Can design save? It’s a loaded question, but the one we must ask. Even if we don’t set the parameters for what we are trying to save. In Detroit, the parameters aren’t the same as in other metropolitan areas. In some regards, we are light years behind the curve. In others, we have reached the pinnacles of advancement to the point that evolution is required if survival is in order. This is both a blessing and a curse.
If you are an Urban Planner, Architect or Urban Designer you have probably had flights of fancy for Utopian city designs. 19th and 2oth century innovators have been theorizing the ideal city for over a hundred years. Stemming from sources such as Tony Garnier’s Une Cite Industrielle to Ebenezer Howard’s Garden Cities of To-morrow, Le Corbusier’s Ville Contemporaine even Frank Lloyd Wright’s Broadacre City, our modern built environment has become a constant experimentation in space and form. As with Detroit’s current state, this experimentation has been both a blessing and a curse.
From segregated uses in zoning codes and mass suburbanization to crime ridden housing projects, the curse of implementing Utopian ideologies are often horrific as the realities of chaotic socio-economic factors undermine the best laid plans of mice and men.
The resultant fields of architectural criticism and theory however offers us the blessing. Lessons learned, so to speak. From Lewis Mumford and Jane Jacobs to Aldo Rossi, Kenneth Frampton and even Rem Koolhaus, they offer the tools of being able to document and analyse the built environment. More importantly to the current efforts being addressed in Detroit, they offer us the insight to massive reorganization or rebuilding initiatives led by men such as Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann, Daniel Burnham and Robert Moses.
Moving forward, not only are fresh ideas needed for the design of Detroit, but a complete understanding of the history, successes and failures of the built environment. Humankind has over 10,000 years of precedent of how cities are organized and how they operate. Even though the Industrial Revolution changed everything and we have since been experimenting with the futures of our children, some things don’t change.
If you are interested in sharing your ideas for cities, the AIA Detroit is accepting applications for design proposals focusing on any or all of the following three themes:
- Urban Agriculture
- Urban Centers
If you are interested in submitting your work and ideas, don’t miss the February 14th registration deadline.