Meet the Architect Overseeing the Michigan Central Project

Steve Friess | Hour Detroit

Vishaan Chakrabarti, the architect overseeing the master plan for the redevelopment of Michigan Central Station, answers some questions about the project and why he loves Detroit.

Ford executives, casting about for a firm to oversee a master plan for redeveloping Michigan Central Station and the 30-acre area around it, landed on a New York firm called Practice for Architecture and Urbanism, or PAU.

Its founder, Vishaan Chakrabarti, 56, has focused his career on large-scale urban revival efforts. Notably, he helped concoct the groundbreaking idea of repurposing an elevated freight rail line in Manhattan as a public park known as the High Line; PAU is currently designing the expansion of Cleveland’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Chakrabarti, who was born in Kolkata, India, and arrived in the U.S. at age 2 with his family, first came to Detroit on a mid-1990s cross-country road trip with his girlfriend in a 1983 Honda Civic. They went to a downtown jazz club, he says, and became charmed by the city. Decades later, he’s at the center of the process of revitalizing it, as he explains to Hour Detroit.


Categories: AIA Detroit News  
October 19, 2022


Please join the AIA Detroit Board and membership at our 2022 Annual Meeting, taking place on Tuesday, November 15th, at the American Interiors office in Novi, beginning at 6:00pm.

This meeting will include the annual report to the membership and the election of the 2023 AIA Detroit Board of Directors. We will discuss what the AIA Detroit Board has been working on internally this year, reveal our new Strategic Plan, and reflect on how that will affect the direction of the organization going forward.

Food and beverages will be provided. We hope you will attend!

The Annual Meeting is one of the few times throughout the year that AIA Detroit can reflect on our progress and discuss the future of the organization with our members.

Those unable to attend the 2022 Annual Meeting may request an absentee ballot by emailing with your name and AIA Member number by Nov 14, 5pm. Absentee ballots must be completed by 12:00pm on November 15th. (You must be an AIA Detroit Member in good standing to vote)

RSVP Here for the 2022 Annual Meeting


Categories: AIA Detroit News  
October 18, 2022

Architects boost three cities as part of this year’s Mayors Innovative Design Cohort

Katherine Flynn | AIA Blueprint For Better

The Frosty Morn meat packing factory in Clarksville, Tenn.—all 52,600 square feet of it—has sat vacant since 1977. “Nobody’s ever spent any money to keep the roof up,” says John Hilborn, City Project Manager at the City of Clarksville. “When it rains, it rains as much inside the building as it does outside.”

In its heyday, the Frosty Morn plant was a major employer in northern Tennessee. City officials think that, with the right renovations, the building has the potential to return to its former role as an anchor of the community—this time housing local businesses.

“The way that Clarksville is growing, that area has not evolved with the areas around it,” says Pam Powell, AIA, of the vicinity surrounding Frosty Morn. “It’s in an under-developed neighborhood, really. I think it’s a perfect location for being a catalyst for change for the people that live there.”

The building’s iconic smokestack—torn down in 2020 amid safety concerns—has a chance at rising again thanks to the 2022 Mayors Innovative Design Cohort, a partnership between the Mayors Innovation Project and The American Institute of Architects’ Blueprint for Better campaign that will revitalize Frosty Morn and two other underused sites around the country. Blueprint for Better targets mayors and civic leaders to work with architects to transform their towns into sustainable, resilient, equitable communities.

This year’s three winning sites received technical assistance from project architects, peer learning opportunities, and a stipend to help cover the costs of staff time, project management, and community engagement.

AIA Middle Tennessee is in the process of shepherding revitalization of the Frosty Morn building for the city of Clarkesville, helping city officials understand what is possible through tours of similar former industrial structures that have been repurposed, like the Neuhoff Meat Packing Plant in Nashville.

Clarksville’s Frosty Morn is in good company. In Eastpointe, Mich., members of AIA Detroit helped reimagine a former parking lot as an outdoor market and event space, and in Blacksburg, Va., the Cooks Cleaners dry-cleaning shop will be renovated—with the help of AIA Blue Ridge—into usable retail space. (more…)

Categories: AIA Detroit News  

Michigan’s First 3D Printed House Coming to Detroit in 2023

Bryce Huffman | Bridge Detroit

A 3D-printing robot has begun creating the concrete walls for Detroit’s first factory-printed home.

The nonprofit Citizen Robotics began the work Tuesday in its warehouse in southwest Detroit. The house, also expected to be the first in the state of Michigan, will be built in sections and later assembled in the Islandview neighborhood on the city’s southeast side.

The single-story, two-bedroom house will be 850 square feet and marketed to low-income individuals earning 80% of the area median income – which is about $50,240 for a two-person household in Detroit.

Tom Woodman, executive director of Citizen Robotics, said if cities, states, and construction companies don’t begin to invest in the technology that makes building this home possible, “our housing stock will continue to decline.”

“Then the cost of housing will continue to go up and we’ll no longer be able to afford to live in vibrant walkable communities,” Woodman said.

A shift toward 3D-printed homes can help fill two of Detroit’s needs: more affordable housing units and making use of this city’s wide swaths of vacant land – about 19 square miles, according to Detroit Future City. Woodman told BridgeDetroit in April that he chose Detroit for the project because the city is “striving for solutions.”

Citizen Robotics also has other 3D-printed home projects planned for Flint and Grosse Pointe Woods. One of the benefits, Woodman said, is that 3D-printed homes are expected to need much less energy to heat and cool than a house made with conventional construction.

“That’s not only better for the future homeowners’ budget, it’s also more sustainable for the planet,” he said.

The structure of the home is expected to be done by the end of the year. The entire project, designed by Bryan Cook of Develop Architecture, who also is president of the Detroit chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects, is expected to be fully complete in spring 2023.

Cook watched the printing robot Tuesday as it put down the first layers of concrete for one of the walls of the home and said “there’s still a lot of work to go.”

“But it feels really good to be standing here and actually like to see that it’s going up,” Cook said. “It’s happening so I’m just very proud and excited.”

Detroit City Councilman Coleman A. Young II recently requested an analysis from the council’s legal and policy staff on the prospect of a pilot program to build 3D houses in the city’s most impoverished neighborhoods. He was seeking input from Detroit’s Housing and Revitalization Department and evaluating if the city could acquire a 3D printer and what it would cost.

The entire project in Detroit will cost about $230,000, according to Evelyn Woodman, the co-founder of Citizen Robotics, which is paying for some of the construction costs.

The Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) is covering the remaining $150,000. MSHDA officials have said the 3D house in Detroit will serve as a “proof of concept project” to help the state determine whether 3D home building is sustainable, cost-effective and energy efficient.

Last summer, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer joined with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Citizen Robotics at the nonprofit’s warehouse to announce the state’s plan to invest $100 million in federal COVID-19 relief funding toward the construction of thousands of affordable homes statewide.

The first full 3D printed home in the country was unveiled at Austin’s South by Southwest conference in 2018, according to a city policy brief.

Read the original article here.

Categories: AIA Detroit News  
October 2, 2022


All current AIA Detroit Members are encouraged to save the date for the AIA Detroit Annual Business Meeting taking place on Tuesday, November 15th.  This meeting will include the annual report to the membership on milestones, events, and activity throughout the past year, and the election of the 2023 AIA Detroit Board of Directors.

Please send in your nominations for the 2023 AIA Detroit Board of Directors. Nominees must be AIA Detroit members in good standing.  Board Member duties will include governance, membership, and financial responsibilities (including sponsorship). The AIA Detroit Board meetings are not currently guaranteed to meet in person every month.

Please send nominations for the 2023 AIA Detroit board to elections@aiadetroit.comNominations are due by 5pm on FRIDAY, OCTOBER 14th.

2023 Board of Directors
Open positions and Certified Candidates

Director Positions eligible for election:
• (1) Detroit Director (3-year term)
• (1) Affiliate Director (Must be Professional Affiliate Member; 1-year term)
• (1) Associate Director (Must be Associate Member; 1-year term)

Executive Committee positions eligible for election:
• (1) Treasurer (Must be Architect or Associate Member; 2-year term)
• (1) Vice President/President-Elect (Must be Architect Member; 3-year term, including succession to President and Past-President)

Declare Your Candidacy

July 20, 2022

Detroiters Rally to Repair Virginia Park Street, One of the City’s Last Brick Roads

Sarah Raza | Detroit Free Press

Volunteers stacked bricks and sifted through dirt Thursday evening in a multiday effort to save the historic Virginia Park Street, one of Detroit’s last original brick roadways.

The street has witnessed history, but alongside that has come wear and tear, leaving it in desperate need of repair.

The community in New Center has been drawing new residents to its large Colonial Revival and Neo-Georgian style homes, and they don’t stay vacant for long. Residents say they love the neighborhood and want to maintain the block for their children and grandchildren that will come after them.

Nearly 20 people came to help Thursday evening, some showing up after a day of work and others joining with their families. Most said they volunteered because they love their neighborhood.

“We are a very strong community,” said Tony Smith, who has lived on Virginia Park Street for nearly three decades. “We look out for each other, our neighbors.

The street repair, organized by the Virginia Park block club, has been four years in the making, although longtime residents said they have wanted the street repaired for decades.  

Virginia Park Street was built for bikes and wagons 115 years ago before the automobile became the city’s main mode of transportation.

The Virginia Park Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. During the Detroit riot of 1967, a Patton M60 battle tank drove on the street, creating cracks in the street.

Decades later, General Motors experimented with the street grid in New Center, sending vehicles from cars to tractor-trailers through the street.

And when many of the east-west street roads in New Center were cut off from the Lodge Service Drive, thousands of vehicles cut through using Virginia Park Street, including ones like cement trucks and gasoline tankers, which only accelerated the damage. 

“Driving down the street, it can destroy your car,” said Zoe Bowman, who moved to the neighborhood last year. “But the road holds so much history … there’s nothing else like it in Detroit.”

The idea of repairing the road was proposed by Steve Waldrop, a longtime resident who moved to Virginia Park Street in 1972 to live in what was then a Wayne State University fraternity house.

He originally proposed the idea in 2018, but when repairs were proposed, the city offered to pave over the brick with asphalt.  

“The mayor said it wasn’t fair for him to spend millions of dollars on just three blocks of road,” said Jeff Cowin, who recently moved to the neighborhood and has helped organize the effort.

He added that given that the neighborhood was designated a historic site, the city has always wanted to repair the road but couldn’t justify the expense.

The neighbors, however, believed this quick fix would result in the loss of a historic piece of the neighborhood.

Once they decided they wanted to repair the brick in the road while maintaining its historic integrity, it quickly became clear that it would be an expensive undertaking that could cost up to a couple million dollars. 

Fortunately, a project between DTE Energy and ITC Holdings meant 1,000 feet of historic brick road needed to be removed in order to create a new substation. The bricks, 1904 Nelsonville Block pavers, match the bricks needed to repair Virginia Park Street.

When the companies heard about the block club’s project, they agreed to donate their bricks to the effort. 

Now, there are an estimated 20,000 brick pavers sitting in piles at 6460 East Vernor Highway, across from the Downtown Boxing Gym.

The task is to stack the bricks and transport them 3 miles west to Virginia Park Street, where they’ll sit on the neighbors’ lawns until the repair project begins. 

The block club sent out emails, passed out flyers, and created a Facebook event that ended up reaching even those from out of town. 

“I just came to help,” said Janet Rohloff, of St. Clair Shores. “I was born and raised on the lower east side, and it’s nice to meet with people and find out what’s happening in the community.” 

Patricia Felder, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1985, said the community has wanted to repair the street for years.

“We’ve been trying to repair the street for almost 30 years, but we didn’t have enough grant money,” she said. “Now it’s finally happening in 2022.”

For those interested in helping, the group said it looking for volunteers to come out and help on Friday until 9 p.m. and on Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon. 

Read the original article here.

Categories: AIA Detroit News  
June 5, 2022

Design Core Detroit Names Co-Executive Directors to Succeed Olga Stella

Sherri Welch | Crain’s Detroit Business

Design Core Detroit, the steward of Detroit’s UNESCO City of Design designation, has named two leaders of the organization as its new co-executive directors.

Bonnie Fahoome, director of business programs, and Kiana Wenzell, director of Detroit Month of Design, have been promoted to jointly lead the organization. They succeed Olga Stella, who was promoted to vice president of strategy and communication at the College for Creative Studies in September 2020 but had also continued to oversee the executive director responsibilities.

In her new role, Stella has oversight of marketing and communications and the Office of Partnerships and Community Arts Partnerships. She will focus her efforts on increasing the college’s visibility, grow new partnerships and develop the college’s new strategic plan for the future.

“Working together, Bonnie and Kiana have the vision, leadership, and collaborative style that will propel Design Core into its next phase of impact for Detroit’s design community,” Stella said in a release.”I could not be more confident and excited about the organization’s future and look forward to supporting them in their new roles.”

Read the original article here.

Categories: AIA Detroit News  
May 16, 2022

How Detroit-based Architect Saundra Little, FAIA, Designs for Her City

Christina Sturdivant Sani | TopicA

By Christina Sturdivant Sani

After co-founding Detroit-based Centric Design Studio and operating it for a decade, Saundra Little’s firm was acquired by Washington, D.C.-based Quinn Evans Architects in early 2019. With more than 15 years in the industry, Little had designed several notable projects at that point, including design-build renovations at Burton International Academy, a Detroit public school, and the award-winning design of the David Klein Gallery. The acquisition of Evans’ company landed her the role of principal in Quinn Evans’ Detroit office.

Three years earlier, Little’s history and documentation project Noir Design Parti was selected as one of Detroit’s winners in the 2016 Knight Foundation Arts Challenge. The project, which she conceptualized with historian and diversity and inclusion advocate Karen Burton, documents the careers and creative works of Detroit’s African American architects.

Most recently, Little accepted the position of director of diversity, equity, and inclusion at Quinn Evans. “I’m interested in seeing how I can continue to move the needle in architecture for minorities in the profession,” she says. She also serves as the Midwest Vice President of the National Organization of Minority Architects.

Read on to learn about her passion for community development and history, the challenges on her road to becoming an architect, and vision for Noir Design Parti.

How would you describe your niche as an architect?

All roads lead to history. I work on a lot of adaptive reuse projects, and I do some new construction, but everything is in the community neighborhood setting. So I would say any project that has a community or historical impact.

Do you have any favorite projects?

I’ve done three co-working spaces: TechTownSpaceLab Detroit, and then a concept for an art co-working space that hopefully gets built out in the next year. I like coworking spaces because I used to be a small business owner, and I feel like coworking spaces level the playing field for anybody starting a business. It gives you access to amenities that most small business owners who are bootstrapping can’t get, and it gives you a leg up.

A new favorite under construction now is Allied Media Projects. It is a four-story renovation to a warehouse building here in Detroit. The vision of the project is led by each of the tenants, who are all nonprofits.

Total accessibility for the building has been the focus of this renovation. They didn’t go straight for LEED certification but had sustainability, accessibility, and inclusive design in mind. I can’t wait for that project to be completed. It was just great working alongside an owner with a vision like that.

What initially sparked your interest in architecture?

It started with an interest in art and drawing, but I’ve found that along the way, there have been different things that led me to architecture without me even realizing it.

For instance, I visited a building that Nathan Johnson designed as a kid, and I was struck by the mid-century modern [design] and how he created this odd-shaped window without any structural kind of emphasis at this corner. And he completely framed out a view of the neighborhood.

What have been some of your biggest challenges on the road to becoming an architect?

It was tough not knowing a lot about the profession before heading into it in college. I didn’t have a mentor who could give me words of wisdom. My family was like, ‘Are you sure you want to be an architect? Nobody in our family is an architect.’ Though I didn’t have any support, I just went for it. And I’m lucky that I made it.

Why did you choose Noir Design Parti for your Knight Foundation submission?

Karen Burton and I had been talking about it for a long time. We always heard people say, ‘I didn’t know of any Black architects until I met you.’

But I came up through firms that were minority-owned. And I was like, how did they not know these people? I’ve also heard about Black architects from the trailblazing generations before me [who had] retired by the time I started to practice. So I was like, we have to get this out here because I don’t want to hear that anymore.

What have you enjoyed most about the project?

It’s been great seeing them highlighted and telling their stories. Just being the first of anything is history-making. Nathan Johnson started his practice in 1954 right in the middle of the Civil Rights movement. There were only two or three architecture firms in the state of Michigan at that time that were Black—so that’s just remarkable to me.

We recently made it a focus of the project to write letters of recommendation for Black architects for AIA awards. So just to see these people get awards while they’re still living has really meant a lot to me.

Where do you see [this project] going in the future?

Now that we’ve gathered all this information, it needs to be archived [in] a place where people can look and learn about how Black architects did a lot of things against all odds. I’m also interested in getting a book done so we can have a print version of what we’ve been researching.

Have you been able to outline your priorities as Director of DEI at Quinn Evans?

Trying to figure out the pandemic and this position at the same time has been interesting. But one of the goals for this year is to come up with objectives for the position and the firm.

One of the things that got me very interested in Quinn Evans when we were talking about the acquisition was that, as of April of this year, Quinn Evans will be a woman-owned firm. A 200-person firm that’s woman-owned interested me three years ago, and to see it really come to light this year is going to be amazing. I think that’s going to be a great attraction for diversity when others hear about the big changeover in April.

Read the original interview here.

Categories: AIA Detroit News  
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