Students reimagine Detroit's Cultural Center through DIA Student Design Summit

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Still from Team 3's video submission.

Voting for the competition closes on Jan. 13. Vote here

A team of graduate students from throughout Wayne State recently entered the Detroit Institute of Arts Student Design Summit. Competitors were required to submit a three-minute video that proposes how to make the DIA and surrounding area more modern and accommodating.

Two winners will be chosen; a People's Choice Award and a Cultural District Jury Award. Each will be awarded a $2,500 grand prize, according to the DIA Plaza website. Design team member and master of urban planning program student Kristin Shaw said she was excited by the opportunity to redesign a space a few blocks from where she lives.

“That’s where I walk my dog, hang out, get on the QLine; it’s pretty much my backyard,” said Shaw. “It’s a special opportunity to think about the way I use such an important area of the city and how others use it as well.”

For their entry, Shaw’s team designed a green space that would connect the DIA with the surrounding institutions. The design proposes adding an amphitheater, relocating MOCAD and creating a pedestrian-friendly street design.

Still from the team's video submission.

“The district would foster a sustainable environment,” said Shaw. “It’s kind of like a backyard for all of the institutions.”

The design also includes a digital element through an app that would allow visitors to interact virtually with the space. The team’s video illustrates how the app would help unify marketing and branding for the district.

Shaw’s team looked to Detroiters to find inspiration for their design and conducted formal surveys online to find what people liked about the area and what was missing. The team also ran site visits to survey the area with cameras.

“We also looked at the 1990 Detroit urban design concept for the inner city, which was an old document by the Detroit Planning and Development Department,” said Shaw. “More green space was allocated for Detroit in general, and so we pulled from how they used green space to connect the area.”

Shaw became inspired to join a student team after Urban Planning Professor Kami Pothukuchi encouraged her class to get involved with the competition and take advantage of the unique opportunity.

“The competition helps us — whether in Detroit or outside of it — think about how the DIA connects with its various constituencies and how the district can be designed to be more than the sum of the cultural institutions that constitute it,” said Professor Pothukuchi. “It's an exciting time for Detroit, so this exercise is especially timely. Our students are in a good place — literally — to offer ideas.”

The DIA Student Design Summit is accepting votes for student design video presentations here through Jan. 13 at 11:59 p.m. The WSU submission can be found under Student Team 3.

Written by Melanie Barnett, Marketing and Communications Associate.

DIA Design Competition Video on Vimeo.

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