UD732 – Geoffrey Thün – Phalanstaria

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It is difficult to imagine an urban situation that offers more profoundly a conflicted vista of possibilities than that of the City of Detroit. Within a context where the provision of infrastructural and social services has been abandoned, structural resistance to imagining new and possible urban worlds fades away. While Detroit’s histories, morphology, infrastructures, economies, and ecologies hardly constitute a tabula rasa, each of these domains offers an opportunity to be leveraged and transformed towards new models of civic life. As a city that has witnessed the urban succession produced by extraction, industrialization, rapid growth, redlining, civic flight, automation, decline, abandonment and bankruptcy generated through circuits of capitalism, there is perhaps no more poignant place in which to imagine alternatives. There have of course, been many proposals for alternate urbanisms in Detroit – from the staging strategies of “De-Camping” (1996), to the Adamah proposal (2001), to the Detroit Future City framework (2012), and a range of community-led initiatives at the micro scale, each framed within the dominant logics that undergird existing conditions. Perhaps the crises of 2020 constitute a moment in which to imagine alternatives afresh. Participants in this studio proposed visions for collective life explored through relational urban forms  aimed to sponsor possible collective futures that emerge from within a deep consideration of the multiple dimensions and forces that might manifest in a future Detroit.

Student Work

Chan Chia-Wei – “Confetti Urbanism”

An average of $36,106 was spent to incarcerate a single person in Michigan in 2017. Roughly two-thirds of formerly incarcerated individuals are re-arrested within three years, and one-half return to prisons again, either for violation of parole or for committing new crimes. This unsuccessful model of correction has a devastating impact on low-income African-American neighborhoods. Meanwhile, more affluent and white areas have gone largely unscathed. Thus, the act of mass incarceration is not simply punishing people for the crimes they commit. The act is also punishing them for the places they live and reenter. The research site, Poletown East, a socially segregated neighborhood on the Eastside of the city is currently transforming itself from a bleak zone to an inclusive environment through the efforts mainly incorporated by an NPO called SHAR. RecoveryPark, Poletown Detroit, is also a concept developed by SHAR, which aims to create a “recovering community without walls.” that will integrate large scale urban farming activity within the city as a means to stimulate new economic opportunities and community development.
Confetti Urbanism aims to advance this core idea and resonate with the crime reentry issue, further reconstruct the neighborhood through a strategic process that combines the adaptation of urban farmland, ruin restoration, software upgrades, open and public space intensification and small-scale business incubation that may collectively create a more equitable place for not only those in recovery but also the current occupants to live, work and interact. Rather than considering crime rate as a statistical fact, Confetti Urbanism views this problem as part of our city space, coming up with an alternative solution in improving social infrastructure that is neither a top-down nor bottom-up approach, this project embraces both the values of architectural and artistic representations in staging new urban potentials and instant pop-up programs, which eventually, will work together to create a new utopia for those in recovery and broader publics alike.

Fang Yinan + Lin Yu-Cheng (Hayden) – “Surficial Plurality”

This project is situated within the highly contested context between residents in Delray and the arrival of the Gordie Howe Bridge. This recent history assembles multiple issues: legacies of industrial pollution, displaced residents forced to relocate in the face of the international infrastructure project, fears regarding an increased concentration of air pollution, and an increasing perception that the citizens of Delray are without a future. We speculate that a particularly resistant group of citizens negotiate a percentage of bridge and duty free revenues to stage the initiation of an urban enclave named the Delray Free Zone. “Surficial Plurality” offers a speculative proposal that leverages Delray as an extra-jurisdictional territory, Delray Free Zone, comprised of a linear water processing landscape inhabited by residents and truck drivers. The construction of the territory undergirds existing conditions caused by the perceived persecution and urban succession of Detroit, and inflects them for an ideal collective reality. This reality envisages an alternative urban life that incorporates the symbiosis of the Food-Energy-Water (FEW) system as a means to remediate, reconstruct, and reproduce a model micro-utopia.

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