A team of Washington University architecture students placed second in the 2012 National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) Student Design Competition, for the project detroit feedback.
Ten graduate students—Silvino Castillo, Wassef Dabboussi, Abigail Jones, Alejandra Lopez, Trent McGugin, Mayur Patel, Christopher Quinlan, Matthew Skinner, Leslie Wheeler, and Shiyun Yu—and three undergraduates—David Chiang, Ryan Chiu, and Michael Savala—collaborated on the competition entry as part of a two-semester seminar led by adjunct lecturer Charles Brown.
Titled Urban [space] US12...Idea Center, the competition sought ideas for the invigoration and infusion of community-led design and economic development for urban spaces in Southwest Detroit. Students were asked to complete an urban planning study focused on the development of new urban spaces located off of Michigan Avenue [US12], a zone ripe for community enhancement.
They then needed to develop a cohesive urban planning scheme that incorporated key elements from The Greening of Detroit initiative, along with the design of a new Sustainable Training Center. Known as "The Idea Center," it would serve as the hub for neighborhood revitalization, and a nucleus for education and information focusing on holistic and healthy living.
The WU team focused on Corktown, one of the oldest and most established districts in the city. The multi-cultural neighborhood has a strong sense of community spirit, but the development of the Fisher Freeway combined with the city’s economic downturn hurt the neighborhood’s vitality and significantly restricted access to basic resources, including jobs and nutritious food.
detroit feedback aims to reinvigorate the neighborhood through the development of urban infrastructure and the incorporation of an urban farming interactive learning center. Urban infill and land banking strategies would be employed to create pocket parks and recreational venues while providing better connections with new locally owned businesses. The urban farms would provide locally sourced produce for the community, in addition to spurring job growth and reducing the amount of energy and cost used to ship in food from other locations.
The Idea Center would anchor this initiative, providing an education resource for urban farming techniques that could also be used in other areas of Detroit, spurring a "chain reaction" of economic growth and public green space.
"In the most literal sense, we create feedback by providing the resources to produce nutritious food and feed the people of Detroit," the team notes in its proposal. "The process involved to produce this food then creates jobs and promotes economic growth while giving residents pride in their community, further establishing the reaction to the urban issues of the city."
Students presented their work October 20 at the 2012 NOMA Conference in Detroit, where winners were announced. Auburn University placed first, followed by Washington University, which received a $1,000 prize.