2013 // downtown Detroit, MI, USA // Urban Renewal // Competition "Redesigning Detroit: A New Vision for an Iconic Site"
w/ Dimitra Gavrilaki & Leo Mulvehill
The new Hart Plaza is conceived as the compilation of three independent urban strategies serving a collage-city inside the limits of the Detroit downtown. Each strategy examines a mythical conception found in the specificities of the site, which in their multiple departures form a level of cohesion previously absent.
An elevated structural link creates a direct dialogue with the existing city by realizing the monumental axis present in the 1807 Woodward plan. In so doing, it links to Detroit’s past, envisioning a similar rebirtht as with the 1807 fire which decimated the city, while healing other more recent wounds. It extends Woodward Ave to the river above Jefferson Ave and overlooks the river. The two level pier connects with the People Mover, providing access to water transportation, while forming as recreational destination. The thickened envelope contains programed space, while linking strategically to the landscape below and covering the existing amphitheater, which forms the end of the monumental axis of Woodward Avenue. Beyond this, lies the port terminal and Ferris wheel, creating a formal departure point to the river and Canada.
As with the fire, the death of the car as the primary engine of the city’s growth is envisioned not as a source of sorrow but a platform for rebirth. The automotive industry, personified on this site by the GM buildings to the east, plays an active role in the new park, as its mythology is absorbed into the landscape through the dissolving and dispersal of the parking structure located in the southeast corner of the site. This space that once served vehicles is given new life as its seeds are distributed across the site to nurture a city of small components with multiple programs organized around public plazas. These centers of gravity re-activate the plazas, introducing the car as an element of scale in a metamorphic symbiotic relationship with Detroit’s existing city grid. These moments are materialized in several unique instances including the Dispersed Amphitheater centered on the existing Dodge fountain which acts with the natural slope of the site. Other distinct nodes include a playground to the east of the bridge, organized as an entry point in the descent towards the river. Finally, the Tidal Square which acts as a depression in the site, allowing water in from the river through an underground tunnel, which through the use of filtering systems allows for seasonal activities ranging from swimming in the summer to ice skating in the winter.
Rebirth is seen in the act of exposure; showing the city as it is, and revealing that which lies dormant in the site. The tunnel which connects the United States and Canada is such a moment. At present, upon leaving the United States, one circulates below the city: outside of the city, outside of the country though not yet in Canada. Tunnel City acts to expose this sovereign territory to the light, creating a non-place, subject to the laws of neither country. Formed from the extrusion of the tunnel below, the volume displays itself prominently to plaza and city surrounding it, creating an act of exposure both of the structure, and those who choose to occupy it. As it operates outside the rule of any state, it is an embassy to those without a country, a city within a city, the exception which proves the rule.