Category Archives: Detroit Regeneration Strategy

The Accidental Playground: A Talk with Daniel Campo

Daniel Campo Lecture (2)

The Accidental Playground explores the remarkable landscape created by individuals and small groups who occupied and rebuilt an abandoned Brooklyn waterfront. While local residents, activists, garbage haulers, real estate developers, speculators, and two city administrations fought over the fate of the former Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal (BEDT), others simply took to this decaying edge, transforming it into a unique venue for leisure, creative, and everyday practices. These occupiers and do-it-yourself builders created their own waterfront parks and civic spaces absent every resource needed for successful urban development, including plans, designs, capital, professional assistance, consensus, and permission from the waterfront’s owners. Amid trash, ruins, weeds, homeless encampments, and the operation of an active garbage transfer station, they inadvertently created the “Brooklyn Riviera” and made this waterfront a destination that offered much more than its panoramic vistas of the Manhattan skyline. The terminal evolved into the home turf for unusual and sometimes spectacular recreational, social, and creative subcultures, including the skateboarders who built a short-lived but nationally renowned skatepark, a twenty-five-piece “public” marching band, fire performance troupes, artists, photographers, and filmmakers. At the same time it served the basic recreational needs of local residents. Collapsing piers became great places to catch fish, sunbathe, or take in the views; the foundation of a demolished warehouse became an ideal place to picnic, practice music, or do an art project; rubble-strewn earth became a compelling setting for film and fashion shoots; a broken bulkhead became a beach; and thick patches of weeds dotted by ailanthus trees became a jungle. These reclamations, all but ignored by city and state governments and property interests that were set to transform this waterfront, momentarily added to the distinctive cultural landscape of the city’s most bohemian and rapidly changing neighborhood.

Drawing on a rich mix of documentary strategies, including observation, ethnography, photography, and first-person narrative, Daniel Campo probes this accidental playground, allowing those who created it to share and examine their own narratives, perspectives, and conflicts. The multiple constituencies of this waterfront were surprisingly diverse, their stories colorful and provocative. When taken together, Campo argues, they suggest a radical reimagining of urban parks and public spaces, and the practices by which they are created and maintained.

The Accidental Playground, which treats readers to an utterly compelling story, is an exciting and distinctive contribution to the growing literature on unplanned spaces and practices in cities today.




rogueHAA unveiled its third installation for the Detroit Design Festival last month. The work’s title, ‘Mene Mene’, is an Aramaic idiom meaning ‘the writing is on the wall’ and was chosen by the group to signify the rewriting of Detroit’s often negative story into a more positive message that includes the city’s multiple voices and narratives. The installation, designed to activate an empty pocket parking lot in Detroit’s North End, was constructed with a series of grass terraces combined with blank writing walls to engaged members of the local community. “Rather than creating static object to be viewed from a distance, we wanted to create a literal platform for conversation and reflection,” says rogueHAA member, James Witherspoon. Each section of the installation included a different provocation as a means to catalyze and frame a conversation about the city.

The installation, located at 2871 E. Grand Blvd., invited the community to participate in an interactive event that was equally fun and thought-provoking. Through partnership with Let’s Save Michigan, Festival attendees were encouraged to share a meal, conversation, and ideas for placemaking in their neighborhood. Throughout the festival, visitors were encouraged to write their ideas, thoughts, challenges, and pictures on the walls of the installation. These were collected and will be curated as part of an online gallery to promote engagement with a larger audience, and longevity beyond the festival itself.

This fall, the collaborative is also planning to continue its lecture series aimed at promoting critical thought and creative dialogue in the design community. Stay tuned for details to come!


POP-UP RETAIL: Cafe con Leche del Este

During the month of October, rogueHAA began work on our latest tactical urbanism strategy, the pop-up initiative – Cafe con Leche del Este.  Cafe con Leche de Este is a community led pop-up coffee shop and event space located within a vacant storefront within the Lafayette Park strip mall. Working with the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (DEGC), the owners of the Lafayette Shopping Plaza,  the Jefferson East Business Association (JEBA), the Lafayette Park community, and the cafe owners of Cafe con Leche, rogueHAA designed, managed, and constructed the pop-up retail in under four weeks.  The budget was $4000 and included all construction materials, furniture rental, labor, artwork, ceiling and lighting treatments, signage, and interior accessories.  The pop-up cafe and community event space occurred during the entire month of November, hosting multiple movie screenings, lecture events, and gatherings.  In total, over 2,000 people walked through the doors, making this pop-up space the most successful rogueHAA regeneration strategy to date.

More specifically, rogueHAA would like to thank the DEGC and JEBA for helping facilitate the funding, permits, and additional management required to make this project come to fruition. We’d like to thank Franklin Furniture for their generous lending of furniture. Thank you to Patty at Lafayette Foods for brokering the use of the Mies Storefront. Most importantly, we’d like to thank ALL of the community volunteers who either donated materials money or put in countless hours constructing or detailing this community space. And lastly, we have a few individuals who went above and beyond the call of volunteer duty: Cal Navin, Betty Steehler, Jim Griffioen, Sara Woodward, Karen Barney, Jill-Morgan Aubert, Vasco Roma, and Noah Resnick.

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Dlectricity Installation: Light Terrain


RogueHAA’s DLECTRICITY submission, Light Terrain, was one of the 35 installations chosen of 225 global submissions.  Light Terrain was installed on the southwest corner of Woodward and Warren, across from the Wayne State University Welcome Center.

Terrain Vague.  Ignasi de Solà-Morales defines terrain vague as land in a “potentially exploitable state but already possessing some definition to which we are external,” or “strange places” that “exist outside the city’s effective circuits and productive structures.” Detroit is an often cited characterization of Sola-Morales’ concept, yet these “strange places” are typically understood as either unacceptable results of economic decay, or as sites of optimistically unrealistic potential divorced from the realities that created them. Our installation sought to bring a more nuanced approach to Terrain Vague that both recognizes the realities of urban vacancy while maintaining the possibility inherent within. By creating a space for interaction and conversation, our installation attempts to both literally and conceptually establish a provisional ‘ground’ for interaction among DLECTRICITY viewers that strikes a balance between planned and spontaneous, solid and void, architectural surface and landscape

Light Terrain.  Comprised of an articulated landscape of varying light sticks, the installation catalyzed interaction through the application of a responsive architectural skin (membrane/layer/field) to the existing building and ground conditions. Like an luminous synthetic ivy, the installation expanded across the site in an organic field both defining new spatial potential and enhancing the existing context – literally and conceptually tying architecture to landscape.



archiCULTURAL SHIFT Panel Discussion + Exhibition






Last weekend, rogueHAA was pleased to present The archiCULTURAL SHIFT, the last panel discussion in its Provocations: Challenging Detroit’s Design Discourse series. Held in the MIES Storefront at Lafayette Park, this event was part of the Detroit Creative Corridor Center’s Detroit Design Festival 2012.  ArchiCULTURAL panelists discussed how their roles, theories, and work have been affected by our society becoming increasingly information and time-centric. We would like to thank our panelists for their expertise and participation in this event: Continue reading

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Spacebuster @ RogueHAA for Detroit Design Festival 2012 from detronik on Vimeo.






As the finale of ArchiCULTURAL SHIFT, District VII projected a fantastic video installation onto the SPACEBUSTER temporary pneumatic event space.  The SPACEBUSTER by Raumlabor was provided by the Storefront for Art and Architecture, NY and Flint Public Art Project.

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