Cities in decline often produce a wealth of salvageable material from the rubble of their crumbling buildings. Detroit’s abandoned houses have made headlines and produced a wonderfully sad photo series, and now, instead of just being mined for copper by thieves, their battle-worn doors are being refashioned for a new transit-related project that combines public art and social design. They will now become part of a series of bus stops with the goal being to improve the image of Detroit’s public transit system while, in an upcoming ‘version 2.0,’ implementing modern amenities like GPS markers and solar panels.
According to the Detroit Community Design Center at the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, an urban design project such as this can actually change many of the messages communicated by the streetscape:
Bus stops advertise the transit system to the public. A stop that looks dirty or neglected, or whose waiting passengers look hot, cold, wet, confused or vulnerable sends a devastating message: you’re lucky you don’t have to ride the bus. The use of public transportation is typically read as being without means; that the people, place and service of public transportation are at best, secondary considerations in the economic and environmental operations of the city. We wanted to change that.
By allowing residents to re-engage with their environment and local artists to expose their art to the public, the bus shelters will “provide an opportunity for riders and residents to create a space of their own making; a choice that will ultimately comment on the state of transportation and the quality of the public realm.”
Conceived of by Craig Wilkins, the lightweight structures may seem like a fairly superficial step towards a revitalized Detroit, but their life extends outside their immediate appearance and functionality. As described on the website for the A’ Design Award, which the project has recently received, the project’s designer is mostly interested in “design, research, and education.” With the possibility of installing these bus shelters throughout the city, the project can grow and change faster than the city’s deteriorating bureaucracy currently envisions.
A’ Design Awards
Sources: 100 Abandoned Houses, The Atlantic Cities, Detroit Free Press