Category Archives: Research

The Perforated Patterns of Lafayette Park – a rogueHAA installation



 From April 14th – 28th, the “INSIDE LAFAYETTE PARK” exhibition and multi-event design celebration captured an audience of over 1000 design enthusiasts and community members.  This rogueHAA collaborative event was co-curated by The University of Detroit Mercy School of Architecture (UDMSOA), Lawrence Technological University (LTU), and Wayne State University, and in conjunction with Preservation Detroit, The Detroit Area Art Deco Society, and the Detroit Creative Corridor Center. 

At the core of the event was an exhibition, comprised of three distinct components of content:

  • PAST: “Black Bottom”, as authored and designed by rogueHAA, showcased the historical significance of the Black Bottom area prior to the Mies’ urban renewal project.  You can download a copy of the Black Bottom display by clicking here
  • PRESENT: “The Settlement Shape” as authored by The school of architecture at the Milan Polytechnic.  This traveling exhibition showcased the culmination of ten years of research and documentation on Detroit’s Lafayette Park.  This exhibition utilized models, drawings and photographs to trace the history and theories of Ludwig  Mies van der Rohe’s, Ludwig Hilbersheimer’s, and Alfred Caldwell’s visionary design.  Having spent the last year touring some of the major universities in Europe,  Kent State, and then Detroit, the exhibition will be displayed next at Chicago’s IIT campus.
  • FUTURE: “Thanks For the View Mr Mies” as authored by Danielle Aubert, Lana Carver, and Natasha Chandani.  This portion of the exhibition included content, photos, and ephemera resulting from their soon-to-be-published book looking inside the lives of the Lafayette Park residents.  30 Corine Vermeulen photographs were included in this portion of the exhibition.

In addition to the creation of the Black Bottom exhibition, rogueHAA was responsible for the exhibition layout and design.  Continue reading

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Anti-History. The discourse surrounding the Michigan Central Depot (MCD) is epic. Everyone has an opinion, and many opinions are charged with personal history, political dogma, or impulsive judgment.  This post does not attempt to chronicle the saga and thereby continue the allegations.  Rather, this post proposes to erase the associated drama and begin anew with the existing structure and current conditions.  Can we move beyond the MCD’s existing identity and all associated issues that continue to plague the MCD?  What could truly be done with this massive structure?   What is possible?

Momentum. Over the years, numerous proposals have floated through the Detroit ether: Homeland Security Offices, Business Center, Detroit Police Department Headquarters, Hotel/Casino.  None of these proposals have landed, none have gained momentum.  On a community level, the Greater Corktown Development Corporation and eighteen Earhart Middle School students developed MCD programming ideas through multiple design charrettes.   These creative programming solutions were summarized in powerpoint and then formally presented to the Detroit City Council.    A small band of renegades (Phillip Cooley, uRbanDetail, Tad Heidgerken, and others) have designed a Roosevelt Park Masterplan and slowly implemented the initial phases. Their landscape urbanism strategies have encouraged the MCD owner to clean up the structure’s forecourt and plant perennials along the front façade.  Mainstream recognition includes multiple music videos (Kid Rock, Eminem), wedding party photos, documentaries, and movies (Transformers, The Island, 8 Mile, 4 Brothers) using the MCD as a backdrop and/or stage.  This combination of community, renegade, and mainstream momentum results in a uniquely creative discourse, and perhaps a new found urbanism, Detroit-style. Continue reading

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PROJECT.  The Detroit Wildlife Refuge project has been published in the April edition of TOPOS magazine.

CONCEPT. Landscape Urbanism advocates a purposeful discourse between ecological systems, human activities, and the post-industrial landscape, ultimately manifesting in the deliberate celebration of the urban void. This celebration glorifies the interstitial, so that the void is inevitably romanticized by, and is necessary to, the burgeoning Landscape Urbanism profession. Reliance on the void introduces a basic set of dilemmas: In order to focus on the space between buildings, there must be buildings; planning creative programming between infrastructural systems requires existing infrastructure; implementing a proposed hybrid ecology between urban eco-systems and human eco-systems requires human eco-systems. All of these very specific examples result in a single common statement: In order to have an urban void, there first needs to be an urban, or rather a recognizable urban density. Continue reading

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Detroit Transit, Part 1


Whither goest thou, America, in thy shiny car in the night? – Jack Kerouac

Detroit is ironically the most and least likely place to discuss mass transit. Once the home of one of the nation’s most extensive streetcar systems, Detroit has become synonymous with decentralization, suburban expansion, and the dominance of the automobile.  Where human mobility was once limited by the location of rail lines, canals, and the limited travel range of other non-motorized forms of transportation, the car provided a universal form of personal transportation which could be used at virtually any geographic scale. Unfortunately, the success of the car came at the expense of all other modes of transportation, eventually leading Detroit and other cities toward an inefficient and unsustainable transit monoculture.

Recently, infrastructural failures in this country have gained national and international attention. With increasing national imperative, as well as efforts at the regional and local level, it appears mass transit is finally becoming a reality. High-speed rail development in Florida between Tampa, Orlando and Miami, and in California linking Sacramento, San Francisco and L.A., has been covered extensively throughout the media. Portland Oregon’s streetcar system has become a benchmark for urban transit in this country. And the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) has allocated substantial funds to the development of public transit systems, indicating a shift in support and investment toward sustainable car alternatives. As this transition occurs, however, it is important to consider not only the new forms of transportation infrastructure and technology that will be necessary, but also the relationship between these and existing development patterns. Continue reading

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CIRCUMSTANCE.  Since the 1950’s Detroit’s population has been on the decline.  As the city expanded outward and fulfilled mid-century aspirations for suburban life and unencumbered industrial development, the overall population began dropping from its 1,850,000 peak.  Exacerbated by the combination of seemingly benevolent post-war policies such as the 1944 Serviceman’s Readjustment Act (GI Bill) which guaranteed low interest mortgages to returning veterans, Title One of the 1949 Federal Housing Act and the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, those who were not fully incentivized to leave the city were in some cases dispossessed or ghettoized. 

Vital communities broke down, functional public transportation fell into disrepair and ignorant, racially motivated segregation beseeched the city, making day to day life in Detroit quite inhospitable, promoting a sharp increase in migration to the suburbs.  At the same time, larger structural economic problems, such as an abiding faith in a Fordist economic model and a dominant one-dimensional industry, took their toll.  By the late 1960’s the population had fallen to 1,500,000 (while the 7-county region had grown to nearly 4,500,000) and in the late summer of 1967, the infamous riots engulfed parts of the city.  With this, many who had not yet left the city did so – if they had the means and opportunity.  (link to time line flash)

Over the final three decades of the 20th century Detroit maintained a steady population and employment decline as disinvestment, poor quality of life and limited services made a significant impact.  Now, with the economic recession that has come to define the early years of the 21st century, Detroit’s population loss and disinvestment have accelerated (along with several other communities in southeast Michigan, highlighting the regional dimension to these pernicious problems). Continue reading

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BACK TO THE FUTURE.  Last month the Taubman School of Architecture hosted the ambitiously titled Future of Design Conference, bringing together a prestigious group of design professionals to present their thoughts and work on the conference topic. Based on the Pecha Kucha format, each individual was given fifteen minutes to present a rapid-fire succession of projects, speculations, and research, and diatribe. While certain thematic similarities surfaced throughout the course of the presentations, by and large the variety of presented topics reflected the current diversity of the design field. One consistent topic, however, centered on the ways technology is changing the means and methods of architectural production. To contextualize this theme, it is interesting to trace the evolution of technology as it relates to avant-garde architecture and design practices.

Historically, “visionary architecture” has existed as work which is often highly polemic and rarely built. In his book Visionary Architecture: Blueprints of the Modern Imagination, Neil Spiller writes that “this history is linked to the metaphorphosis of the ‘machine’ and the technologies that embody it. Whether ‘machines’ are the conceptual ones of Marchel Duchamp, the mechanized armatures of cranes on a building site, the virtual machines within computers or the cabbalistic machines of Daniel Liebskind, they have all influenced the course of architectural vision.” Works such as, Constant’s New Babylon (1950), Archigram’s Walking City (1964), Superstudio’s Continuous Monument (1971), or even Buckminster Fuller’s proposed Dome for Manhattan (1960), functioned not as serious proposals for built work, but as devices for questioning certain social, political, and technological issues. Continue reading

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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

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