architectural project detroit riverfront |detroit _USA

‘the competition will focus on the area between cobo hall and the renaissance center and between jefferson avenue and the detroit river. this section of riverfront which includes hart plaza is at the heart of the city. the site contains the international tunnel to canada, the port authority building, the scar of the recently demolished ford auditorium, a multi-story parking structure that obstructs views to the water for most buildings downtown, and hart plaza- an outdoor public park that hosts festivals. along the perimeter of the site are the renaissance center- which includes general motor’s headquarters, cobo Hall- a convention center, joe louis arena- concert venue and home of the red wings, city hall and commercial office buildings. with all of these functions it would seem that this would be a highly utilized space. however, on an average day it is quite empty and at times almost desolate. the space is most activated during seasonal events such as the electronic music festival, fourth of july fireworks and jazz festival. summer festivals in this space started in the 1970s and were based on ethnic themes, celebrating the diversity in the area. each weekend would be different: the african american festival, arab american festival, country music festival, asian american festival, etc. the number and frequency of festivals has declined over the years, along with overall attendance.

the site lost its prominence as the city’s town square when a new park was created a couple of block to the north. campus Martius is now the location of the christmas tree, skating rink and concerts. people in the area love the space along the river because of the memories associated with it but the memories are not enough to attract new functions. how can the city capitalize on this unique site and use the space to connect and vitalize the surrounding area?'

project description | FRAMING THE EMPTINESS

awarded under the best 5 projects in the 'people's choice award'

published in

now that sociopolitical tensions between the inner city and the metro area have eased somewhat, downtown detroit is experiencing a gradual recovery. the inner city still bears more resemblance to suburbia than to a thriving metropolis, however.

our proposal for revitalizing the detroit riverfront embraces the emptiness, sense of open space, and silence permeating the detroit inner city as positive and noteworthy qualities of this postindustrial urban landscape and lends these specific qualities a physical, architectural form. the entire area between the renaissance center and cobo center is cleared of incidental, banal, and leftover structures. this creates a spacious, large-scale urban green area, including a park. at its eastern and western edges, the park slopes gently upward to a height of eight meters so that its basement can accommodate all of the existing infrastructure, such as atwater street, the detroit-windsor tunnel, car parking, etc. at the same time, this “lifting” of the green space at both sides creates an urban space with pronounced performative characteristics for those who spend time there: visitors to the park are both actors and audience on this double-sided “stage.”

ninety meters above this theatrical green space, the wire-frame structure of the DETROIT AIR STADIUM hangs delicately in the air as if weightless. this ring-shaped structure offers a spectacular new place for detroit residents and visitors from all over the world to visit. this is the inception of a new and unprecedented type of structure, one that condenses the emptiness by actively creating empty space. the poetic paradox of a shrinking city: the structure as framework, a framework instead of a volumetric structure.

the project's three elements – the DETROIT AIR STADIUM, the basin-shaped park, and the pier extending farther out into the river – set the stage for a breathtaking sense of freedom. this creates a suggestive, high-impact urban realm of possibilities, a noncommercial space that may help prompt new inspirations in terms of designing and crafting a postindustrial city. the site will offer a glimpse of the new detroit.

designed by _matthias karch

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