Wednesday, November 16, 2011

To Be Continued

Photo: Design Trust for Public Space

When we organized the Mind the Gap competition for the inaugural Detroit Design Festival in October, we thought it might be a good way to start a conversation about public space and urban design. We were inspired by efforts in other cities to engage the public in finding creative solutions for underutilized spaces (from the Institute for Urban Design in New York to the Civic Center in New Orleans). We were also excited to see so many great emerging projects here in Detroit, too (the Green Alley, TAP Gallery, Ride It Sculpture Park, Lincoln Street Sculpture Garden, Tashmoo Biergarten, just to name a few).

Click here for our article in Model D about some of the great submissions we received -- some real, some imagined, all very creative & cool. If you missed the exhibit, you can check out twenty-one of the top proposals to the left.

While we plan next steps for Mind the Gap, we'll continue posting inspiration & ideas on our Facebook page. If you're interested in improving the design of Detroit's public realm, we hope you'll join us by sharing examples of projects & places that inspire you! Doesn't matter if they're across the world or in your own backyard, we want to see your favorite ideas for in-fill and adaptive reuse throughout the city. Thanks & stay tuned! -Claire

Meet the Winner

Meet our Mind the Gap winner, Wyatt Gage, an 8th grade student in Aaron Kuehne's class at the Henry Ford Academy: School for Creative Studies in Detroit. Wyatt's submission, the "Penn-Line Project" proposes a pathway and sculpture garden on the railroad tracks behind Michigan Central Station in Corktown. Forget his age, it's a really great idea.

For a brief description of Wyatt's idea (and photo by Dante Stella), click here. Also check out his hand-drawn landscape plan below.

Thanks to Austin Black II of City Living Detroit and Jason Peet of the Green Garage for serving as jurors, and to the Detroit Creative Corridor Center for funding the project and prize. Thanks also to Marisa Gaggino for capturing the moment. Congrats, Wyatt!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Your Ideas for Detroit

"We shape our public spaces, thereafter, our public spaces shape us." -Winston Churchill

Detroit, you done us proud.

When we asked how you would "mind the gap" in our urban landscape, we had no idea what your response would be. Crickets? No sir. Creativity all the way...

Wyatt, a student at the School for Creative Studies, wants to turn the unused railway tracks behind Michigan Central Depot into a paved pathway with gardens, fountains, sculpture and seating. Adrienne wants to fill the Rosa Parks Transit Center and city buses with art and poetry to promote literacy. David wants to turn his alley garage into a neighborhood gathering place.

These are just a few of the dozens of ideas submitted to Mind the Gap, a public design ideas competition for Detroit’s in-between spaces. The competition is part of the first-ever Detroit Design Festival happening right now, September 21-28, throughout the city.

We're excited to exhibit a selection of twenty-one submissions beginning Thursday, September 22, 5:00-8:00 p.m. at Bureau of Urban Living, 460 West Canfield Street in Midtown Detroit. Next week, we'll announce the winner.

Can't make the exhibit? We've posted the ideas & images online here for your viewing pleasure. Look over to the left for a list. Click on each project title to see the description & image.

Some submissions live only in someone's lovely imagination. Others are real projects & places in various stages of development. All are clever ways to stitch our urban fabric back together with public spaces people can use and enjoy.

If it's not obvious already, we think that public space matters. A lot. Not just for a "pretty" city, but for a city that values civic engagement and the exchange of ideas. Like Jane Jacobs said: "We do need places to come together. Casual encounters with one another are important in learning trust, and learning to be civilized in the use of public space." And to quote another one of our heroes, Bill Strickland: "People are a function of their environment. Everyone deserves beauty, not just rich people." 

We couldn't agree more.

Thank you to the Detroit Creative Corridor Center for sponsoring this project, and to all the people who shared their ideas for a more beautiful, connected city. A special shout-out to 8th grade teacher Aaron Kuehne at HFA: SCS for inviting his art and design students to submit their ideas. They made us smile.

We hope this competition will inspire us all to keep imagining ways to mind the gap -- and maybe, just maybe, motivate a few property owners to join us, too.

-Claire Nelson

Friday, August 26, 2011

Design Ideas for Detroit's In-Between Spaces

You walk by this space everyday. Maybe it's an alley, or a surface parking lot, or a shadowy nook under an overpass. You think to yourself how great it could be. You imagine it filled with people and activity instead of sitting there looking all sad and sorry. It wouldn't take much, you figure, to turn this site into a really cool spot.

Architects and planners call these spaces the "missing teeth" in our urban fabric. As buildings are torn down for parking or empty lots, our streetscapes take on a gap-toothed appearance. Sometimes it's the smallest slivers of space that can make the difference between a vibrant, walkable neighborhood and a place that feels uninviting or unsafe.

Mind the Gap is a public ideas competition to generate creative new ideas for these in-between spaces in our city. Alleys, bridges, overpasses, sidewalks, storefronts, surface parking lots, vacant lots -- you get the idea, right?

For the sake of this project, we're not looking for major in-fill developments. We're looking for small-scale interventions that could have a large impact. We're looking for simple ways to stitch Detroit's urban fabric back together.

For this exercise, we borrow the Green Garage's motto:
Small is big.

You need not be an architect or planner to enter this competition. All you need is the ability to describe your site and solution.

Ready...set...imagine. What do you see?

Maybe something like this:

Candy Chang's interactive mural in New Orleans. (

Or this:

Food carts in Portland, Oregon. (

Or this?

The Green Alley in Midtown Detroit. (

Click here to see some ideas. Then click here to submit your own.

Anyone can submit an idea through this website or in person at Bureau of Urban Living. Submissions are due Monday, September 12, 2011, 5:00 pm EST.

Submissions will be reviewed by a jury, and a $100 cash prize will be awarded to the best idea. A selection of ideas will be displayed during Detroit Design Festival (September 21-28, 2011).

Mind the Gap Exhibit:
Thursday, September 22, 2011
5:00 - 8:00 p.m.
Bureau of Urban Living
460 West Canfield Street
Detroit, MI 48201

For more info, click here.