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John Marshall, r+d LAB to Transform Midtown Viaduct

July 23, 2015

A research collaborative known as r+d LAB, comprised of Stamps Professor John Marshall, Taubman College Professor Karl Daubmann, and Creative Many Director of Creative Industries Cézanne Charles, is one of three teams selected to develop public art and light projects for viaducts located in Midtown Detroit’s TechTown district. 

Created for the MIDVIA (Midtown Viaducts Public Art + Light Project) with funding from the New Economy Initiative and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, r+d LAB’s project, Resonance, will transform Detroit’s historic Second Avenue viaduct into a vibrant pedestrian walkway.

“r+d LAB is committed to working to generate creative, environmentally responsive, and innovative solutions to Detroit’s urban challenges,” says John Marshall, principal, r+d LAB.  “Built in 1934, the once magnificent Second Avenue viaduct had been poorly maintained and lacked adequate lighting, contributing to perceptions of the district as unsafe. We wanted to create a space that would make tangible the movement and meeting of passersby and amplify wayfinding with light, transforming the experience and usability of the space.”

Resonance builds on the naturally occurring bands of dark and light created by the viaduct’s arched openings, amplifying this sequential lighting and patterning as the user moves deeper into the space and in response to the presence of multiple people.

Consisting of 22 LED light boxes mounted on the viaduct walls and ceiling between each viaduct archway, Resonance increases the amount of available illumination the farther into the space one walks from either side. Each LED unit will have a range of sensors that trigger the lighting in response to the number, speed and direction of pedestrians in the space. This will generate a ‘pressure wave’ of increased illumination in advance of people as they walk.  This wave will then burst and diffuse in a cascade of ripples when it meets the wave of someone coming from the opposite direction.

“From low-tech to interactive light experiences, the work of these artist teams exemplifies experimentation and new ideas, further positioning TechTown as an innovation district,” says Susan Mosey, President of Midtown Detroit, Inc., the organization administering the MIDVIA.

Resonance will begin construction this summer.

About r+d LAB:  r+d LAB grows out of a meshing of rootoftwo (Cézanne Charles and John Marshall) + DAUB (Karl Daubmann). In 2014 they formed r+d LAB, LLC. as a research-led collaborative entity to remix models of practice including laboratory, workshop, think-tank, garage, studio, and agency that lead to innovative approaches, designs and environments. 

rootoftwo + DAUB have collaborated on a number of projects since 2008 including “menotme” - a luminous, playful, responsive form designed to provoke public affection for DLECTRICITY in 2012; “THR_33 (Teahouse for Robots)” - a project for the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, Japan, 2010; and the “Shadow Pavilion” - a temporary structure for Matthaei Botanical Garden, Ann Arbor, Michigan. “Shadow Pavilion” received Architect Magazine’s 2010 R+D Award for architectural research.

r+d LAB: Karl Daubmann, Cézanne Charles, and John Marshall.

About MIDVIA: MIDVIA (Midtown Viaducts Public Art + Light Project) is one of the recommended interventions stemming from the TechTown District Plan, which aims to improve safety, accessibility and placemaking efforts in the area. Midtown Viaducts partners include: the New Economy Initiative, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Midtown Detroit, Inc., the City of Detroit, Consolidated Rail Corporation, and CN Rail. 

About MDI:  Midtown Detroit Inc. is a nonprofit planning and development organization that supports the physical maintenance and revitalization of the Midtown Detroit neighborhood, while working to enhance public awareness, appreciation and use of the district. 

About the New Economy Initiative:  The New Economy Initiative, a special project of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, is the largest economic development initiative of its kind working to build a network of support for entrepreneurs and small businesses, with the mission to create an inclusive, innovative regional culture by reawakening and leveraging Detroit’s creative entrepreneurial drive. 

About the John S. And James L. Knight Foundation: The Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged.