2016 Venice Biennale Dispatch: U.S. Pavilion | The Architectural Imagination

Photo by My Detroit Postcard Photo Contest Winner Jon DeBoer
“My Detroit” Postcard Photo by Jon DeBoer

U.S. Pavilion at the 15th International Architecture Exhibition—la Biennale di Venezia

May 28–November 27, 2016

The U.S. Pavilion at the 15th International Architecture Exhibition will host The Architectural Imagination, an exhibition of twelve new speculative architectural projects produced for sites in Detroit. The U.S. Department of State named the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan the commissioner of the pavilion in June 2015 based on the exhibition proposal by Cynthia Davidson, and Mónica Ponce de León. As co-curators, Davidson, executive director of the nonprofit Anyone Corporation in New York and editor of the international architecture journal Log, and Ponce de León, dean of Princeton University School of Architecture, founding principal of MPdL Studio, and former dean of Taubman College, selected twelve visionary U.S. architectural practices from the 250 responses to their national call for Expressions of Interest to produce new architectural projects that address the social and environmental challenges of Detroit in the 21st century.

The exhibition will emphasize the importance and value of the architectural imagination in shaping forms and spaces into exciting future possibilities. The birthplace of the automobile industry, the free-span factory floor, the concrete paved road, and Motown and techno music, Detroit was once a center of American imagination, not only for the products it made but also for its modern architecture and modern lifestyle, which captivated audiences worldwide. Today, like many postindustrial cities, Detroit is coping with a changed urban landscape. The Architectural Imagination collaborated with an eleven-member Detroit Advisory Board to select four sites to be reimagined: Dequindre Cut/Eastern Market, Southwest Detroit/Mexicantown, a U.S. Postal Service sorting facility on the riverfront, and the Packard Automotive Plant. Three architectural teams were assigned to each site. All of the architectural teams worked in Detroit with community members to understand neighborhood aspirations. The twelve speculative projects and their respective programs will be presented in the four galleries of the US Pavilion through models, drawings, collage, and video. Together they will demonstrate the vastly different ideas architecture can bring to a given site, thereby generating new conversations about the potential of the postindustrial 21-century city.

The architects are:

A(n) Office, Detroit, Michigan Marcelo López-Dinardi; V. Mitch McEwen

BairBalliet, Columbus, Ohio; Chicago, Illinois Kristy Balliet; Kelly Bair

Greg Lynn FORM, Los Angeles, California Greg Lynn

Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects, Atlanta, Georgia Mack Scogin; Merrill Elam

MARSHALL BROWN PROJECTS, Chicago, Illinois Marshall Brown

MOS Architects, New York, New York Hilary Sample; Michael Meredith

Pita & Bloom, Los Angeles, California Florencia Pita; Jackilin Hah Bloom

Present Future, Houston, Texas Albert Pope; Jesús Vassallo

Preston Scott Cohen Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts Preston Scott Cohen

SAA/Stan Allen Architect, New York, New York Stan Allen

T+E+A+M, Ann Arbor, Michigan Thom Moran; Ellie Abrons; Adam Fure; Meredith Miller

Zago Architecture, Los Angeles, California Andrew Zago; Laura Bouwman

The twelve projects will also be documented in The Architectural Imagination CataLog, a special issue of Log, and complemented by twenty postcards views of Detroit, which the curators selected from the 463 entries to “My Detroit,” a postcard photo contest they sponsored last fall.


Detroit Advisory Board:

Elysia Borowy-Reeder, Executive Director, Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD)

Maurice Cox, Planning Director, City of Detroit

Milton S.F. Curry, Associate Dean and Associate Professor of Architecture, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, University of Michigan

Julie Egan, Senior Advisor, US Department of State

Malik Goodwin, Goodwin Management Group, LLC

Toni L. Griffin, Professor and Director, J. Max Bond Center, Spitzer School of Architecture, The City College of New York

Dan Kinkead, Director of Projects, Detroit Future City

Oliver Ragsdale, President, The Carr Center

Thomas J. Sherry, AIA, Principal, 313Creative

Mark Wallace, President/CEO, Detroit RiverFront Conservancy

Lawrence Williamson, Real Estate Manager, Midtown Detroit, Inc.

“My Detroit” Postcard Photo Contest Winners Announced for 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale

(Detroit, MI – February 25, 2016) Today The Architectural Imagination, the exhibition for the U.S. Pavilion at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale, announced the winners of the “My Detroit” Postcard Photo Contest. Co-curators Cynthia Davidson and Mónica Ponce de León revealed the winning photographs at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Detroit (MOCAD) during a talk about the exhibition, which will present 12 new speculative architecture projects for Detroit.

Twenty images by 18 individuals were selected as winners. The 463 entries were reviewed by Davidson and photographer and sociologist Camilo José Vergara, who has photographed Detroit since 1985. They looked for photos that are not only individually striking but also as a group help tell a story about Detroit today.

“The twenty photographs to be printed as postcards will help us tell the exhibition visitor short stories about life in Detroit,” Davidson said. “These views of the city will complement the work of the architects at the U.S. Pavilion in Venice.”

The winning photos will be printed as postcards and distributed at the U.S. Pavilion during the 2016 Venice Biennale, May 28 – November 27, 2016. The postcard photos will also be published in the exhibition catalog and shared on The Architectural Imagination website (www.thearchitecturalimagination.org).

Ten of the 18 winners are Detroit-area residents. The photographers will receive a prize of $100 for each winning photo.

The Architectural Imagination “My Detroit” Photo Contest winners:

Sara Jane Boyers, Santa Monica, CA
Derek Chang, New York, NY
Jon DeBoer, Royal Oak, MI
Antoinette DelVillano, Brooklyn, NY
Jennifer Garza-Cuen, Reno, NV
Geoff George, Detroit, MI
Erik Herrmann, Ann Arbor, MI
Julie Huff, Detroit, MI
William McGraw, Dearborn, MI
Ayana Miller, Detroit, MI
Ben Nowak, Oak Park, MI
Kevin Robishaw, Detroit, MI
Salvador Rodriguez, Saint Clair Shores, MI
Harrell Scarcello, Southfield, MI
Sue Shoemaker, Brown City, MI
John Sobczak, Bloomfield, MI
Cigdem Talu, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Corinne Vermeulen, Hamtramck, MI

The Architectural Imagination is an exhibition of new speculative architectural projects designed for specific sites in Detroit but with far-reaching applications for cities around the world. It will open to the public in the U.S. Pavilion at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale. The U.S. Department of State selected the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, with Davidson and Ponce de León as co-curators, to organize the exhibition.

For more information about the postcard selection process: www.thearchitecturalimagination.org/mydetroit


The Architectural Imagination is made possible by the generous support of many sponsors, which to date include Oldcastle Building Envelope, Dassault Systèmes, the Graham Foundation, Princeton University School of Architecture, Elise Jaffe + Jeffrey Brown, the American Institute of Architects, Architectural Record/BNP Media, the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), and Shinola.

About Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan

Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan aims to create a better environment for generations to come. Through interdisciplinary education and research, Taubman College prepares graduates for positions of responsibility in a wide range of professions, organizations and institutions that shape the built environment at a variety of scales. Taubman College offers students a complement of disciplinary and interdisciplinary degree programs and its committed faculty, staff and students form a diverse, creative and collaborative community within the University of Michigan, one of the world’s largest research universities. Mónica Ponce de León was dean of Taubman College from 2008 to 2015

About the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs

The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) builds relations between people of the United States and the people of other countries through academic, cultural, sports and professional exchange programs, as well as public-private partnerships and mentoring programs. These exchange programs improve foreign relations and strengthen the national security of the United States, support U.S. international leadership, and provide a broad range of domestic benefits by helping break down barriers that often divide us, like religion, politics, language and ethnicity, and geography. ECA programs build connections that engage and empower people, and motivate them to become leaders and thinkers; to develop new skills; and to find connections that will create positive change in their communities. Alumni of ECA exchange programs comprise over one million people around the world, including more than 40 Nobel Laureates and more than 300 current or former heads of state and government around the world. For more information, visit: http://www.exchanges.state.gov/us. The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs supports and manages official U.S. participation at the Venice Architecture Biennale. The selection of The Architectural Imagination for the U.S. Pavilion in 2016 resulted from an open competition and the recommendations of the Federal Advisory Committee on International Exhibitions, convened by the National Endowment for the Arts.

For more information about The Architectural Imagination: www.thearchitecturalimagination.org