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Expanded Detroit Design 139 Exhibition to feature 70 projects embodying ‘Inclusive Futures’ across Detroit during Month of Design

August 28, 2019

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Expanded Detroit Design 139 Exhibition to feature 70 projects embodying ‘Inclusive Futures’ across Detroit during Month of Design

  • Exhibition is free and open to the public Sept. 5-30 in four convenient Detroit locations in the Downtown, Old Redford, Fitzgerald/Bagley and Morningside neighborhoods
  • Featured projects include exemplary adaptive reuse projects to sustainable civil engineering solutions, mobility strategies, visionary education programs, and master plans driven by inclusion, among others
  • Free programming includes the first public tours of the iconic Book Tower restoration, kids’ urban planning events, Pecha Kucha night, Affordable Housing discussions, an Inclusive Economic Development event and more
  • Grand Opening Celebration, free and open to the public, takes place at 1001 Woodward on Sept. 5, 7-9pm


August 28, 2019 (DETROIT) – As Detroit’s economic growth continues to accelerate, the second biennial Detroit Design 139 (DD139) exhibition will display 70 projects, policies and concepts that promote best practices for ensuring that the future of Detroit’s built and natural environment is designed with everyone in mind. This year’s exhibition is nearly double the size of the inaugural 2017 edition, with expanded reach to three new neighborhood locations.

A full schedule of free programming, from a design-themed Pecha Kucha to the first public tours of the iconic Book Tower, will take place in each of the exhibition’s four locations and beyond:

  • Downtown (1001 Woodward)
  • Old Redford (17340 Lahser Rd.)
  • Morningside (16451 E. Warren Ave.)
  • Fitzgerald/Bagley (7426 McNichols Rd.)

“The design world has its eye on Detroit because we are experiencing significant growth very quickly, and we are at a critical moment in terms of steering that momentum in a positive direction for all Detroiters,” said Melissa Dittmer, Chief Design Officer of Bedrock and founding partner of Detroit Design 139.  “At the inaugural Detroit Design 139 exhibition in 2017, our findings confirmed that investment in the built and natural environment is taking place all throughout our city. In our sophomore exhibition, we are digging a little deeper to better understand what steps are being taken to ensure that investment impacts the community in the best ways possible, both today and in the future.”

The selected projects featured in Detroit Design 139 represent progress and investment in every corner of Detroit’s 139 square miles. Each project was selected from a record number of global submissions by a collaboration between a distinguished jury of experts, the Detroit Design 139 curation team and a diverse advisory committee consisting of community advocacy groups, developers, institutes of higher education and other nonprofits.

The content of the three neighborhood locations was curated by stakeholders and community leaders associated with each respective location with hyper-local and meaningful discussions in mind.

Each submission embodies the exhibition’s theme, “Inclusive Futures,” and provokes a thoughtful conversation about inclusive design in one of the five focus areas: City Systems, Economy, Neighborhoods, Housing and Public Space. The exhibition was founded by Bedrock, Design Core Detroit and the City of Detroit Planning and Development Department.

Above and beyond the submissions process, preparations for Detroit Design 139 included extensive community outreach through a series of open info sessions held at churches and local businesses, as well as participation in the annual Detroit-wide Neighborhoods Day. Kids were invited to write about or draw what they’d like to see in their neighborhoods and responses ranged from bike lanes to better health care, access to parks, the need for neighborhood retail and improved public policy. Those drawings will also appear at all four locations of Detroit Design 139.

Featured Projects

Detroit Design 139 received a record number of submissions from around the world in the five focus areas of City Systems, Economy, Neighborhoods, Housing, and Public Space, forming a final collection of 70 projects that provoke thoughtful discussions around inclusive design processes, design-excellence outcomes, and the Inclusive Futures theme.

While the exhibition includes some of Detroit’s most beloved historic structures and high-profile construction endeavors, it’s the conceptual ingenuity that drives the Inclusive Futures narrative at Detroit Design 139 2019.

“When we talk about design’s influence on a city, it means so much more than just architecture and buildings,” said Olga Stella, Executive Director of Design Core Detroit and founding partner of Detroit Design 139. “We need recognition programs for those built projects, education programs to nurture future leaders, community gathering places for the exchange of ideas, and everything in between. Those ideas are flourishing in Detroit, and we hope to make that obvious with this exhibition.”

For a full list of all 70 projects on display, click here.

1. CITY SYSTEMS. The 16 CITY SYSTEMS projects exemplify best practices for creating inclusive multi-tasking systems, services and infrastructure for the urban environment of the future.

These projects represent solutions to challenges that face any city, including sustainability strategies, holistic infrastructure, stormwater management, and others.

This category sheds light on fresh, small-scale ideas like Detroit Windmill, the city’s first and only fully upcycled, low-level wind turbine powering a charging station at Detroit’s Eastern Market. Large-scale projects are also included, such as the Delray Green Infrastructure Network, which proposes sustainable methods of reducing and eliminating air pollution and unfiltered stormwater and sewer water in the Detroit River resulting from industries. City Systems also includes mapping solutions that cross-reference multiple disparate data inputs such as functional public art, multi-modal transportation network, and vacant land examples from fellow UNESCO City of Design locales including Singapore and Mexico City.

2. ECONOMY. As investment and economic development ramps up in Detroit’s Central Business District and across neighborhood commercial corridors, DD139 recognizes programs and projects that contemplate where economy and inclusivity intersect. The 13 ECONOMY projects spark discourse on the current and future design trends for economy-driven spaces such as the thoughtful adaptive re-use of some of Detroit’s most beloved structures, expansion of small businesses to support more neighborhood jobs, shared office models, and others.

Highlights from the category include Commerce Design: Detroit, an award program that recognizes commercial projects in which business owners have hired professional designers to help them renovate their space to promote accessibility and preserve local identity; Co.act, which offers affordable meeting space and amenities to local nonprofits; and The Commons MACC Development Project, in which a combined café and laundromat is also home to community housing, as well as legal and sports offices.

3. NEIGHBORHOODS. The 16 NEIGHBORHOODS projects explore strategies for building thriving and inclusive neighborhoods that integrate diverse living options, innovative education solutions, neighborhood retail opportunities, walkable streets, and welcoming public spaces.

Featured projects take several forms, such as community outreach initiatives (including two from Saint-Etienne, France); future plans for historically underserved neighborhoods like the Cody Rouge + Warrendale Neighborhood Framework, which looks at improving housing, economic development, open spaces and streetscape to better influence child development; design-minded education options like Michigan ArcPrep, which offers juniors from Detroit Public Schools a semester-long, college-level course in architecture guided by University of Michigan faculty; and community gathering spaces like the Neighborhood Homebase. One of the most high-profile NEIGHBORHOODS projects is Bedrock’s master plan for the Douglass Site, designed by ROSSETTI, which envisions the conversion of the former Brewster Douglass housing projects site where several Detroit luminaries including Diana Ross and Lily Tomlin grew up.

4. HOUSING. Residential development is booming in Detroit, and with that progress comes the question, how can long-term residents contribute to the design of neighboring developments and how do neighborhoods remain affordable and accessible to everyone? The 13 HOUSING projects consider the future of housing, changing lifestyles and inclusionary growth.

Consider, for example, the Ruth Ellis Clairmount Center, which will offer permanent, supportive housing for homeless or at-risk, or disabled LBGTQ youth while offering social services, healthcare and employment opportunities; or La Joya Gardens where an extensive multi-lingual community engagement process in Southwest Detroit led to plans for a mixed-income residential building complete with neighborhood-scale commercial spaces; or The Hamilton Midtown, a historic multifamily rehabilitation with an inclusionary housing program that temporarily relocated current residents during renovations and welcomed them back to upgraded units.

The HOUSING category also features academic work, in particular the Systems Studio at the University of Michigan. Working on sites chosen in collaboration with the City of Detroit Planning and Development Department, this academic studio work demonstrates the practical value and impact of architectural research, equips students with valuable practical skill sets and introduces speculative concepts that can be successfully used to meet the need for inclusive, innovative, and affordable housing.

5. PUBLIC SPACE. The 12 PUBLIC SPACE projects demonstrate the importance of vacant land re-use strategies, community gardens, parks, plazas, waterways, and institutions that are accessible to everyone. Recognized projects in this category range from ambitious plans for destination parks to an interactive public commemoration of a defining moment in Detroit’s history, such as Detroit 67: Looking Back to Move Forward and the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Centennial Park.

Detroit 67: Looking Back to Move Forward, is a remarkable example of a non-traditional public space inclusively designed to tell a collective story. The five-year, multi-disciplinary exhibition is hosted by the Detroit Historical Society to honor the 50th anniversary of the tumultuous summer of 1967 in Detroit. With a national leadership summit, oral history archive, community outreach and education, and visual exhibition, Detroit 67 is an unprecedented effort to connect the Detroit community with its history and future in a shared public space.

In 2017, The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy launched an international design competition to transform 22 acres on the west riverfront into one of the most dynamic public spaces in the world. Following an inclusive public vetting process that reached some 7,000 Detroiters across more than 30 community meetings, plans for Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Centennial Park were released, including a playground, café, and swimming cove designed by New York-based architecture firm Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates. Construction will commence in 2020 with an opening in fall of 2022.


From lectures and workshops, to arts and crafts for kids, hard hat tours and happy hours, all Detroit Design 139 events are free to the public and part of Design Core’s Detroit Month of Design. See below for a sampling of featured events. Click here for a full calendar of events.

Detroit Design 139 Grand Opening Party

Join DD139, Bedrock, the City of Detroit, Design Core and our extensive network of community partners for Opening Night at our flagship exhibition space – an evening dedicated to celebrating the transformative projects that will lead our city toward a more inclusive future for everyone. Thu., Sept. 5, 7-9 pm | DD139 Exhibition (Downtown) 1001 Woodward, Detroit 46226

A Look Inside the Book Tower

Join Bedrock and the architects behind the restoration of Book Tower for a celebration of one of the most recognizable skyscrapers in Detroit’s skyline. After removing decades of grime, painstakingly restoring the façade’s remarkable architectural details, and installing nearly 2,500 windows, Bedrock invites you inside Book Tower for a tour of its storied spaces, led by those working on its transformation. The event will begin in Detroit Design 139’s 1001 Woodward location with a presentation about the building’s history and future, followed by guided group tours of Book Tower.

Sat., Sept. 7, 1:30-6 pm | DD139 Exhibition (Downtown) 1001 Woodward, Detroit 48226 and 1265 Washington Blvd. (Book Tower)

Our Neighborhood: Kids Designing Detroit’s Future

This interactive, kid focused activity is intended to get kids thinking about architecture and design while having fun with arts and crafts. Participants will leave empowered to join the conversation about the future of Detroit’s development, and inspired by the transformative design projects that are happening all around Detroit and other UNESCO Cities of Design.

Sat., Sept. 7, 3-5 pm | DD139 Exhibition (Old Redford) 17340 Lahser Road, Detroit, 48219

Sat., Sept. 14, 1-4 pm | DD139 Exhibition (Downtown) Detroit 48226

Sat., Sept. 21, 1-4 pm | DD139 Exhibition (Fitzgerald) 7426 W. McNichols Road, Detroit, 48221

Sat., Sept. 28, 1-4 pm | DD139 Exhibition (Morningside) 16451 E. Warren Ave., Detroit, 48224

PechaKucha Night Detroit

Detroit Design 139 and PechaKucha Night Detroit are teaming together to host this informative showcase, where designers have just under seven minutes (20 images, 20 seconds each) to narrate their transformative work and how it relates to Inclusive Futures. Wed., Sept. 11, 6:30-8:30 p.m. | DD139 Exhibition (Downtown) 1001 Woodward, Detroit 48226

Designing Detroit’s Affordable Housing

As the Detroit housing market continues to grow, how can we implement inclusive design processes, architectural strategies, civic policies, and innovative construction solutions to ensure diverse housing options are available to all current and potential residents? Based on DD139’s exhibition theme, “Inclusive Futures,” event attendees will engage in dialogue with distinctive affordable housing leaders and discuss how to integrate the inclusive design process into the creation of Detroit’s future affordable housing.

Mon., Sept. 16, 5:30-8 p.m. | DD139 Exhibition (Downtown) 1001 Woodward, Detroit, 48226

Beyond the Motor City: Leveraging Detroit as an International Region

By including our Canadian neighbors across the Detroit River in our strategic framework for attracting businesses and industries, Detroit can continue to position itself as an international region. This event will instigate a conversation that explores how we can collectively provide policymakers, developers, and community stakeholders with the tools, partnerships, and connections to foster equitable job growth and inclusive economic development.

Mon., Sept. 23, 5:30-8 p.m. | DD139 Exhibition (Downtown), Detroit, 48226


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 the 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 10 guiding design principles. The first exhibition, “Detroit Shapes Design” showcased 41 projects that represented a future Detroit populated with thoughtful built 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.

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

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

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, inclusive 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.