Blight to Might

Reclaiming the Detroit highway

Client: N/A
Our role: Concept & Strategy Development (competition)
Location: Detroit, Michigan, USA
Year: 2012
Status: Finished (Selected Top 20)

Put People First
The car has too much power in our lives and in urban planning. It is a great source of pollution, it takes up a lot of space and it creates distance between people, which leads to conflict and disagreement. It is time that we take control, and put people first in urban planning. But that of course challenges the way we live today. We need to take a god look at what is important, and what better place to start the people’s revolution, than the former Motown city, Detroit.

The Importance of Green Space
The rapid urbanisation and construction of roads left us with very little green space in our cities. Sustainable urban planning is also about mixing nature with the build environment, for the benefits of both people and the global environment. Research shows that when people live in close proximity to parks and green space, it reduces stress-related diseases. If we want to reduce the carbon footprints, we need to go back to basics. We need to see the importance of living in proximity to were we work, what we eat, where we go to school, etc. so we can walk, bike, and use public transportation instead of cars. Further, providing a variety of places to sit and rest in the public spaces and along the main pedestrian routes are important, as urban life is about more than walking.

Defining Six New Neighborhoods
The creation of six new neighbourhoods in and around each ‘flyover’ is based on the idea of urban farming and collaborative thinking. Urban farming is about more than ‘just’ farming. It is also about bringing people together, creating local ownership. Each new neighbourhood becomes a kick-starter in the development of Detroit, by letting people and community-driven collaborations use the open and leftover space for urban farming with low rent or even for free. When rent is low it will also attract entrepreneurship, people with ideas, student projects, creative industries and much more which will activate the areas and create a whole new identity. By creating university faculties in and around each new neighbourhood it becomes a good place for education, which is an important part of creating growth. Each neighbourhood represents an overall educational theme, together becoming one university linked together by the highway or “corridors of knowledge”.

Changing Functions and Temporary Use
By reclaiming some of the highway, and fill it with people and nature instead of cars, changing the function from a space of transportation to a green area intertwined with public transport and several bike lanes, the new highway is no longer about the journey but is the destination it self.

One way of activating the high greenway, could be through a series of temporary use facilities, developed by the citizens, to involve them in the process, and create a sense of ownership. By applying temporary use strategies we can give the right conditions for urban life and then build around and in collaboration with that life. In activating six new neighbourhoods, and changing the function of the high way, we can better acknowledge the best way of expanding the area with new buildings.

Mix It Up
The space and buildings should be a mix of both permanent activities and temporary events, so they are more likely to be used throughout the week, all year. To make the city safe and inviting for everybody at all times, the functions offered in buildings and public spaces must be a wide range and of interest to a diverse group of people and age-groups.

 

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