Monthly Archives: May 2009


QUESTIONS.  How should one design for children?  Should architects alter their design approach for projects with a 12 year old (and under) clientele?  These simple questions marked the beginning of HAA’s design process for the renovation and expansion of the Detroit Public Library Children’s Library.

POSITION.  After working through the project, HAA answered these questions with a modern design solution that empowers the intelligence of its primary users, the children.  The proposed space allows for introspective investigations; each child initiates vastly different experiences in various parts of the library.  Conversely, the proposed Detroit Children’s Library is also a social space, an armature for discovery that does not dictate specific responses, but provides opportunities for a wide range of collaboration and interaction. In effect, the proposed environment encourages the journey, where learning and social developments are associated with a thoughtful, compelling design. Continue reading

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POSITION.  Participation in the Detroit Storefront Design Competition (DSDC) has provoked a series of questions regarding the existing urban conditions in the downtown area, and creative ways to stimulate activity that may plot a course toward significant redevelopment in the city core. Acknowledging both the current economic recession and Detroit’s past difficulties in renovating, occupying, and activating its downtown buildings, we are interested in how seemingly small-scale interventions may be used as interim devices to activate downtown streets and buildings.

QUESTIONS.  Could similar storefront concepts become the high impact and low cost, dynamic interventions necessary for this process?  What type of program or content could maximize the impact of these comparatively small and static venues on the downtown visitors, workers, residents, restaurants and retailers? How can these storefront interventions be organized and implemented to capitalize on existing downtown destination events, such as sports and entertainment, while providing day to day places of interest that engage a broad audience for extended periods of time?  Finally, could these interventions become larger scale urban strategies that lead to further renovation and redevelopment of vacant buildings throughout the downtown area? Continue reading




CONTEXT. Through great effort, Detroit’s sports venues and related organizations have attracted several highly desirable sports championship events.  Detroit recently hosted both the 2006 Superbowl XL and the 2009 NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four Championship. These types of events create tremendous opportunities for their host cities to generate revenue and gain positive publicity. Hotels, restaurants, and retail stores all benefit greatly from the influx of spending, and while revenue estimates vary widely, the simple fact is that for cities such as Detroit, these are exceptional opportunities. Publicity is another asset to event hosting. According to one estimate, during the Final Four, Ford received as much as $22.5 million in publicity by having naming rights to the venue that hosted both events. Additionally, on a national scale, positive Detroit publicity is invaluable.

During both events, Detroit created a staged idealization of its urban experience; temporary bars opened in abandoned storefronts and the city lights blazed for one weekend. The riverfront and streetscapes were further animated by city-sponsored entertainment, including free concerts. The spectacle strategy is applied in many other host cities, in part, to provide comfortable urban environments for non-urban visitors. Alive with people, the city appeared occupied and marketable. Detroit excels at hosting such affairs, as evidenced by the success of these events, as well as the The Detroit International Auto Show, The Red Bull Air Race and The Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix.

But every other day of the year, Detroit struggles. There is great need for viable, creative solutions to the many issues that face the city.  While greater investment, public safety, and schools are obvious long term objectives, as a starting point, street activity and beautification are critical components of a day to day urban vitality. Continue reading

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