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John Marshall Wins DIA Plaza/Midtown Cultural Connections International Design Competition

Stamps Associate Professor and Founding Director of the MDes Integrative Design Program John Marshall Ph.D. is part of Detroit Square (DSQ), the team that proposed the winning design for the 2019 DIA Plaza/Midtown Cultural Connections international design competition.


The international design competition was launched in 2017 by the DIA and Midtown Detroit to unite twelve cultural and educational institutions, creating a walkable, unified cultural district that will connect the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History; College for Creative Studies; Detroit Historical Museum; Detroit Institute of Arts; Detroit Public Library; Hellenic Museum of Michigan; International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit; Michigan Science Center Complex; Midtown Detroit, Inc.; The Scarab Club; University of Michigan; and Wayne State University.

In January of 2019, three finalists gave presentations of their visions in front of a panel of jurors and the general public. Exhibitions of the finalists proposals were also on view at the Detroit Institute of Arts to provide the public with an opportunity for deeper consideration and feedback.

On June 9, 2019, DSQ was announced as the winning team for the project, launching an 18-month planning process that includes a topographic survey, tree survey, mobility study, parking study, stormwater management survey, lighting survey, and more. Cost estimating will be developed in tandem with the phasing recommendations for construction build-out. The City of Detroit sits on the steering committee and is a member of the project management team; the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) also sits on the steering committee.


Other members of DSQ include Cézanne Charles, Marshall’s partner at the Detroit-based design studio rootoftwo, LLC; Agence Ter, a landscape and urban design studio based in Paris, France; Harley Etienne, an urban planner and assistant professor of urban and regional planning at U-M; and Anya Sirota and Jean Louis Farges of Akoaki, a Detroit-based architecture and urban design studio. Sirota is also an associate professor at Taubman College.

L-R: Harley Etienne, Jean Louis Farges (Akoaki), Cézanne Charles and John Marshall (rootoftwo), Olivier Philippe (Agence Ter), and Anya Sirota (Akoaki). Photo by Doug Coombe, courtsey of Midtown Cultural Connections.

“We've all been working with these communities for so long, and we feel the perspectives of all the people that we’ve worked with need to be represented,” Marshall said of the project. “This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity, and we feel the weight of this responsibility.”


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