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