Category Archives: Architecture


In October 2009, Hamilton Anderson Associates presented the Detroit School of Arts at the Arts Schools Network Conference in Washington D.C.

Located in Detroit’s Midtown District, the Detroit School of Arts (DSA) is a progressive high school of choice, offering a dual-focus curriculum in the fine / performing arts and broadcast/media arts. The DSA brings an innovative educational approach to the Detroit Public School district, blending college prep within a dynamic and interactive learning environment.

The six-story building features many unique academic, performance and production spaces, including the 800-seat Ford Theater, a 20-seat recital hall, a black box theater, arts studios and galleries, as well as a vocal and instrumental music rehearsal rooms.  The Communications Production Center (CPC) houses two state of the art television production studios, WRCJ-FM Radio, and digital media editing suites.  The top-floor media center and dining hall spaces afford students expansive views of the city’s downtown skyline.  The innovative design was conceived and refined through close collaboration with specialty consultants, user groups and Detroit Public Schools.  Throughout the design process, all aspects of the site, building and the related systems and materials were considered and developed with a commitment to sustainability and integrated design.  As a result, the Detroit School of Arts was the first LEED certified building in the City of Detroit.

To download the complete slideshow as presented at the Arts Schools Network Conference, click here.

Tagged , , ,


Paying Respect to our Detroit Elders: Housing Narrative – Part 2

[Part two in a series chronicling our experiences assisting the Detroit Housing Commission (DHC).  For further description, refer to our first housing narrative post.]

House No. 3: My car’s wipers intermittently clear our line of sight.  My colleague and I drive past two vacant homes, a vacant school, three vacant lots, and a vacant business.  Finally, we turn onto a block where most of the houses seem to be intact.  The rain is pouring down and we are unprepared.  Holding clip boards over our heads, we make a dash to the home’s covered porch.

We ring the doorbell.  “Who is it?” an elderly woman yells through a door that remains locked.  I answer that we are doing a survey for the Detroit Housing Commission.  “I don’t know anything about a survey” she answers.  I offer that she can call someone with the Housing Commission and she can confirm our presence with them.  The door cracks open.  She asks for ID.  I offer her a photoless ID as I also start to call my contact at the Housing Commission.  Handing the phone to her, she speaks to the person.  After a brief conversation, she re-opens the door and only allows me inside.  My colleague is left to stand in the rain.  I begin the survey.  The elderly woman silently follows me into every room. Continue reading

Tagged ,


HOUSE NO. 1.  I step out of my car and glance at the address listed on my clip board.  I then compare that number to the faded house number adjacent to the front door.  It’s a match.  My partner and I glance at the neighborhood and quickly assess our surroundings.  We traverse the short front walk, step up the slightly deteriorating stoop, and ring the doorbell. It doesn’t work.  I tap my clipboard hard against the locked storm door.  I stand square with the front door, my Detroit Housing Commission badge daggling from my shirt pocket. Like standing before a metal detector at the airport, I allow a stranger to scrutinize my intensions.  I give ample time for them to complete their security check through the peephole.  As I stand there, my mind wanders.  What will I find on the other side of the door?

REHABILITATING DETROIT.  In 2009, the federal government passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  It was enacted as an economic stimulus package and immediately pumped $12.7 billion towards the modernization of the nation’s public housing.   New leadership at the Detroit Housing Commission (DHC) has earmarked $8 million toward breathing new life into a scattered sites housing program that has proven national success.   Through this capital outlay, the DHC is continuing its mission to provide quality housing for all Detroiters.  Hamilton Anderson Associates is one of four teams of architects asked to take this journey of rehabilitation with the DHC.  Our specific task is to assess the physical condition of 80 homes, but as our work continues, we realize our assessments are also about restoring the human condition. Continue reading

Tagged , ,


Detroit Port Authority Terminal.  Detroit’s latest riverfront development is a modest two story structure that significantly transforms Detroit’s skyline.  The Detroit/ Wayne County Port Authority commissioned Hamilton Anderson Associates (HAA) to design a new 22,000 square foot international ship passenger terminal.  However diminutive in square footage, the scale of the building’s importance as a gateway far exceeds its physical stature.  It is in this dichotomy that we find the most interesting design problems of this project.

The Port Authority terminal is designed to function as both a domestic and international facility, including associated functions such as customs, border patrol, baggage handling, ticketing, and queuing. The building and dock will accommodate Great Lakes cruise ships, tall ships, and other large vessels, as well as the offices for the Port Authority.  The $15 million dollar project is currently under construction at the foot of Bates Street, between Atwater Street and the Detroit RiverContinue reading

Tagged , , , ,


POSITION.  As architects, landscape architects and interior designers, there is an inherent distance between the product of our daily work (drawings and representations) and the eventual product produced from our work (buildings and spaces).  Put simply, we don’t build airports and parks, we draw them.  We represent for a living.  Accordingly, we must intensely consider the most effective ways to produce our product; to see all that drawings can do, from construction documents to conceptual renderings and parti diagrams to program matrices.  The example below shows the process HAA used to apply this realization beyond the design of buildings and spaces to the analysis and demonstration of data.

QUESTIONS.  What is the most effective method for presenting the analysis of statistical information to a variety of audiences?  Should different methodologies be employed to analyze qualitative versus quantitative information?  Can the use of multiple methodologies result in a cohesive, comprehensive presentation with clear direction? The Woodward Avenue Action Association provided Hamilton Anderson an opportunity to investigate these questions using Woodward Avenue as a laboratory. Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , ,


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

Tagged , , , , , , ,


PROJECT. The Criss Angel BeLIEve project has been published in the March edition of CONTRACT design magazine.  The project is a re-design of the entry sequence into the theatre at the Luxor Hotel and Casino in conjunction with the debut of the newest permanent Cirque du Soleil show, Criss Angel BeLIEve.  Its opening in September 2008 provided a sneak-peak into the major renovations that will occur at The Luxor through 2009.  The 2.1M project began in October 2007 and opened for the public in October 2008.  Project scope includes a Box Office & Retail space of 6000 square feet and Bar/Lounge of 14,500 square feet.

CONCEPT. By reflecting the enigmatic characters of Criss Angel and Cirque du Soleil, the architect’s call to action was to redesign the Box Office, Entrance, Retail Space and Theatre Bar/Lounge for the new dramatic experience.  This scope allowed a concept which considers the emotional mind-set of the audience as it approaches, spatially and temporally, the theatrical event.  The narrative of BeLIEve parallels Lewis Carroll’s classic literary work, “Through the Looking Glass,” as both pieces follow a protagonist’s journey into a whimsically absurd alternate reality.  In each piece, access to this other world is gained only through a very specific, yet different, threshold; one tangible (the looking glass), one experiential (an accident induced dream). Thresholds between levels of certainty, as literary premise inspired the architect to consider a similar perception when designing the tangible space of (sub)conscious journey.  The architectural realization of this journey provides a sequence of spatial thresholds (stages) through which BeLIEvers are slowly submerged.  Passing through each stage means passing into progressive levels of engagement with the artist’s warped perception, the ultimate destination. Continue reading

Tagged , , , ,