Cross-plotted: Detroit to Windsor Exhibition Opens November 9th

Cross-plotted: Detroit to Windsor is an exhibition by a group of Master of Architecture students at the University of Michigan. The group is formulated around a research practice that investigates the unfolding circumstances of the city through full-scale-work: making is used as a means to reveal, critique, and alter the realities of our urban settings. The exhibition focuses on specific plots of land in Detroit by exploring their material and atmospheric conditions as well as their immaterial regulations, degrees of neglect, and idiosyncrasies. The capsules work to re-frame materials from the plots in Detroit within their displaced context in Windsor.

The group is collaborating with the artist-led interdisciplinary collective Broken City Lab, as well as the Creative Rights legal team. The attitudes and research practices developed for this work will inform a yearlong thesis studio.

The exhibit opens November 9th at 7pm at Broken City Lab’s Civic Space: 411 Pelissier Street in downtown Windsor.


John Guinn

Tony Killian

Anastasia Kostrominova

Emily Kutil

Sarah Nowaczyk

Harry Solie

Grant Weaver

Andrew Wolking

Ning Zhou

Professor: Catie Newell

Skills For Good(s) With Rod Strickland

Last night at 411 Pelissier,  the first instalment of Skills for Good(s) began with one of our favourite skill-filled friends, Rod Strickland.  This series of skill share sessions will be hosted by Lucy and I every other Tuesday out of Civic Space. Our hopes are that it opens up the floor for discussion on an array of skills and knowledge about everything from Earthship Architecture to the best way to make pie.

Skills for Good(s) is based on the idea of barter based education. Presenters share a skill/knowledge that they have and attendees bring barter items in exchange. Above, Lucy helps prepare the space before Rod begins skill sharing.

For each session, barter items are requested by the presenter. Tonight, Rod chose food!

Stocking up before the talk starts.

Rod decided to share his skill while sitting among us instead of standing at the front. This made for awesome discussion and a more casual/relaxed setting.

Examples of an earthship from the outside south side, where the green house is located. This new way of building sustainable homes is something Rod has been interested for a long time. He has been researching sustainability for over a decade!

Another example of an earthship. The organic aesthetic of these homes are quite beautiful.


The very first step in building an earthship is pounding tires…lots of them. Rod said that a 2 bedroom earth ship has around 1,000 pounded tires!

Discussing building code protocol.

Rod takes to the front to demonstrate how the thermal masse systems work inside earthships.

The water, heating/cooling, and green house systems make this type of living space completely self sustainable.

After the presentation, more discussions break out in smaller groups.

Earthship talk.

It was such a fun night with lots of new friendly faces. Stay tuned for an announcement about the next presenter and in the  meantime, come out to Rosina’s Zine Night tonight at 7:00 pm. See you there!


Pop-Up Possibilities: Sketches

Tom Provost came by a couple weeks ago with an idea for a new collaboration. We’ve work with Tom before on How to Forget the Border Completely — in particular the proposals for 1,000 Pedestrian Walkways and the Windsor-Detroit Portals.  In short, the new project is to take the form of a triangular sign, something like you might find on an empty lot waiting to be developed. On each of the three sides of the sign would be a proposed development for the particular site on which the sign is located, along with three perspectives on the possibilities of that development ever taking place or not.

The development would be a large-scale proposal — something that could undoubtedly transform a selected site, and would probably verge on the impossible — would attempt to articulate not just a “new use” for a selected site, but a one that might reflect the values and directions that we would like to see the city take on. We’re approaching this with the mindset of impatience and lack of confidence in the powers that be to create a truly interesting place to live. The proposals will aim to engage in imaginative speculation, but also try to draw into a critical discourse the ways in which we seem to disarm ourselves collectively from building truly great community assets. We so often rely and play into the very imaginary game of community consultation on projects long ago set (mostly) in stone, this seems like a great project to assert a different stance, process, and set of ideas for developing various parts of our city.

Also, these stir sticks were less a model, and more of a visualization tool for us to talk through the project. In early stages, I’m always so intrigued with how things shift and circle back around and change entirely.

When I caught up with Tom earlier this week, we spent a lot of time talking form.

Trying to find a balance between efficiency with the materials we’ll buy (how many faces, ideally, will come out of on piece of plywood), and making these things somewhat transportable led to discussions about size, the number of them we might build, and certainly the level of spontaneity in their arrival(s) to the selected site(s). All of these elements in turn vastly change the “weight” (in all senses) of the signs — where’s the line between an authority in structure and an intimidation (and in turn backgrounding effect) of the structures?

We took notes on this really basic paper (almost the feel of a smooth construction paper). In the past, Tom has used this for making the bases of architectural models, which looks incredible. We’ll be using a similar technique to basically grid and create a larger image for each face of the triangular sign.

We’re looking at these signs being somewhere around 2ft x 4ft for each face. The sketch above was looking at other possible shapes.

A visual walk through of our discussion.

We also talked about the possibility of these forming a temporary a wall or partition that could provide more surfaces and the possibility to randomize the form on site, using hinges for each face.

But we ended up revisiting the three-sided structure, coming to a fairly resolved (at this point) direction, moving towards utilizing the three sides of the structure to discuss the limits of approach that various actors take to something like a development. What views, acts of persuasion, money, political tactics, and rhetoric does a developer bring to a new proposed project versus that of a city councillor or that of a community member who lives in the neighbourhood in which a new development is being proposed?

We’ll build later this summer.

How to Forget the Border Completely, continued: 707PX

Following up on our How to Forget the Border Completely project from last year, collaborator Tom Provost continues to work on ideas around pedestrian border crossings (which you can read all about in the HFBC book!)

Photos and text by Tom Provost

In the summer of 2011, I was in dialogue with Broken City Lab about the idea of forgetting the border… completely! We thought about what could be done at the architectural scale to overcome the enormous divide between Windsor and Detroit. We thought about the possibility of prioritizing pedestrians over industry. We also considered what kind of architectonic could close the gap between the super-human-scale and the individual – a post-industrial dilemma easily visible from the river’s edge. The result was 707PX.

707PX is a speculative project engaging the border cities of Windsor and Detroit in a new entanglement. The geopolitical division acts as an indicator only, a naïve datum. The architecture examines the surreal condition of complete pedestrian dominance with form as an end goal of the process. Ultimately, it is the process that dominates to form a surreal pedestrian condition along the river. The concept became physical after pursuing the connection of past, present, and future incarnations of the river. It began with a map from 1796 that was meticulously traced along both edges, reifying what has now been striated. These new edges were examined as a whole and then as a part. By repeatedly scaling and the slicing them into multiple sections, it quickly revealed an allegiance to an old-world geographic division native to its very own history – the French ribbon farm. The ribbon farms are noticeable on the map from 1796 as they indicate human presence. They are cordoned off plots, extending narrowly and perpendicular to the river. By alluding back to this system, the architecture can interfere with the modern schema at the human scale.

The multiple collections of river’s edge sections are then distributed evenly on their respective sides, in sequential order. The sequence creates tactility close to rippling, with a rhythm clearly visible on both sides. With the border as a datum, both sides dialogue and seesaw at various moments, creating subito and crescendo. The finale occurs when the sequence, thought of as attached to a string, is lifted and becomes conformed to the unique, precise, and mathematical geopolitical division. It should be noted that the 1796 map omits division. The river appears as a singular moving force between bodies of and is left graphically plain. The form of 707PX reifies the singularity of the river by adjoining both cities and entertaining a pedestrian agenda. This investigation answers the question of how one is to forget the border while simultaneously subverting its presence.

Wellington Ave, Windsor, Ontario

Above, a wall between two houses covered in vinyl siding.

Danielle and I were on our way downtown the other day and we took Wellington after I forgot to turn where I normally do at Partington. There were architectural and infrastructural weirdness that actually had us stop, turn around, and then pull over to take these shots. It also made me anxious to start on the drifts we’ve discussed doing.  More time to explore neighbourhoods slowly would be a lot of fun.

Above, a park that has a bizarrely designed planter (as far as Windsor’s standards go).

And, finally, a house that has this modernist addition on the front of it to feature a large circular wooden accent that actually frames a normal wooden door.

Defiance: Disobedient Design Panel Discussion

Next week, I’ll be heading over to Detroit to join a panel discussion hosted by rogueHAA entitled, Defiance: Obedient Design. They’ve been doing a lot of great programming over the last year or so, and here’s some more information:

As part of the Detroit Design Festival presented by the Detroit Creative Corridor Center, rogueHAA is pleased to announce the third event in its 2011/2012 series: PROVOCATIONS: Challenging Detroit’s Design Discourse. This bi-monthly lecture series began in June and will continue through the end of 2012.  Each panel discussion will invite local, regional, and national figures to discuss what makes Detroit provocative.  Set in a variety of under-utilized, contested, and historically charged spaces throughout our city, each event seeks to challenge the participants through candid discourse and direct engagement of the built environment.  It is the aim of each panel discussion to explore new urban strategies that promote social equity and advocacy.  We believe good design (and good design discourse) is a proactive and critical act, toeing the line between conflict and resolution.  While each event exists for only a moment, the entire series will provide a lasting catalogue of constructive dialogue, informing Detroit’s shared creative consciousness.

Event 03 DEFIANCE : Disobedient Design.

I’m quite excited to participate, if you’re in the neighbourhood, check it out on Tuesday, September 27th from 6-9pm, 2690 Wight Street.

Blasbichler’s Twenty-One

Architect Armin Blasbichler recently presented 21 of his architecture students at the University of Innsbruck with an interesting and secretive assignment. His students had been assigned to “pick a bank in the city, study it, identify its Achilles’ heel and plan a bank robbery.” I’ll include the assignment statement below because it is incredible.

“The task: Develop a bank robbery plan for a bank branch within the city limits of Innsbruck. Use only information you find out yourself. Your alter-ego is your team mate, listen to what he/she says. Do not tell bank staff who you are and what you intend to do. Identify weak points of the chosen bank branch. Develop a concept to detract assets from the bank according to the weaknesses identified. Include action-, time-, and escape plan in a paper document of 70x100cm of size. Use graphic design techniques and text in order to provide a viable instructions manual document. Calculate or estimate the potential loss of assets.”

Via: We Make Money, Not Art

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Pablo Valbuena’s Quadratura

Quadratura is a new site-specific light installation by Spanish artist Pablo Valbuena. He projected a perspective grid between two rows of columns and onto the wall behind them, thus creating the illusion of an infinite pathway. Pablo reminds us that “Quadratura was the technique used in the baroque to extended architecture through trompe l’oeil and perspective constructions generated with paint or sculpture.” I suggest watching the short video of the installation setup included on his project page as it highlights the degree to which light transforms this space.

Power House Walking Tour: Understanding the Incremental

On Saturday, Eric, Danielle, and her sister, Jessica, and I headed over to the Power House neighbourhood walk in Detroit.

I’d been hoping to finally see this project in person, as it’s been a little over two years since I first wrote about it here. I’d missed their residency at the DIA (saw the installation, but didn’t get to see Mitch or Gina) and also missed them at MOCAD (but seeing their Neighborhood Machine on exhibition was very cool). So, to be able to get a tour and talk to Mitch about their project was really, really great.

Above, a to-do list from artist-in-residence, Monica Canilao, who plan to return to purchase the upper-half of this duplex.

Continue reading “Power House Walking Tour: Understanding the Incremental”