city synonymous with “Ruin Porn” – the term used to describe the attraction of tourists and artists to the ghost buildings – travelers trying to get a glimpse of the death of the great American city. According to the rest of the world, Detroit has become a landmark for urban decay, and should be immortalized in photos, books, and documentaries. To them, it stands as the decrepit Motown, the broken Motor City, on display for all to see; to look at for a brief moment and say, “That is so sad”. However, 700,000 residents of this once prosperous place remain ready, willing, eager, and hungry for gentrification. Adversity breeds strength, and by way of innovation, planning, and new industrial life, Detroit and its residents may yet show the world how to wake up and (re)build a city.”

Detroit is a Zombie  

Final M.Arch Thesis Document

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