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Phase I - Complete/Phase II - S.D. Complete
Detroit, Michigan, arguably the most underachieving major city in North America, has been the subject of countless studies for regeneration, renewal of abandoned structures and urban potential all over the world. An abandoned 1913 Detroit Edison substation site presents an opportunity for a case study to investigate a programmatic insertion as a catalyst for a deteriorating neighborhood. The Detroit Edison substation, a notable object of Detroit history itself, is treated as an acquisition for the relocated museum. The renovation and addition invokes an ambiguous relationship between building and exhibit. Evoking the historical urbanity of Detroit, additional program, clad in cor-ten steel, engages the existing building as a wrapper. The substation, as part of the exhibit, serves as both the container and contained. The newly formed roof terrace evolves from both existing and new. A courtyard is formed with boundaries that include the renovated rooftop conference/event space, an existing parapet turned picnic bench and table, two new stair towers, and a planter of trees on the northern edge which frames the historic Fisher building and GM headquarters. The bris-soleil while forming the container of the substation, defines an upper edge and layer of protection from the southern sun. A universally designed entrance ramp presents a fragment of the wrapper revealing the existing front façade. Slipping along the face of the building, visitors identify the entrance under a translucent covered exterior balcony. Elements of new construction are intertwined with found objects exhibiting the historical process of the energy distribution in the region. Interventions within the existing structure compose an accessible circulation network that simultaneously direct attention to the pedagogical elements within the substation. A series of ramps, stairs and an elevator are delicately applied, within existing mechanical and electrical shafts, to the previously disconnected spaces, allowing a free circulation path throughout the building.
-Photography by Laszlo Regos