Rough and ready

Tuesday 06 Mar 2012

Dynamic team chosen to remake Detroit's gritty Museum of Contemporary Art

Having just celebrated its 310th birthday last year, the City of Detroit, renowned for its contribution to world business and culture being both the Motor City, the former heart of the auto industry in the U.S., and the home to Motown, a music legend, shows no signs of giving up on its plan for comeback.

Just last week, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCAD) announced it had hired a design team to re-envision its home, a former industrial building designed by noted architect Albert Kahn that is a jewel in the rough, ripe for reinvention as a marvelous light filled container for art and performances. With the selection of New York-based Rice + Lipka Architects and superstar James Corner Field Operations of High Line fame, MOCAD is certainly on the right track for such a remake to happen providing its building study yields a design the institution can afford and that other urban regeneration efforts around the project fall into place.

Rice, who is thrilled at the opportunity to remake the museum and gracious to be on board, sees the commission as one with great potential to inspire and engage the community. “MOCAD is a unique civic place with an irresistible combination of contemporary artworks, landscape and programmatic vitality that will nurture the neighborhood and enhance the urban experience in the district”, said Rice.

The building sits on Woodward Avenue, a main artery of Detroit where a greenbelt is planned to the South of MOCA with its North end anchored by the arts district of Sugar Hill.  "MOCAD is in a good place", said Rice. RLA plans to build on its experience transforming industrial sites for cultural use, as it did at DIA Beacon, and to raise the profile of museum, much as did for the Sheila C Johnson Center at Parsons in Manhattan, where a below-grade space was recast as a highly visible and successful cultural hub with a few big moves.

One big gesture Rice is planning to make at MOCAD is to open up the building’s façade and reinstate the large factory windows of the original building. With studies underway to possibly bring light rail to the area and the team’s plans to soften the hardscape that surrounds the building and activate outdoor space for Museum programming, ‘we think we can create a sense a place, not exactly a public park….but an oasis’, said Rice.

Thus far, $450,000 has been raised for the 22,000 sq ft project, including a $100,000 Space for Change award from Leveraging Investments in Creativity (LINC) and the Ford Foundation and a $350,000 grant award from Art Place. A preliminary timeline calls for construction to begin in 2013.

RLA/JCFO was chosen from a field of 20 firms considered for the project by a selection committee that included four members of the MOCAD Board, Susan Mosey of Midtown, Inc., and Bill Hartman of Gensler.

Sharon McHugh
US Correspondent

Key Facts:

United States
Urban design

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