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Detroit Design 139 Exhibition Seeks Projects Driven by an Inclusive Future

May 21, 2019

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Detroit Design 139 Exhibition Seeks Projects Driven by an Inclusive Future

  • The biennial exhibition returns September 2019 for its second edition accepting projects in five civic-minded categories
  • Three neighborhood satellite exhibitions will make this year’s exhibition accessible across Detroit’s 139 square miles
  • As the only U.S. city to receive UNESCO’s City of Design distinction, Detroit Design 139 will also highlight projects from other cities sharing the title


May 21, 2019 (DETROIT) – The second biennial Detroit Design 139 (DD139) exhibition is now accepting entries for projects driven by an inclusive future. This theme prioritizes best practices for making sure the future of Detroit’s built environment is designed with everyone in mind.

Applicants may submit their projects by visiting detroitdesign139.com now through June 30, 2019.

With focus areas in Housing, Economy, Neighborhoods, Public Space, and City Systems, DD139 accepts applications from all interested parties. Applicants need not be employed in a design-related trade to participate.

Detroit Design 139 will showcase inclusive design projects, policies and concepts throughout the built and natural environments of Detroit and other UNESCO Cities of Design from September 9-30.

“Detroit is changing at a rapid pace, and it is so important to make sure the future environment we are building today includes everyone,” said Melissa Dittmer, Bedrock Chief Design officer. “We created Detroit Design 139 not only to showcase the exemplary projects taking place across our entire city, but to examine the qualities and processes that make them inclusive and to better understand how those best practices can be applied across all future projects in Detroit’s built and natural environment.”

In addition to DD139’s flagship location at the historic 1001 Woodward building in Detroit’s downtown Central Business District, this year’s exhibition will feature three satellite locations in neighborhoods throughout Detroit featuring exclusive content and programming tailored to the unique attribute of each enclave. See enclosed map of satellite locations in the Old Redford (17340 Lahser Rd.), Morningside (16422 E. Warren Ave.), and Fitzgerald (7426 McNichols Rd.) neighborhoods.

2019 Theme: Inclusive Futures

Throughout history, cities have been shaped by significant design decisions made by a few, for the many. These design solutions were meant to solve issues relevant to a city’s specific time period and were often made by experts without meaningful input from the people impacted by these plans. As a result, urban design solutions have often resulted in unintended consequences for subsequent generations. This repetitive cycle of top-down design outcomes – divisive highway infrastructure, failed public housing, anti-pedestrian streetscapes and under-utilized public parks – can be found in cities around the world.

“Inclusive design is the way we are moving our great city forward, ensuring that no community is left out,” said Olga Stella, Executive Director of Design Core Detroit.

In response to the vision laid out in Detroit’s UNESCO City of Design Action Plan, Detroit Design 139 proposes that through inclusive design, Detroiters (designers and non-designers alike) can prioritize the importance of both PROCESSES and OUTCOMES for all future projects throughout Detroit’s 139 square miles. Through exhibitions, events, and shared conversations, we will explore inclusive design strategies that break this repetitive cycle of creating future problems by acknowledging all aspects of our shared history in order to solve long-standing urban issues. With this approach, we will focus on creating multi-generational design solutions that result in inclusive futures for everyone.

Focus Areas

Project submissions should include one of five focus areas that emphasize learning from the past in order to inform a successful approach to the inclusive design process. Each focus area will consider the entire spectrum of human diversity and individual experiences – in the past, present and future – but with dramatically different outcomes.

1. HOUSING. How do we design inclusive housing? How do we make it affordable and sustainable? These projects will consider the future of housing, changing lifestyles and inclusionary growth.

Project submissions may include, but are not limited to: mixed-use developments, affordable and market rate housing typologies, alternative housing models, etc.

2. ECONOMY. What is the role of design in a more inclusive economic future? Where should these economic centers be located to provide the most opportunity for all? What are the new design models for economic development? These projects will spark discourse on the current and future design trends for economy-based space.

Project submissions may include, but are not limited to: mixed-use developments, light industrial development, future work environments, adaptive re-use demonstrations, comprehensive retail masterplans, shared office models, etc.

3. NEIGHBORHOODS. What does a more inclusive future offer our communities? Is it possible to live, eat, shop, work, learn and relax within the same neighborhood? How can we design new residential developments without displacing current residents? These projects will explore strategies for inclusive neighborhoods that integrate diverse living options, neighborhood retail opportunities, walkable streets and welcoming public spaces.

Project submissions may include, but are not limited to: community masterplans, large-scale neighborhood developments, form-based code, community-oriented adaptive re-use, shared community assets, future streetscapes, neighborhood retail, commercial corridor revitalization strategies, etc.

4. PUBLIC SPACE. How do we design inclusive public space, regardless of scale? What does inclusive and accessible public space look like? What activities are offered in those spaces? These projects will demonstrate the importance of public space as an inclusionary network within and throughout the city.

Project submissions may include, but are not limited to: vacant land re-use strategies, community gardens, neighborhood land networks, parks, plazas, waterfronts, etc.

5. CITY SYSTEMS. How do we develop inclusive systems, services and infrastructure for our future city? How do we make the most of our shared urban assets while planning for a more sustainable future? How do we make it easier for people to move freely, safely and efficiently throughout our city? These projects will look at the visible (and invisible) inclusive infrastructure projects that will bring people, neighborhoods, industries, places and things closer together in a cohesive future urban environment.

Project submissions may include, but are not limited to: sustainability strategies, wholistic infrastructure, stormwater management, alternative mobility systems, shared digital technology networks, vacant land ecosystems, future streetscapes, etc.


All submitted projects, policies and concepts must be completed within the past three years, currently in process, or planned to commence before 2021 and located either within Detroit’s 139 square miles or another recognized UNESCO City of Design. Academic projects completed within the past three years are also eligible for submission.

Projects that were included in the 2017 Detroit Design 139 exhibition are not eligible.

DD139 Advisory Council

Based on community feedback following the 2017 DD139 exhibition, an inclusive governance structure was developed for this year’s exhibition that includes an advisory council. The role of the advisory council is to advise on key decisions to ensure that this exhibition is the most relevant, thoughtful, and appealing to the city and all of its residents. The advisory council consists of 12 members from various sectors – public, philanthropic, private, government, and community.

  • Gretchen Wilkins, Cranbrook Academy of Art
  • Maurice Cox, City of Detroit
  • Olga Stella, Design Core Detroit
  • Ceara O’Leary, University of Detroit Mercy – Detroit Collaborative Design Center
  • Sharon Haar, University of Michigan
  • Anika Goss-Foster, Detroit Future City
  • Marta Gazda-Auskalnis, AIA Detoit
  • Jill Ferrari, ULI Michigan
  • Akua Hill, CDAD
  • Alicia R George, Old Redford/Artist Village Community Member
  • Joe Rashid, East Warren Community Member
  • Melissa Dittmer, Bedrock


About Detroit Design 139

DESIGN PRINCIPLES. In 2015, Detroit was awarded the first UNESCO City of Design in the United States, joining a worldwide network of cities committed to utilizing design as a driver for sustainable urban development, social inclusion and cultural vibrancy. In celebration of that designation, design advocates from across the city came together in 2017 to demand a higher design standard for all future projects within the city’s 139 square miles. In pursuit of that ideal, these advocates curated the inaugural Detroit Design 139 exhibition around ten guiding design principles. The first exhibition, “Detroit Shapes Design” showcased 41 projects that represented a future Detroit populated with thoughtful projects that honored the city’s design legacy, while pushing the city towards becoming a leader in world-class design excellence.

Crafted to benefit all Detroiters, the ten guiding design principles are:

  1. Empower design as a means to improve the quality of life for all people.
  2. Advance a thoughtful design process rooted in meaningful community engagement.
  3. Seek creative solutions to solve long-standing urban issues.
  4. Honor context and history through contemporary design.
  5. Activate the public realm.
  6. Promote community cohesion and aesthetic diversity.
  7. Impress the value of design on all projects and all audiences – emphasizing equity, design excellence and inclusion.
  8. Explore new ways to live, work and play together in the 21st-century city.
  9. Celebrate Detroit’s design legacy, while contributing to the city’s design future.
  10. Balance function and beauty.

As the nation’s only UNESCO City of Design, Detroit has a unique opportunity to utilize inclusive design in order to create a more equitable and sustainable future for both our city and those around the world. By prioritizing diverse experiences, accessible opportunities, and collaborative relationships, Detroit will show how inclusive design develops goods, systems, services, buildings, communities, and urban spaces that work for everyone.

Detroit Design 139 was created by a partnership between Bedrock, Detroit’s premier full-service real estate firm; the City of Detroit; and Design Core Detroit.

About our founding partners

About Bedrock

Detroit-based Bedrock is a full-service real estate firm specializing in acquiring, developing, leasing, financing and managing commercial and residential buildings. Since its founding in 2011, Bedrock and its affiliates have invested and committed more than $5.6 billion to acquiring and developing more than 100 properties, including new construction of ground up developments in downtown Detroit and Cleveland totaling more than 18 million square feet.

Bedrock’s real estate portfolio consists of 210 office tenants and 125 retailers and restaurants in Detroit’s technology-centric downtown, the majority of which are new to the market including Microsoft, Quicken Loans, LinkedIn, StockX, Ally Bank’s national headquarters, Fifth Third Bank’s regional headquarters, WeWork, Madewell, Under Armour, Shake Shack and countless others.

Bedrock is currently developing four transformational projects including the Hudson’s Site, Monroe Blocks, Book Tower renovation and One Campus Martius expansion. Bedrock is also undergoing construction of City Modern, a community development in Detroit’s Brush Park neighborhood. Partnering with Detroit-based Shinola, Bedrock developed the world’s first Shinola Hotel on Woodward Avenue, which opened in early 2019.

Bedrock is dedicated to creating jobs for Detroiters and investing in job training. Over the last year, the company has invested in both the Randolph & Breithaupt Career and Technical Centers to build a pipeline of talent for Detroit’s growing economy.

Creating unique experiences through real estate is Bedrock’s mission. To make this a reality, Bedrock and its affiliates continuously invest in significant public art installations and placemaking initiatives throughout the city.

For more information on Bedrock’s business model, visit the For More Than Profit book. For more information on Bedrock’s projects, visit bedrockdetroit.com or engage with us on Twitter and Facebook.

Click here to view a complete timeline of Bedrock and the Rock Family of Companies’ engagement within the Detroit community.

About Design Core Detroit

Design Core Detroit champions design-driven businesses and their role in strengthening Detroit’s economy. It offers services to strengthen, grow and attract design businesses, increases market demand for design services, and tells Detroit’s design story locally and globally. Design Core is a department within College for Creative Studies.