Bell, D. & Wiland, H. (Filmakers). (2012). Designing Healthy Communities: Social Policy in Concrete. United States of America: Media Policy Center.

The city of Detroit currently represents a war zone, which is dramatically affecting a citizen’s right to live in a clean, healthy environment. Low-income families are stuck next to big transit hubs, which are dramatically decreasing their quality of life. The film, displays how health officials in combination with activist and urban pioneers are working to transform the city.


Bluestone, D. M.. (1988). Detroit’s City Beautiful and the Problem of Commerce. Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians47(3), 245–262.

With the automobile growth in full swing, the economics seem to take over the civic values and social order in the form of steel-skeleton skyscrapers. These gigantic buildings drown out the civic structures and started to blur the identity of the city itself. This sparked an interest in the elites to find a way to mitigate such overwhelming presence of commerce in the city. City Beautiful, originating mainly from Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, took off in Detroit and many plans, including Belle Isle Park by Frederick Olmstead, were initiated. The epitome of this movement was the Detroit’s Center of Arts and Letters which was completed in its entirety in 1927.


Del, Cerro Santamaría Gerardo, Ryan, D. Brent. 2013. Urban Megaprojects: A Worldwide View. Emerald Group Publishing Limited. Print.

This book describes some of the postwar decline and population loss that was caused by the region’s economic problems in the past. Focusing mainly on downtown Detroit, author Brent D. Ryan is informative when he describes the general layout of the city and explains the conditions for new urban design. He illustrates the ‘siting of megaprojects,’ and furthermore, brings up the possibility of a whole metastasis or transformation for better living. This source is very informative and analyzes new possibilities for urban revitalization. “Philadelphia and Detroit show that the insertion of large, expansion-prone structures into downtown is damaging both the visual quality and historic heritage of the city center.” (Ryan, 227) Despite the author’s writing style to be very dry and boring, his opinions on ‘interpreting megaproject metastasis ‘do not seem biased. The concepts behind the urban megaprojects in downtown Detroit does interest me to investigate what could be further done to bring Detroit’s whole community together. This source is good for describing the current urban design and architecture of downtown Detroit and community land use overall, but also good for illustrating some of the history that led to Detroit’s economic downfall


Detroit-Berlin – Interview with Tris Vonna-Michell (Berlin). Berlin: checkinarchitecture, 2008. Video.

Tris Vonna-Michell is an artist that through instillations explored the changes occurring in Detroit. He named the project ‘Motel Museum’ using a motel space, starting at the basement representing the root and building up to the attic playing on the ideas of attics being the soul of the house. In the two month he spent in Detroit his goal was to create the structure and skeleton of the space, he wanted it to be able to support itself and remain once he left. The form inside the motel had moving adjustable walls, to give the feeling that the viewer was either looking in or out of a space. The whole space with these viewpoints therefore represented a middle point between what was once occupied and now. Juxtaposing Detroit the great city in the 50s and 60s, to the current empty, deserted spaces, with dead cityscape and architecture. As the individual moves through the space they move through different sounds; from indoor motel lobby, domestic noises, streets in Detroit and finally casinos, which provide a sounds of what evolved from the despair of the city. The concept behind combining the changing space of levels, visual and audio stimulations was to provide a feeling of a one-way documentary of the city they lived in. Providing a transfer from material, to picture, to audio, then deleting and thrown away. Each section only stays for a little, recorded, disseminated, recorded, then deleted and the space transforms. Once a script has been performed a few times its folded up and put away. If you come in the last day then the room could be empty, or maybe the opposite a complete overwhelming mess, Vonna-Michell doesn’t know, but expects the exhibition to grow in time.

The instillation provokes citizen engagement from the Detroit community. In citizens viewing the motel space, they intact with the past and present scenarios of Detroit and each other, creating a discussion to arise on the changes that have occurred.


Detroit Future City 2012 Detroit Strategic Framework Plan. (2013). Detroit, MI: Inland Press.

To be honest, finding a comprehensive plan for Detroit was not easy. The city government’s website did not have an organized archive of the city plans but interestingly, other private agents’ websites contained some project plans of the city. This finally came to a realization that this is probably the result of Detroit’s bankruptcy; after the fall of Detroit city government, some projects were taken over by private companies. This phenomenon was impressive and gave the opportunity think about what happens to a city when it goes bankrupt.

This paper introduces a diagram that establishes the idea that every leadership position in the city should be based on community, and dissects different group’s needs and why this plan is beneficial for each of them. It states housing should be rearranged to offer citizens quality dwellings which serves as safe shelters. It is important to build such residency areas considering that current housings in the downtown are being abandoned and not taken care of. The plan is aiming for a variety of housing environments like single-home housings and open-space near homes where residents can connect to nature.


“DWSD System Plans | Find | How Do I | City of Detroit MI.” DWSD System Plans | Find |How Do I | City of Detroit MI. City of Detroit, n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2016. <<;.

This website discusses Detroit’s most recent plans, such as the Capital Improvement Plans (CIPs) and the Comprehensive Water Master Plan. Detroit’s CIPs include the FY 2016-2020 Water Supply System CIP, the FY 2016-2020 Sewage Disposal System CIP, and the FY 2015-2019 Water Supply System CIP. They “specifically define the scope, schedule, and costs of infrastructure improvements. Capital Improvement Projects result from the Master Plans.” (DWSD System Plans |Find |How Do I | City of Detroit MI.) The master plans that Detroit plans to use revolve around giving enough fresh water to families for the next 50 years. “This takes into account population growth, commercial and industrial needs, as well as the increased cost to maintain such systems.” (DWSD System Plans |Find |How Do I | City of Detroit MI.) The water that the families will drink will be regulated through a newly-developed system known as the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). This system requires individuals at the state level to routinely sample and report the quality and quantity of the discharges to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment. (MDNRE) This website seems as if this is the most recent comprehensive plan for Detroit. I tried googling for the most recent comprehensive plan of Detroit for a while, but I was unable to get any results. The reason why Detroit makes the comprehensive plan so hard to access is probably due to some laws that have been changed recently. That is my best guess.


Herscher, Andrew. The Unreal Estate Guide to Detroit. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan, 2012. Print.

This book is extremely useful in terms of describing the architecture and housing in Detroit. All kinds of infrastructure were described, such as garages, labs, and bars. This one source is so informative, that it may be enough to complete the urban design + architecture portion for my 8 -10 page narrative. As the name of the book suggests, this book talks about how unreal the real estate is in Detroit. It sounds very pessimistic, although it is very informative. I cannot say that this source is biased because the main assertions regarding the “unreal estate” in Detroit is supported with case studies from other cities and some other evidence as well. This source will provide me with current urban design + architecture information and it will help me figure out how the surrounding infrastructure will impact future land use. Furthermore, this source will help me determine if some degree of urban revitalization is possible or not. I will admit that the book is rather long and it will take some time for me to finish reading it. However, when I finish reading it, I will have lots to talk about.


Joseph Stanhope Cialdella. (2014). A Landscape of Ruin and Repair: Parks, Potatoes, and Detroit’s Environmental Past, 1879–1900. Michigan Historical Review40(1), 49–72.

Urban agriculture is a big part of Detroit now and has become a way for communities to self-sustain and have a common place of social activities that brings people together. The city had also seen this happen in its past with Mayor Pingree’s Potato Patches and the creation of Belle Isle Park. These two movements had their importance in making sure the city endured the tough economic times of Panic of 1893 and the rising class tensions from huge boom of auto industry. The urban farms today could maybe become a part of the solution to urban decay Detroit faces currently.


Kapp, P., & Armstrong, P. (2012). SynergiCity: Reinventing the Postindustrial City. Illinois: University of Illinos Press.

Detroit as a Postindustrial City allows for a new stimulating vision of urbanism, architectural design and urban revitalization for the twenty-first century. It needs a holistic approach, a balance between historical preservation, incorporating sustainability and finding a way to re-spark the economy. In turn, it needs to restore the city from population decline and re-stimulate an enjoyable, productive place for people to work and live. Thus, Detroit must redefine itself to once again become globally competitive.


Kirkpatrick, L. O. (2015). Urban Triage, City Systems, and the Remnants of Community: Some “Sticky” Complications in the Greening of Detroit. Journal of Urban History, 41(2), 261-278. Retrieved February 24, 2016, from html

As much as the Detroit Future City framework is enticing for planners, the practicality of it is called into question in this article. Specifically focusing on the “greener, smaller city” section, Kirkpatrick criticizes the plan for not including an effective method of making this goal achievable. Shrinking efficiently would save the city lots of money from reduced costs of maintenance yet the question still remains about the “remnants” of the communities that would hesitate to move out due to attachment or economic reasons. The goal may be too visionary despite its charming offer.


“Library of INCA at the Institute for Neo Connotative Action.” Knight Foundation. N.p., 7 Sept. 2012. Web. 10 Feb. 2016.

This article discusses the importance of this art piece in Detroit. The artist collected books from all around Detroit to tell a story, and make an impact on the accessibility and poverty in Detroit. The library was built using reclaimed wood taken from the abandoned buildings through Reclaim Detroit.


McDonald, J. F. (2014). What happened to and in Detroit?. Urban Studies (Sage Publications, Ltd.), 51(16), 3309-3329.

This paper interprets a fiscal trend in Detroit regarding its economic decline. Even though Detroit faced bankruptcy, the city government had been finding ways to avoid the fall. This journal also provides detailed explanation why Detroit filed for bankruptcy in 2013 with strong historical economic backgrounds. In a nutshell, even though other northeastern cities suffered from high unemployment rate just like Detroit, it was the dire situation and its unique chronic conflicts among races and housing policies that caused the fall of Detroit.

Especially, housing system of Detroit was not ideal in that separated political powers triggered the abandonment of the housings in central city by supporting construction of luxurious housings on the urban fringe. For example, since Mayor Albert Cobo, the white community moved suburbs to avoid black neighborhood, which even worsened the racial segregation problem. He even closed the public housing programs which used to help low-income families in downtown. After all, Detroit suffered fiscal issues with regarding housings, and finally the real estate market collapsed.


Mills., Jennifer. “Detroit, I Do Mind.” Overland (2015): 26-33. Web.<;.

The author, Jennifer Mills, pays a visit to Detroit and informs the reader of the infrastructure that she observes. “I’m in the wings of Detroit’s National Theatre, one of many empty buildings that have come to characterise the city. It was built in the 1890s in what the Historic Detroit website calls ‘Baroque-Moorish Beaux-Arts hybrid with a Moroccan or Egyptian flavour’; it’s stylised tile facade now looks out of place from the street.” (Mills, 26) Detroit’s landscape is really spread-out, making it a place for people with cars to get around. It is not very suitable for pedestrians to get around. The suburban areas are insanely spread out, according to Mills. The infrastructure is collapsing and the public transportation system is dying out. In addition to the book, The Unreal Estate Guide to Detroit by Andrew Herscher, this source is another source that is very informative about the architecture + urban design of current Detroit.


Price, Deb. “Road repairs top wish lists.” Detroit News, The (MI) 8 Jun. 2009, no-dot, A: 3. NewsBank. Web. 11 Feb. 2016.

This article talks about the House Transportation Committee and its multiyear transportation authorization bill. 8% of the bill probably went to earmarks. Detroit residents created their top wish list and most of the projects didn’t make the final cut. One of the priorities was to fix the amount of roads in “poor” condition. This also brought more jobs to a struggling area.


Pavel, M. Paloma. Breakthrough Communities: Sustainability and Justice in the next American Metropolis. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2009. Print.

This book describes the efforts in cities such as Detroit, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and LA to combat racial and sustainable injustice. There is a focus on accessible transportation, in which they give case studies to why it doesn’t work and suggest what can be done in the future. Activists focus on the inner-city core, and exurban areas, because those are the parts of the city that aren’t thought about when making legislation.


Reid, Robert L. “Highway Project Forces Trolley Museum To Relocate.” Civil Engineering (08857024) 79.11 (2009): 17-20.

Urban Studies Abstracts. Web. 10 Feb. 2016. The Detroit Transit Center has gained an inverted funnel canopy, installed to help protect the bus stop from weather. It is actually also a tribute to Rosa Parks, since her activism helped prompt equality in the bus system. This was designed really well, the form moves with the wind, using a tension system. This article also touches on the Highway Project. The Highway Project, delayed repeatedly, is beginning construction; however, the planners want to force the National Capital Trolley Museum to relocate.


Designing Healthy Communities. By Beverly Baroff and Richard Jackson. Dir. Harry Wiland and Dale Bell. Video Project, 2013.

This video attacks the health issues related to living near or in a low-income, industrial neighborhoods including Detroit. There is a case study that follows the story of an elderly obese woman, who is raising all her grandchildren who all have asthma. These medical conditions are direct results from non-sustainable, earth-polluting factories being placed in low-income or heavily minority populated communities.


Sculpting Detroit: Polity and Economy Trump Geology. (2012). Sculpting Detroit: Polity and Economy Trump Geology. In Driving Detroit: The Quest for Respect in the Motor City (pp. 45–68). University of Pennsylvania Press. Retrieved from

This chapter traces the source of Detroit’s current woes to its past and how politics and corporations of motor industry has influenced the planning process. The main focus is expanding the city limits that grew considerably since the early 1900s. A multitude of factors such as the landscape, economics, politics and social dynamics brought about the movements of people toward suburbs that would generate immense sprawl. And its history of putting economic growth and development over everything else in planning objectives has now come back to haunt the Detroit today in its spiraling urban decay.


Tabb, W. (2015). If Detroit is Dead, some things need to be said at the funeral. Journal of Urban Affairs, 37(1), p1-12.

The article explores the common phrase ‘Detroit is Dead’ trying to find explanations of what and who is to blame. It has been deemed as America’s first third world country with large amounts of poverty, highest crime rates than any other large American city and dysfunctional infrastructure. If it continues as it currently is, it can be seen as moving towards its end state of ‘mortropolis’, experiencing a slow death. Unless a lot of substantive changes occur, and change in the national priorities in term of low-income, crime-infested, government-abandoned neighborhoods there is little hope for a ‘rebirth’. Essentially the paper calls for a re-evaluation of Detroit being a ‘dead- city’ as cities are not people and rarely actually cease to exist. Helps to position how a different frame on planning may need to be taken.


Tyler, N., & Ward, R. M. (2010). Urban Planning and Downtown Revitalization, Planning and community development: A guide for the 21st century (pp. 86-100). NY: W.W. Norton & Company.

Depending on regions, definitions of a city vary. For example, European cities have more open public space such as plazas than those of the United States. Yet, every city contains value and atmosphere in its own way, so they should be measured qualitatively, not by size or economic status. In this sense, Detroit, which went bankrupt, should not be looked down upon or considered less important than other cities since its own history, even the decline of industry consists a part of its history and forms its unique impression.

Regarding downtown revitalization, many private and public sectors should play their roles cooperatively, mainly to get sufficient funding for projects and focus on improving residents’ lives. For a successful result, planners should also look for efficient zoning as a part of revitalization. For example, the chapter highlights the revitalization project of a port city in San Francisco which was transformed from major war employment area to a residency zones with a public park. If Detroit learns from such examples to revitalize its downtown, it is likely to see positive changes in the near future.


Wilkinson, M. (2011, Mar 21). Census to reveal Detroit’s decline. The Detroit News (MI), p. A1.

The population of Detroit is expected to plummet greatly, and subsequently it will no longer remain as a nation’s 11th largest city. Detroit has shown steady rates of leaving neighborhoods and less student enrollment in schools. Polarization in housing triggered racial segregation. High-income white communities moved out to the fringes of the city, whereas black population condensed in downtown areas like Oak Park and Oakland County. This pattern has to be dealt with wisely to avoid extreme polarization between races and any future regional discrimination.