July 13, 2017 - A+D Architecture and Design Museum - The Architectural Imagination
e-flux Architecture
July 13, 2017
July 13, 2017

A+D Architecture and Design Museum

Greg Lynn, The Architectural Imagination.

The Architectural Imagination
US Pavilion at the 2016 Venice International Architecture Biennale
July 14–September 30, 2017

VIP curator walk through: July 14, 5–6pm, A+D Museum members and press only walk through with curators of show
Opening event: July 14, 6–9pm

A+D Architecture and Design Museum
Los Angeles, California


From the US Pavilion at the 2016 Venice International Architecture Biennale, an exhibition of new speculative architectural projects reimagining Detroit, demonstrating the creative power of architecture to construct culture and catalyze cities.

Curated by Cynthia Davidson & Monica Ponce de Leon

For the 15th Venice International Architecture Biennale, the United States Pavilion presented The Architectural Imagination, a unique curatorial project led by Cynthia Davidson and Mónica Ponce de León to produce new speculative architectural proposals for four sites in Detroit, Michigan. The 12 projects on display, by 22 American architects, comprise some 250 objects including architectural models, drawings, collages, and videos. The home of the automobile, the free-span factory floor, and Motown and techno music, Detroit once embodied invention. Today the city is coping with dramatic population loss, desolate neighborhoods, abandoned buildings, and sharp racial divides.

In addressing these problems, Detroit has the potential to become a model for other postindustrial cities facing similar practical challenges: repurposing empty industrial buildings, mitigating the effects of global migration on the city, and reinventing previously industrial waterfronts and dormant infrastructure. Working with a Detroit Advisory Board, the curators selected four sites that exemplify some of these challenges and would benefit from speculative architectural proposals: vacant land along the Dequindre Cut near Eastern Market, an abandoned light industrial building and its paved surroundings in Southwest Detroit/Mexicantown, a massive US Postal Service sorting facility and vacant block on the riverfront, and the abandoned and decrepit Packard Automotive Plant.

To select the architects, the curators issued a nationwide call for expressions of interest in producing state-of-the-art architectural proposals for Detroit. From more than 250 responses, Davidson and Ponce de León selected 12 teams: A(n) Office, Detroit (Marcelo López-Dinardi, V. Mitch McEwen); BairBalliet, Chicago and Columbus, OH (Kristy Balliet, Kelly Bair); Greg Lynn FORM, Los Angeles (Greg Lynn); Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects, Atlanta (Mack Scogin, Merrill Elam); Marshall Brown Projects, Chicago (MarshallBrown); MOS, New York (Hilary Sample, Michael Meredith); Pita & Bloom, Los Angeles (Florencia Pita, Jackilin Hah Bloom); Present Future, Houston (Albert Pope, Jesús Vassallo); Preston Scott Cohen Inc., Cambridge, MA (Preston Scott Cohen); SAA/Stan Allen Architect, New York (Stan Allen); T+E+A+M, Ann Arbor, MI (Thom Moran, Ellie Abrons, Adam Fure, Meredith Miller); Zago Architecture, Los Angeles (Andrew Zago, Laura Bouwman). Three teams were assigned to each site.

In the fall of 2015, the teams walked their project sites and met with community leaders and citizens to discuss each neighborhood’s aspirations before beginning their projects. The architects proposed programs and forms for the sites not as fixes for Detroit alone but as provocations for convening public conversations about the design challenges that face the 21st-century city. Because of the local interest and involvement in The Architectural Imagination, the exhibition will also travel to the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit in February 2017. Cynthia Davidson is executive director of the nonprofit Anyone Corporation think tank in New York and editor of the international architecture journal Log. Mónica Ponce de León is dean of Princeton University School of Architecture, founding principal of MPdL Studio, and former dean of University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. Ponce de León’s design for the pavilion is a series of column signs announcing the exhibition in Detroit’s eight most commonly spoken languages. The 248-page Architectural Imagination CataLog, edited by Davidson, is available at the United States Pavilion and the bookshops inside the exhibition venues.

The exhibit also includes 20 postcard views of Detroit, which Davidson and photographer Camilo José Vergara selected from the 463 entries to “My Detroit,” a postcard photo contest that the curators held last fall. These free souvenir postcards, many featuring images by Detroit photographers, each tell a short story about the Motor City. This fall, The Architectural Imagination will also sponsor two public conversations in Venice about architecture and the city, on dates to be announced. The commissioner of the US Pavilion is University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, on behalf of the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

An event dedicated to the Microsoft Hololens Experience and a panel discussion with a select group of participants are to take place during the exhibition at a later date.

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