50 Houses: Interiors

December 16, 2008

On the 50 house interiors we aim to create a raw space, flexible and open to interpretation to allow the resident to really personalize the space and make it there own.  Nonya Grenader has a wonderful example of this idea in her Core House.

This will also reduce cost as the interior partitions can be removed, holes can be patched using remaining materials and very little finishing work will need to be completed.  The scars will act as character, telling the story of the structure and therefore provide value and comfort where they are usually seen as items to disguise and hide away.


50 Houses: Materials

September 21, 2008

Houses made out of the remnants of other houses: Tiny Texas Houses.  Everything from the 50 Houses project will be reused in a similar fashion.  Everything that comes out of a house, and isn’t rotted and totally ruined will be put back in a house someday.

Roof shingles made from fly-dumped car tires: CoLab.  We want to think creatively to find cheap, sustainable solutions to basic problems.  Here is a great example.

Still on the lookout for similar ideas…

Hello World! We are really excited to share with you an interactive project we have initiated in the Fulton Market District of Chicago. We’ve take 3 architecture students and asked them to live in a warehouse loft for 9 months. The catch? The loft is completely open, free of partition walls and the students are only allowed to create their personal space out of found materials.

The goal of the project is to study a new form of living. A lifestyle where the users generate their own spaces using what they have and what they can find. How will they divide the space amongst themselves? How will their individual spaces change over time as they get lived in and conditions change? How do they address privacy? What materials do they find and build with? How do they use waste materials in new ways

We invite you to join us on this adventure and follow along as we take a look at each resident, their building materials, and how their user generated spaces live and adapt.

50 Houses

September 11, 2008

So the project is called 50 Houses, and basically it looks at a neighborhood where 1000 houses once stood and only 50 are left.  The phenomenon of “Urban Prairie,” where whole blocks are just left to nature, where neighborhoods once stood but now it’s just wreckage and abandonment.  This is pretty much characterized by the city of Detroit, where a population of 3,000,000 somehow dwindled to less than 1,000,000, 2/3 of the population gone, leaving thousands, and thousands and thousands of houses abandoned.

This project looks at a solution for that, how we can take that condition and turn it into something positive as opposed to negative.  Rather than have the city doze the place, using tax payer dollars, and starting over, we choose to leave what’s left there, and not only use it but to celebrate it.  To look at it’s history, it’s past, what it went through, rather than just putting up some townhouses that we already know don’t work.  We want to somehow bring regeneration to the city and to glorify the urban prairie for what it is, to make it the new place to be.

In the 70’s, artists flocked to New York warehouses because they were seemingly unwanted, useless, nobody would dare think to live in one, and so they were cheap.  Detroit is seen in a similar light today, seen as dangerous, unfit for the average person,  seen as dirty and inhabitable.  The starving economy, ever so prevalent in Detroit, the foreclosure, the abandonment all figure into the equation, which equals really really low property values and an excess of space.

Nobody is denying the corruption in the government, nobody is denying the crime,  nobody is denying the abandonment , but we do seem to be denying the possibility that something beautiful could come from that.

In the 50 Houses project, we look at stabilizing the remaining homes in these burnt out neighborhoods, gutting the interiors, reusing everything, leaving a simple lofted space open to your suggestion and input.  A space that maintains the history of place, maintaining a certain aesthetic recognition to the past, yet completely open to your lifestyle.

Lofts were made out of warehouses because they were there, unwanted, cheap.  Today, 100 year old residential structures that are left hanging on in Detroit, beyond restoration, they are still there, they are unwanted, and they are cheap.  Instead of infilling the neighborhood with poor quality townhomes,  the fields will be left to grow natural prairie grasses, that are so prevalent in urban prairies, reading not only to the recent past, but also the days before we were even here.  In the winter, this can be harvested, converted to biofuel, and used to heat the homes.  Community gardens might pop up, providing fresh local food for the residents.  Maybe a past garage is turned into a chicken coop, providing eggs and poultry.  Maybe a park gets built out of the remains of the past buildings allowing a place for relaxation and for children to play.  Maybe a new community could grow, rich with context, rich with history, rich with creativity, sustainability, and ambition.

Yes, we can look at things with a new perspective, we can use what we already have, we can build a new America, we can build a new Detroit.  Yes we can turn what little we have, into our greatest asset.


With I-75 undergoing some major surgery downtown, there is no better time to analyze the development of Detroit’s most vibrant commercial district. Early last month the Eastern Market Corporation released an economical development plan analyzing the needs and possibilities of the district. The plan outlines a series of actions in which the Market should take to improve it’s economical status, including obvious building maintenance all the way to a more ambitious plan for live/work developments.

Most importantly, the plan hits on the current traffic and parking situation which is prohibiting the market from developing further and hindering it’s success. With trucks, cars, bikes, and pedestrians all intersecting, traffic is dramatically deterred and accidents are inevitable. The report proposes a really nice system of street parking, truck routes, signage, and improved sidewalks to combat this issue. With better traffic flow and designations, businesses can expand, new businesses can be attracted, and more customers can be attracted to the market space.

In addition to traffic, the report suggests turning a series of old industrial buildings to the north of the market into live/work, multi-use spaces. This starts to hint on something great, the idea of live/work space and the reuse of existing structures. These are two sustainable concepts that fit very well within the Preserve values and the idea that one should use what is available. Though the current street and traffic conditions in this area are not conducive to inviting developers or rouge entrepreneurs as sidewalks are decrepit and without lighting, and streets are poorly labeled and uninviting. Before this area can reach it’s livable potential, the street environment needs to be greatly improved.

As far as structuring the district goes, the proposal includes the adjustment of Russel and Wilkins as the main axis of the market. Russel is already considered the main drag while Wilkins, running perpendicular, goes virtually unnoticed. Wilkins has great potential as it connects the market to neighborhoods to the north and south of the market. Also, the plan creates a quite beautiful connection to the “Dequindre Cut.” Though the Cut has a long way to go before it is actually usable as a park, it is refreshing to know that thought was taken to address this path which could very well become a great asset for the city in the near future.

The most worrisome portion of this report was the proposal for housing and live work space to the north/east of the market. Though the plan in no way, shape or form defines a certain aesthetic for these neighborhoods, one can only conjure up images of the terrible developments of the recent past that fail horribly to address their site and social impacts. They tend to destroy the sense of place and turn great neighborhoods into placeless suburban subdivisions lined with siding and fake brick. Not only will these type of units fail miserably in this economy, they will also destroy the character and charm that makes Eastern Market so attractive and appealing. It’s an experience that can’t be had in the suburbs, so don’t turn it into the suburbs. It’s giant colorful murals are playful and play beautifully with the gritty surroundings only to patina to a rich mix of raw materials and paint.



Rather than just reputing the idea of a development, I decided to make an attempt at what a neighborhood might look like, that would both set an example for reuse, fit the context of Eastern Market, and draw people and attention to the city from not only the burbs but also the country, maybe the world.

Shigru Ban Nomatic Museum (Arch. League NYC)


In the end, the report inspired me and over the next few weeks I will be posting ideas and projects relating to the development of the Eastern Market neighborhood. To kick this off, I’ve posted a quick idea of what a container live/work neighborhood on Wilkins. See it here, and check back for more!