The annual Detroit Month of Design, organized by the local nonprofit Design Core Detroit, is back this year with a focus on adaptive reuse projects. The festival showcases furniture made from recycled bulletproof glass and religious buildings transformed into art spaces.
Detroit Month of Design aims to celebrate design projects and initiatives in the city while also emphasizing education, collaboration, and business development. The event seeks to address the disparities and lack of opportunities that have resulted from years of divestment from Detroit.
“We’re promoting interdisciplinary teams and encouraging a look at the design process, so we can create a better Detroit and avoid repeating past mistakes,” said Kiana Wenzell, director of Detroit Month of Design.
The programming of the festival also highlights recently restored buildings in the city. Exhibitions and talks took place in previously dilapidated spaces, including a tech incubator housed in a restored 1936 art deco building. Art exhibitions were also held in a convent, a church, and the revitalized Detroit Design District.
Woodward Throwbacks, a gallery and studio, showcased smaller-scale reuse projects. They repurposed material from demolished buildings, such as recycled bulletproof glass transformed into coffee tables.
In addition to adaptive reuse projects, the festival also featured new construction. One notable project was Detroit’s first 3D-printed home, presented as an affordable solution to infill architecture.
The Detroit Month of Design also emphasized the work of developers such as Method Development and Bedrock, which were involved in adaptive reuse projects and other developments in the city. Bedrock, owned by businessman Daniel Gilbert, is responsible for numerous projects in downtown Detroit, including an upcoming skyscraper designed by SHoP Architects.
According to Wenzell, collaboration between different stakeholders is crucial for the city’s revival. She stressed the importance of on-the-ground collaboration with artists and community members in order to gain public acceptance for projects.
Furthermore, Wenzell highlighted the need to change the language surrounding Detroit and the issues it has faced in recent decades, such as derelict land and lapsed public services. She emphasized the use of terms like “land use models” and “land-use strategies” instead of “blight” or “vacant land.”
One land-use strategy highlighted by the festival is the conversion of empty lots into native plant ecosystems and community spaces. The Detroit Land Lab oversees the remediation and replanting of hundreds of blocks within the city, creating places for gatherings and events.
The Detroit Month of Design is part of a larger trend of festivals in the United States seeking to rejuvenate cities and address racial inequities. These events, including St Louis’ Counterpublics festival, aim to engage the community and bring about positive change.
The festival will run from September 1st to September 30th, 2023. For more information on talks, events, and exhibitions in architecture and design, visit the Dezeen Events Guide.
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