Human Scale

For the architect occupied with the tasks of urbanism, the measuring rod will be the human scale.
-Le Corbusier’s The Athens Charter.

After the downfall of the last hundred years, architecture must once again be placed in the service of man. It must lay sterile pomp aside, concern itself with the individual and create for his happiness the fixtures that will surround him, making all the movements of his life easier. Who can take the measures necessary to the accomplishment of this task if not the architect who possesses a complete awareness of man, who has abandoned illusory designs, and who, judiciously adapting the means to the desired ends, will create an order that bears within it a poetry of its own?
-Grossman. New York, NY: 1973



Unstoppable Matty

I’ve been trying to find a map or full list of Matty Maroun’s property holdings in Detroit, but so far have not had much luck. Here is some of the information I have found out:

Manuel “Matty” Maroun:

  • Owns 625 parcels in Detroit, many purchased in Wayne County’s annual tax foreclosure sale for as little as $500
  • Is the largest private-property owner in MI
  • Is 83 years old
  • Owns 400 vacant/dilapidated buildings, which are believed to discourage jobs and investments from coming to MI
  • Owns the Ambassador Bridge, and is the only private owner of a border crossing between the U.S. and Canada
  • Wants to build another bridge like the Ambassador and is suing to stop construction of the Detroit River International Crossing; a proposed publicly owned bridge
As I search on to find the property holdings of this man, and try to make a connection between them, I’m sure to come across many more articles like the following, written by the angry majority, who just want better for their city.

“You have to have a certain amount of grudging admiration for Matty Moroun, sort of like you do for crabgrass or those zombies in the low-budget horror flicks we used to watch as kids, when we should have been running around getting fresh air and exercise.

Matty takes a licking; has holes blown through him, is exposed and denounced, and he keeps staggering on, as only a true zombie can, toward the goal of twinning his Ambassador Bridge, or at least preventing a new, internationally owned one from being built.”

–

Talking about cities

“The second tier of US cities, such as Detroit, show how far, and how fast, cities can fall. Once nearly unimaginably wealthy, loaded with rapacious industrialists-cum-philanthropists, they have deteriorated into doughnuts: big, fat suburbs with a hallow core. These cores are inhabited by those who once powered the engines of industry and have become surplus to requirements, an urban generation abandoned. Welfare and fast-food dependent, they are the models of the unhealthy city.”

-Edwin Heathcote, “Cities of Hope: growing populations need new solutions”

What to do, what to do…

This week I began taking on the large task of narrowing down my thesis project to one method, architecture, or plan, of how I will attempt to revitilize Detroit. My intentions aren’t to fix everything, thats impossible, but to implement one thing that will have an effect on everything… or almost everything. Upon speaking with my advisor(s) and classmates, I believe that I’ve narrowed down my focus to two possible projects. The infamous train station, and master planning; creating a city of communities. Lots and lots and lots of research is going to be done this weekend for me to make this decision, as I believe both will benifit the city immensly. Because of the information I gathered when I went to Detroit last month, most people tell me that they would most like to see the train station revitilized. Its such an iconic piece of architecture that no one in the community wants to see go to waste… so I can’t help but lean towards this project.

However, interventions on Michigan Central Depot cannot be addressed without addressing the building’s owner, Manuel “Matty” Maroun. He, like the train station, is this iconic figure in Detroit’s development, as he owns so much property there. If I address the train station, what happens if I also address and intervene on his other properties? What could we create? Check out this exerpt from an interview he recently gave, in which he talks about the train station:

“What would you suggest I do with it?” he asked. “I can’t keep the thieves out until I put something in it, but what can I put in it? I’m willing, anxious. Where is the fairness? Where is the reasonableness? Give me something that I could put in it.”

Read more:


“But I’ve been sitting empty for the last fifteen years. Now the land under me is worth more than me. Fifteen years has past since I last felt the stream of electricity, gas and water run through me. I helplessly watched the streets and neighborhoods around me getting worse. But I tried my hardest to look proper, and make a solid contribution to this community. I played my part. … But the city has abandoned me.” -24620: The Fugitive House, Detroit, Kyong Park

Detroit Visit

Today was my first visit into Detroit since I’ve been home. My grandmother wanted to take me into “New Center”, where The Fisher Building, and the old General Motors Building are located.  These structures have great bones, and still stand tall and proud. (You can see more of the pictures I took in my flikr page.)

My grandparents also took me to The Michigan Central Depot Train Station this afternoon. It really is fascinating. I’ve never had the opportunity to get this close to this massive structure… its overwhelming. The entire building is surrounded with fences and barbed wire to keep people out. Windows have decayed and signs of vandalism can clearly be seen from the sidewalk. Concrete pavement now covers what used to be brick paved, and in some areas, you can still see the brick poking through. Apparently, the man who owns it also owns the Ambassador Bridge that leads to Canada, but refuses to both sell the building or restore it. There have been rumors lately that he is replacing the windows, giving hope to the city that they might once again see this beautiful building restored… however, upon my visit, I saw absolutely no evidence of restoration or renovation. I have many more things to see on my visit home, but I have a feeling that this building could lead me towards a point of departure for my thesis project.









Tomorrow I am planning on venturing into the city to see more historic structures, and at 6pm am going on a guided tour of some of the more popular vacant buildings in the city. Wish me luck!

Thesis Proposal

Revised Thesis
Proposed Thesis Topic:
Due to the social and economic crisis that has occurred in the city of Detroit, MI, there
exists a desire for change and a reinterpretation of government, housing, tourism and
economy. Is there an architectural project or urban infrastructure, efficient and strategic,
that may spur a catalyst for change?
How the project will develop into an architecture:
Proposed is a new master plan for Detroit, which will address the 80,000 abandoned
buildings (US News), the housing crisis, socio-economic issues, and will develop into an
architectural project focusing on urban density which will benefit the quality of life of the
users and bring vitality to a once prosperous city that is now in crisis.
Critical Position:
The architecture will be derived from the perspective and consideration of structure,
circulation, function created from a system of relationships, site context, cultural
variables, urban typology, with a focus on historical urban development as a point of
reference for research.