Register: JUN/24/2018, Submit: JUN/24/2018, Eligibility: Teams of designers, artists, architects; at least team leader must be born or raised in, or professionally or academically connected to Michigan, Fee: Free, Awards: Stage 1: each finalist team – 2,500 USD stipend to Stage 2; Stage 2: each of the 2 winning teams – 40,000 USD stipend for drawings, fabrication and installation of design
Detroit’s commercial corridors are dominated by vacant storefronts and empty lots, including those adjacent to the strongest, most populated residential neighborhoods. New hope is on the horizon with a City-led public/private partnership initiative intended to expand investment in the public realm, encourage pedestrians, and support existing businesses. Nevertheless, in an uncertain market, and with poor building condition and limited cash flow, many property owners still struggle to re-vitalize their vacant buildings.
Imagine if these spaces could be activated first as community storefronts where residents could exchange ideas and be informed about the design and planning happening in their neighborhood? What if these community storefronts could provide space for neighborhood organizations, small businesses and local entrepreneurs to temporarily attract residents in Detroit’s neighborhood commercial corridors? How might this look?
PROGRAM: A COMMUNITY STOREFRONT
The Design Center in a Box seeks to create high quality spaces in Detroit’s neighborhood commercial corridors to:
Gather: A range of sizes and formats including small (3-5ppl), medium (6-20ppl) and large (20-75ppl) should be considered. Scenarios requiring seating, working surfaces, as well as open meandering should also be considered.
Display: Systems should be proposed that facilitate exhibition of design materials, display of graphic information, art, and community comment.
Work: Consideration should also be given to visual and auditory privacy in working spaces for community partners, and City staff.
Vend: Designs should include elements such as display, storage, point of sale/prep area, branding and signage for pop-up retail activity (300 sqft max). Participating businesses may use the space for a day or multiple weeks to sell goods, services, or small-scale food & beverage.
DETROIT’S COMMERCIAL CORRIDORS
A citywide retail study has identified twelve commercial corridors and priority nodes. Final sites selected for the Design Center in a Box installation will be within these corridors.
In Stage 1 of the competition no specific site is identified. Applicants are asked to consider the Detroit storefront as a typology, the great opportunity and heavy burden framing the miles and miles of commercial corridors stretching from downtown to the city limits. Proposals should begin a conversation with this expansive, ubiquitous, yet isolated and unique resource, considering replicability within a systemic place-based typology. Adaptability to variations in structure, layout and material condition is central to the design challenge in which a site-responsive rather than site-specific solution is anticipated.
Concepts should introduce creative ways for new architecture to not only insert itself into the existing envelope, but also to converse with the existing space, carefully considering potential structural, visual, social and temporal touch-points between new and existing elements.
THE DETROIT STOREFRONT
Size: The typical commercial corridor storefront building is narrow and deep. 1,000 to 3,000 square feet, built to the lot line, with frontage ranging from 20 to 40 feet and depths from 50 to 100 feet depending on lot coverage.
Enclosure: Most properties have only one source of natural light, the streetside facade, which also serves as the primary point of entry. The door may be centered, or shifted to the side. Windows may be full height, but often less, and are sometimes replaced by glass block. Walls are heavy brick, or plaster, and ceilings range from decorative stamped tin to withering ceiling tiles. Restrooms are located in the rear of the building, as is a service entrance, generally accessing limited parking from an alley.
Context: Commercial corridors back up to single-family residential lots with structures set back from lot lines. Withstanding a history of prioritizing blight removal and demo over historic preservation, many remaining commercial buildings, once wedged within dense corridors, now stand isolated between vacant lots.