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John Marshall: DIA Plaza/Midtown Cultural Connections International Design Competition Presentation

On Wednesday, January 23, 2019, the three teams selected as finalists in the DIA Plaza and Midtown Cultural Connections design competition — including the Agence Ter team, featuring Stamps Professor and MDes in Integrative Design program director, John Marshall, PhD, of the design duo rootoftwo — gave public presentations of their visions of how to connect Detroit’s leading cultural venues into one destination in Midtown Detroit.

The international design competition was launched last year by the DIA and Midtown Detroit to unite 12 cultural and educational institutions, creating a connected cultural district and a town square for the surrounding neighborhoods.

The Agence Ter team presented a thorough, human-centered proposal, leveraging data from the Michigan Department of Transportation to ensure neighborhood traffic feasibility for the Midtown neighborhood, bringing 1,000 new parking spaces to the district. The proposal included a number of architectural interventions that emphasized the idea of extending the interior content found within the 12 cultural institutions to the exterior space of the public square. Identified possibilities to express this idea included a renovation of Detroit Public Library's reading room; the installation of public art along pedestrian paths throughout the square; and the creation of an "Afro-futurist/baroque " style canopy enclosure to host events, large-scale exhibitions, and other community cultural happenings. Landscape design and "smart tech" to assist in programming lighting design, projections, and sound across the square also featured prominently in the proposal. Finally, no Detroit public square would be complete without a DJ booth; the Agence Ter proposal included a 21st century "bandstand" for music and performances.

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.

Exhibitions of the finalists proposals are on view at the Detroit Institute of Arts through April 1, 2019. The winning team, selected by a jury that includes Taubman College Dean Jonathan Massey, will be honored with the project bid; winners will be announced in mid-March, 2019.


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Photos by Dori Sumter, except where noted.