The Detroit Institute of Arts and Midtown Detroit, Inc. unveiled the final three designs for the DIA Plaza and Midtown Cultural Connections international competition on Wednesday.

The project plans to connect 12 institutions in the midtown cultural district through a series of walking paths designed to create a dynamic, inclusive and interactive cultural center, according to a DIA brochure. Wayne State, the Detroit Public Library and the Scarab Club are just a few institutions in midtown that will be connected through the plaza.

Midtown Detroit, Inc. is a nonprofit development organization that, “supports the physical maintenance and revitalization of the Midtown Detroit neighborhood, while working to enhance public awareness, appreciation and use of the district,” according to its website. Its principal funders include the Henry Ford Health System, Kresge Foundation and WSU.

The final three design teams are Agence Ter, from Paris; Mikyoung Kim Design, from Boston; and TEN X TEN, from Minneapolis. The winner of the design competition will be announced in April, with construction estimated to begin within the next five years, according to The Detroit News.

“One of the things we liked is how our groups have worked with the community,” said Salvador Salort-Pons, director of the DIA. “We have wonderful buildings, but how can we make them more attractive to the community?”

The vision for this project came over 10 years ago, Salort-Pons said. With this project, the DIA intends to serve as a center point for Detroit’s museum district.

“The ideal design would create a welcoming environment for diverse audiences year-round, allow for expanded arts programming, boost the local economy, and create a strong sense of community,” according to a DIA presentation handout.

The project began in July 2017 and accepted design submissions in April. The competition received over 44 submissions from design teams, who represented 10 countries and 22 different cities.

The design selection committee includes many prominent members in the local and national art scene like Julie Bargmann, associate professor for landscape architecture at University of Virginia; Maurice Cox, director of planning and development for the city of Detroit; and Mario Moore, a nationally acclaimed artist.

“We have a large cultural district, but you wouldn't realize that based on the way it’s spaced,” Cox said. “This project will give midtown its heart.”

“I think if you look at the concepts the three teams came up with, all of them would be huge increases in the aesthetic for the entire district,” said Ned Staebler, WSU vice president for economic development and DIA Plaza steering committee chair. “It would bring a real identity being an international tourist destination and a draw.”

Staebler said WSU would benefit from being recognized as the academic partner in the cultural district. WSU is looking for the plaza to provide better connectivity between the institutions involved, he said.

While the institutions included in the DIA Plaza are all close in proximity, people normally choose to only visit one of the institutions when making trips, Staebler said.

“People come to visit one, but they don’t necessarily go from one to the other — sort of parachute in and hop out,” Staebler said. “I think that anything that increases the connectivity and reduces barriers between the institutions is a win for the district as a whole.”


Slone Terranella is news editor of The South End. She can be reached at gh7510@wayne.edu. Jack Filbrandt is arts and entertainment editor of The South End. He can be reached at jackfilbrandt31@gmail.com. Cover photo by Jack Filbrandt.

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