Detroit by Design 2012: International Riverfront Competition

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Our timeline below documents the parking garage which has been profoundly transformed by building technique, behaviors towards mobility, and the automobile industry. The garage is overwhelmingly characterized by its vacancy and lack of elements which make it a subject to material experimentation with sculptural cast in place concrete structures like the Temple Street Garage by Paul Rudolph, and precast structural screens like the Welbeck Street Garage by Michael Blampied in 1970. Between those moments however, are the ones we are most familiar with; the sloped floors, dim lighting, shallow sections with a spatial air that cinema captures as a space for the perfect crime, conspiring rendezvous.  More on its history later…


IMAGE: Constantin Melinkoff, 1925

An introduction excerpt from Urban Mechanic’s research from which we are extending our investigations:

When Henry Ford transformed the automobile from a novelty of the privileged few to an affordable tool for the masses it initiated a new pattern and pace for American modern life. By the 1930’s, over 23 million cars were in circulation on America’s roads. The automobile’s spatial demand for both movement and storage created an opportunity for revenue and expansion in city centers and peripheries with suburban populations exceeding the growth of urban areas by 30% in the 1950’s. The result was the adoption of the automobile that has dispersed nearly all American cites, and continues to today.

Louis Mumford said that the “right to have access to every building in the city by private motorcar in an age where everyone possesses such a vehicle is actually the right to destroy the city” In contrast, historian Reyner Banham frames the notoriously mobile city of Los Angeles in a positive light, as a city that functions less formally. Through Banham’s narrative on Los Angeles he may have argued with the medieval Mumford that within these new radically mobile cities, permanence is traded continuous renewal and therefore new experiences, and types, carry a functional specificity that escapes formal definition.

As an extension to Banham’s theme of ecologies, our continuing investigation on this topic will not only look at the parking garage, that has historically been subject to experimentation in circulation and construction technique, but also other structures that have the potential for experimentation as a type.